A Pilot Study of Symphony Orchestra Musicians

  • PDF: https://www.jstor.org/stable/40373932


The primary objectives of the Pilot study, supported by a grant from the research division of the National Endowment for the Arts, were to identify and define significant factors of training and career experiences, develop data-gathering instruments and techniques permitting a detailed analysis of educational and career influences, and to assess the commitment and satisfaction of players in several types of symphony orchestras in the U.S.

The research team included Professor Donald Shetler, Chairman of the Music Education Department of the Eastman School of Music, Professors Raymond Murphy and Thomas Smith of the Sociology Department, University of Rochester, Quentin Marty, Graduate Research Fellow, and Benjamin Dunham of the American Symphony Orchestra League, a cooperating agency.

Approximately 500 players from six symphony orchestras and students and alumni from four professional music schools participated in the study. The findings were related to two major types of post-secondary training reported—conservatory (professional music school) or liberal arts music major. Approximately 94% of the sample attended one or the other for the major share of his/her post-secondary training.

Responses were also analyzed according to three levels or classifications of orchestra. Finally, data were analyzed again using both variables simultaneously. Findings are organized in terms of:

  • Family background and early educational experiences; influences on career decisions.
  • Post-secondary training content and experiences; both music and non-music courses.
  • Sponsorship and auditions in obtaining employment in an orchestra.
  • Work satisfaction and career commitment.

The study reports on various concepts of "success" among musicians, attitudes about the value of specific training experiences, and career mobility. Also included in the study are demographic data on the entire sample and several path analysis models used to examine certain variables as predictors for career symphony musicians.

"A PILOT STUDY OF THE EDUCATION, TRAINING, AND CAREERS OF SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA MUSICIANS" was the title of Category VIII described in the National Endowment for the Arts' Program solicitation February, 1976:

The Music Program of the National Endowment for the Arts is considering alternative approaches to encourage our Nation's finest talent to seek fulfillment in music careers. A series of studies may be undertaken over a period of time to provide a better understanding of the relationship of the various types of educational programs and the subsequent career development of professional musicians. The National Endowment for the Arts now intends to support a study for the systematic review of the educational history and training of the professional musicians currently performing with the major, metropolitan, and community symphony orchestras of the U.S.

The approach and procedures for this study are open. The use of surveys, interviews, or other techniques for obtaining data are optional, limited only by the maximum funded level of effort for funding this project. The objective is that the study will provide an evaluation of the impact of historic educational and training experiences on the career achievements of the musicians of symphony orchestras. An important question to be answered by this study is whether differences in education and training patterns are discernible in relation to career achievements by age, sex, and other demographic characteristics.

Dr. Raymond Murphy, Chairman of the Department of Sociology at the University of Rochester and distinguished senior research consultant for this project, teaches a course in the Sociology of the Arts at the Eastman School. We had discussed certain issues cited in the Endowment's call for proposals on many occasions. The College Music Society, the Contemporary Music Project, and the American Symphony Orchestra League had attempted to shed some light on specific problems of training the performer during annual conferences and seminars involving professional arts educators and artists.

For example, Ben Dunham's report of a CMP symposium at Yale University and the recent publication of several popular books about orchestral players—informal rather than research oriented—were available to us, along with a number of formal research documents. Prior to the preparation of our proposal, we reviewed these sources—with special attention to the data collection and analysis features of each. Subsequent discussions with our colleague at the League and with Dr. Tom Smith of our Sociology Department led to the preparation and submission of a proposal in April of 1976.

We were awarded the research grant in late July. By then a good deal of work had already been done to define a model for study, to prepare sample questions, and to develop data-gathering instruments. Of course, we also had cleared procedures with the University Committee on Research with Human Subjects. The primary objectives of this pilot study, as stated in our proposal, were to identify and define significant factors of training and career experiences, to develop data-gathering instruments and techniques permitting a detailed analysis of those educational and career entry factors as they might relate to occupational commitment and career satisfactions among players in the several types of symphony orchestras in the U.S.

