From the Orchestra Library


Posted in Uncategorized by kschnack on July 8, 2009

It feels great for one’s hard work to be acknowledged, doesn’t it?  The orchestra players get a pretty good indication each night if the audience liked their performance, and the conductor’s feedback is even more immediate throughout rehearsals and concerts due to the intimate nature of that artistic relationship.  Conductors, too, get constant feedback about their performances, often through arts reviews, and from how well the players connect with him/her and work towards bringing the interpretation to life. If the music is going well, everyone on stage knows it and can share in the success of that.  Co-workers, family, friends and others who hear the orchestra of course let the individual players and conductors know how wonderful they sound on a regular basis.

This is as it should be; the players and conductors are the ones making the music.  They are the reason all the rest of us have jobs.  They absolutely deserve to be applauded and recognized for their artistry, and the uplifting and beautiful performances they give night after night.

Most of the time librarians are only sure of their success when nothing goes awry with the parts during a rehearsal, and no one says anything.  We are always made aware if something is wrong (part missing or illegible, bad page turn, errors in a particular piece), but we almost never hear anything at all if the orchestra rehearses a piece we have worked hard to prepare perfectly, and then sails right through it on the first reading with no library problems.  We know ourselves that we did a good job as we listen on the stage monitor, and give a round of “woohoos” or something in the library.  (This is especially exciting to us if there have been complicated cuts, starts, and stops that we’ve marked or special excerpts we have created for family concerts – aren’t we nerdy?!)

That’s usually enough for us.  But when we literally go “above and beyond” on a consistent basis to produce very high-quality parts, meet relentless deadlines, manage the challenges of constant repertoire changes and last-minute requests, and provide excellent musical service to the players, conductors and administrators, sometimes we just need a little pat on the back.

At the end of our marathon Broadway concert the other night, our pops conductor Richard Kaufman began thanking various people – and then specifically mentioned the library.  He said something about there being 42 tons of music on the stage and what a great job we had done in putting it all together.  When I heard from the players later that he had done this, I was completely thrilled.  To know that he took the time during the performance to thank us in front of the audience was huge, because it meant he had thought about and recognized the sheer volume of details we had handled.  Wow! That was very thoughtful and made my whole week.

It’s not the first time he has done this, and I’m almost embarrassed to say he did it again after his second concert with us up here.  By then the “42 tons of music” had become “about 92,000 tons” (which it certainly feels like) and he was very gracious in acknowledging us.  He has had some experience himself putting parts together, marking them with bowings and cuts, and he helps a great deal when we are acquiring the pieces byletting us know the sources of some lesser-known things.  On that score he “gets” that this all take a tremendous amount of organization and time.

Our guest conductor, Bruce Hangen, also was very complimentary in his thanks for our work.  He was respectful in his requests, gave us not only the instructions to what he wanted but why, was always quick to get back to us with answers to our questions, and was just generally easy-going to work with.  A real pro.

The icing on the cake was when our music director, Jaap van Zweden, celebrating his first year with the orchestra by throwing a fantastic party, specifically called up those of us on the tour from operations, stage crew, and library to thank in front of the whole orchestra, administration, and the festival directors.  It was a complete surprise and so generous.  I was, as they say in the UK, gobsmacked.  Wow!

So I’m going to take a risk and give a respectful reminder to all the conductors out there (knowing full well that I will be working for or with some of you in the future) and say this:  please take a cue from your colleagues at the Dallas Symphony and remember to thank your librarians.  I am lucky to work with conductors that appreciate what we do, and it certainly gives me a new bounce in my step to hear it from them.  You know, our goal is the same as yours – to create the best performance possible.  We want to do our job at the highest standard so you can perform at your peak.  Beyond the professional commitment, though, we often work very hard for you personally.  We get to know you, what you like and don’t, what you expect, what your musical style is, and we try to anticipate what you personally will need from us artistically.   When you notice that and sincerely thank us, it makes us want to work that much harder for you in the future.  A win-win for everyone.


3 Responses to 'Wow!'

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  1. Susan Pejovich said,

    Dear Karen-
    I heartily second the thanks and praise you received this past couple of weeks for the tons of music our DSO library managed to juggle. It is so nice to be thanked in public, and you and Mark do deserve special mention for your commitment to put clean, legible parts in the folders and on our stands in enough time for us to learn it before the next wave of notes appears.
    We know our library cares A LOT and we appreciate you.


  2. kschnack said,

    Susan, thanks so much for your gracious comment and kind words, it means alot! K

  3. Esc-ola said,

    It is indeed seldom we librarians get to shine in the spotlight. I think my latest was about four years ago, when my then-MD was conducting a light classics program, which included the Carousel Waltz. The R&H had already re-engraved the set, but for a reason or another, their European agent sent us the old m/s parts. All who have experienced the old set know what I’m talking about: the accordeon folded waltzing nightmare. Apparently the MD got so mad about the first horn part (about 24 accordeon-folded pages, which he thought was principally wrong) that after the performance of the Waltz, he took the part and threw it open – the whole 3 meters/10 feet of the part – onto the audience yelling something about poopish parts and how is anyone supposed to playing from that kind of madness! Later he apologized me of his behavior. (Disclaimer: the hornist didn’t think it was overly challenging with the page turns, but alas, the conductors…)

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