Los Angeles Philharmonic / Music News & Info: Classical

WSJ article: “When Classical Musicians Call In Sick”

An interesting, if not deeply revelatory, article in the Wall Street Journal was posted about how orchestras cope when conductors or soloists cancel due to illness.  Chad Smith, Los Angeles Philharmonic Vice President for Artistic Planning, is quoted liberally throughout.  The article makes a point of mentioning that replacements are often harder to find for the LA Phil because of its penchant for contemporary music.

As of right now, the whole article is available online without a subscription (click HERE).  No telling how long that will be the case, so read it quickly.

I wish they would have talked about what orchestras do when orchestra members get sick.   Big orchestras like the LA Phil are pretty deep in talent, and if a piece has a big solo, an associate principal can often fill in for an indisposed principal.  In addition, Southern California has a huge pool of professional musicians on which to draw, further deepening the potential fill-in pool.  Not all such orchestras and/or cities are so lucky, and even the bigger ones can find themselves in a pickle if a key musicians goes down with little or no opportunity for others to practice an important solo.  So what happens then?? Enquiring minds would like to know . . .



2 thoughts on “WSJ article: “When Classical Musicians Call In Sick”

  1. I noticed that, as usual, Chad skated around the soloist/conductor cancellation issue from the audience perspective (in the case of the Phil, he could have included the issue of new pieces being delayed as has happened all too often in recent years). For obvious reasons, I suppose, management doesn’t adequately acknowledge the fact that, yes, people do, in fact, buy tickets based on who is going to be the soloist and/or conduct. When someone cancels — even if the excuse is reasonable — those ticket buyers are upset and, although the Phil normally does a good job of procuring reasonable substitutes, the long-term effect (the standard ticket disclaimer notwithstanding) is that some people may be less willing to buy tickets — especially season tickets — ahead of time. Short-term gain may be long-term loss.


  2. The comment by Bob Thomas looks extremely naive to me. How does he know that “Chad skated around” a certain issue? Was he present at the interview? The author of the article included whatever she wanted to include in the piece (and editors may have cut it even further) and it is quite possible that Chad spoke about the issue at length but that that particular part of the interview simply did not make it into the published article. This is normal and happens all the time. Furthermore, if, according to the commenter, “the Phil normally does a good job of procuring reasonable substitutes”, then what else is he expecting them to do? The fact of life is that people are already buying fewer subscriptions, and even single tickets are not sold well ahead of time as much as they used to be, mainly due to the state of the economy and also because of gradually changing demographics of the audience as well as because of the substantial change in the way most people purchase tickets these days compared to just a couple of decades ago – and not because of cancellation issues, which are for the most part beyond management’s control anyway. This also applies to substituting for the previously announced new pieces when they are not ready in time due to circumstances such as deaths or serious ailments that are in most cases practically completely unpredictable.


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