 

DESIGN OF THE STUDY: METHODOLOGY

Our descriptive model, a hypothetical career orchestra player, was shaped and defined. We traced childhood experiences, early influences on career choice, post secondary educational background, career entry through the orchestral audition, and eventually to the role of career performer.

With the assistance of Mr. Dunham, we identified six symphony orchestras representing the five categories identified by ASOL.

 

AMERICAN SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA LEAGUE
CLASSIFICATION SYSTEM

  MAJOR
Over $1.5 million
  CLEVELAND, ATLANTA,
Indianapolis, National Symphony,
Syracuse, North Carolina
  REGIONAL
$500,000 to $1.5 million
  OREGON SYMPHONY, Louisville,
Nashville, Toledo, Columbus
  METROPOLITAN
$100,000 to $500,000
  FORT WAYNE, Canton, Chattanooga,
Madison, Fort Worth, Erie, Wichita
  URBAN
$50,000 to $100,000
  PASADENA,
Harrisburg, Lubbock, Midland, Tacoma
  COMMUNITY
$0.00 to $50,000
  DENVER Community Arts,
Eugene, Ann Arbor, Jacksonville
  TOTAL U.S. ORCHESTRAS:   1,400 including youth and college community
orchestras

 

In addition, we identified four professional training institutions—music schools or conservatories—widely recognized as producers of performers on orchestral instruments who were being prepared for careers as professionals—many specifically as orchestral players.

 

SCHOOLS PARTICIPATING IN THE PILOT STUDY

  Indiana University School of Music
—State supported university professional school of music
  Oberlin College Conservatory
—Liberal arts college affiliated conservatory of music
  Manhattan School of Music
—Independent conservatory of music
  Eastman School of Music
—Privately endowed university school of music

Note that each represents one of the four types of schools which make up the constituency of the National Association of Schools of Music, the accrediting agency for professional schools of music. Two hundred alumni of the four schools were selected, ten each from classes of 1950, '55, '60, '65, and '70 for participation in this study. Eighty-four percent of those who were mailed questionnaires responded. Seventy-two percent of the forms were analyzed.

Since much of the previous research and writing on this subject had been based on a small number of unstructured interviews with members of one or two orchestras, the research team decided to make use of a questionnaire including for the most part simple forced choice, objective items with opportunities for comments. Respondents were anonymous, and participation was voluntary. Even though Mr. Dunham and I had cleared the project with orchestra management and the players' own orchestra committees, we felt it would be very important to make personal contact with the players themselves, to distribute and collect the forms personally, and thus reassure the musicians that their opinions would not reach the management. By the way, our pre-tests indicated that the form could be completed in about 40 minutes.

Data forms were taken to a regularly scheduled orchestra rehearsal. The project director was introduced by the chairman of the Orchestra Committee, the Personnel Manager, or the Conductor. A brief description of the project was presented and forms were distributed by hand or placed on stands during rehearsal intermission. Several players asked for more information about the study. Some expressed interest in obtaining a copy of the final report. A few players stated their suspicion that the effort was designed to "trap troublemakers" and thus refused to participate.

Just a brief note regarding the population and the fit of sample. The highest percentage of response from any orchestra was 64%, the lowest 29% from the Cleveland Orchestra. Overall 49% of the players responded. Since the responses of the Cleveland Orchestra players were important to the study, we analyzed several critical factors in the data to insure that the profile of the Cleveland responses was not atypical. For example, we inspected the distribution of first chair to section players, and of string to wind players and compared the data to that of all other orchestras. There was no significant difference.

Including the responses from music school alumni who now play in orchestras, we had usable data from 334 symphony players.

 

THE FINDINGS

Our complete report and the monograph soon to be published by the Endowment include a very detailed summary of our findings, complete with tabular data and statistical analysis. Since space is limited, I will present only the most important findings, and our interpretation of the data as it relates to objectives of the study.

 

DISTRIBUTION OF ALL ORCHESTRAL PLAYERS INCLUDED
IN SAMPLE (N = 232) BY SECTION (%)

ORCHESTRA (%) PRINCIPAL
OR FIRST CHAIR
(%)
SECTION
PLAYER
(%)
STRING
(%)
WOOD
WIND
(%)
BRASS
(%)
PERCUSSION
Cleveland
(N = 29)
20.0 80.0 53.5 21.4 17.8 7.2
Atlanta
(N = 49)
20.0 80.0 65.3 18.3 14.3 2.0
Oregon
(N = 54)
15.0 85.0 66.0 9.5 18.9 3.8
Fort Wayne
(N = 35)
28.6 71.4 54.4 17.2 22.9 3.8
Pasadena
(N = 54)
24.0 76.0 63.1 16.8 13.1 7.5
Denver
Community
(N = 45)
15.6 84.4 72.6 11.4 15.8 0
             
Alumni
"A" 34.0 66.0 52.0 40.0 8.0 0
B 47.8 52.2 45.5 36.4 13.6 4.6
C
(N = 66)
58.8 41.2 48.0 11.8 35.3 5.9
TOTAL ALL
ORCHESTRAS
(N = 232)
29.3 70.7 60.8 18.4 16.8 3.6

 

The following demographic data are descriptive of the total sample minus 74 music school alumni respondents who reported not playing in an orchestra.

1. Age ranged from 16 to 71: 50.6% were 33 or younger, 16.4% were over 50. The mean age for all our respondents is 36.7.

2. With regard to marital status, 28.3% are single, 62.9% are married, 8.8% divorced, separated or widowed; 73.2% have children, of those 63% have 1 or 2.

3. 94.2% of our respondents were born in the United States. 48.2% grew up in or near a large city, 23.5% in or near small cities, and 19.2% in small towns.

4. 68% report that they own, or are buying their homes. The highest level of schooling reported by 40.1% is completion of a bachelor's degree, 34% earned master's degrees (for the most part in music), and 4.3% have earned doctorates. Thus, almost 80% are holders of college degrees.

5. 27.5% report no religious preference, while 10.7% are Jewish, 4.6% Roman Catholic, and 49.2% Protestant.

6. 7.5% are children of performing musicians or music teachers. Less than .05% are children of symphony orchestra players. Most of our respondents, 73%, were children of professional, technical, managerial, or proprietor parents.

7. Income from all sources including wages, interest, and tips for the tax year 1975 is distributed as the chart indicates; median income for all respondents was between $15,000 and $20,000 (about $17,200).

 

TOTAL INCOME

FOR ENTIRE
HOUSEHOLD FROM ALL SOURCES,
WAGES, INTEREST AND SO ON FOR
FISCAL YEAR (1976)

INCOME   %  
Under $5,000   10.4  
$5,000 to $9,999   10.1  
$10,000 to $14,999   15.2  
$15,000 to $19,999   16.1*  
$20,000 to $24,999   22.2  
$25,000 and over   25.9  

 

*Median income between $15,000 - $20,000.



Our findings were first related specifically to the two types of post-secondary training reported by players, conservatory (professional school of music) or liberal arts with a music major. Just over 90% of the sample had reported attending one or the other for more than three years. We are very much aware of the classification problem—the pilot sample is to be expanded in further research.

Next, we analyzed the data using both training and level of orchestra simultaneously. All of our findings are organized in terms of the following:

A. Family background and early musical experiences; influences on decisions to choose a career in music.

B. Post-secondary school training content and experiences, music and non-music courses.

C. Auditions and sponsorship for the orchestral position.

D. Work satisfaction and career commitment.

 

A. Family Background and Early Educational Experiences

Our data indicated that interest in music, study of an instrument, playing a solo, ownership of an instrument presently played, and attendance at a "professional" concert occurred during elementary school years. During middle and junior high school years, our potential orchestra player is likely to play his or her first recital, decide to go to college, play in a first orchestra, and begin to seriously consider a career in music. During high school (grades 9 to 12), he or she first earns some money for playing, makes friends among professional musicians, begins to see himself as an orchestral player rather than a "soloist."

The data suggest little difference in these matters between those trained chiefly in liberal arts institutions and those attending professional music schools.

When viewed by orchestral level, however, we do see some differences. Those musicians who perform full-time in our major orchestras started to play in an orchestra and earned income a bit before the others. On the other hand, they also took a bit longer to "see themselves as orchestral players rather than soloists."

Little difference was found in regard to "the importance of music in the home" and "parents' likes or dislikes for classical music" except that liberal arts trained players reported a significantly less encouraging atmosphere at the C level.

 

DEGREE OF ENCOURAGEMENT TO CHOOSE
A CAREER IN MUSIC BY TYPE OF TRAINING

RANK PERSON OVERALL CONSERVATORY
TRAINED
LIBERAL ARTS
TRAINED
1 Private Teacher 181 183 178
2 College Music Teachers 174 178 168
3 Mother 165 166 164
4 High School Teachers 156 157 155
5 Father 151.6 147 158
6 Junior High Teachers 142 144 189
7 High School Friends 139 142 135
8 Elementary School Teachers 129 128 132
9 Siblings 128 129 127

 

A most important consideration for any young performer is the source and level of encouragement to pursue a life-long career as a musician. Mothers appear to be more supportive than fathers of a career in music for their children. However, when type of training and level of orchestra were examined simultaneously, our data suggest that the higher the level of the orchestra, the greater the level of support from fathers of conservatory trained musicians. In all cases, most encouragement came from private or studio teachers, college music teachers, and mothers. Note that below those three there is no consistent pattern.

Since the differences in responses are small when viewed both from type of training and level of orchestra our musician plays with now, we can generalize about some of the key areas of interest from this dimension of the data.

1. Long before young instrumentalists enter college, their career direction is remarkably focused. The importance of music in the home and parents' and teachers' encouragement are high. Career orchestra players have earned income doing what they will be doing in later life and their expectations for performing careers are surprisingly well anticipated.

2. Mothers' encouragement is higher than fathers' in general. Fathers, however, for reasons one might expect, are considerably less encouraging to conservatory trained players at all levels: A child's choice of a career as a professional musician, with the anticipated specialization and educational expense factors involved, appears to be regarded with some apprehension by the chief wage earner in the family.

3. It may be significant to note that the demographic data indicate that none of the fathers of our respondents are full-time orchestra musicians.

 

B. Post-Secondary School Training Content and Experiences

Section C of the questionnaire included questions dealing with applied study on the major instrument, courses taken during undergraduate years, and the player's perception of the relevance of his training to his opportunities for both entry into the career and his present status as an orchestral musician.

Our major findings that will probably not surprise most of you are the following:

1. More conservatory (or professional music school) trained players studied with professional musicians than did liberal arts trained players (81% to 73%).

2. Conservatory trained players, although a bit less likely to "play for pay" during freshman and sophomore years, were more likely to earn income for performing during the junior and senior years.

3. About 24% of both groups reported attending rehearsals of professional orchestras while in school.

4. 36% of our sample thought that a competitive atmosphere in school was "very important." About 6% more conservatory trained players regard this feature as important than liberal arts trained persons.

 

DISTRIBUTION OF SAMPLE INDICATING ORCHESTRA
LEVEL AND TYPE OF TRAINING (TOTAL N 298)

  N % OF TOTAL  
A Level 146 49.0 (Alumni who are
B Level 104 34.9 presently playing in
C Level 48 16.1 orchestras are included)
  CONSERVATORY
TRAINED
LIBERAL ARTS
TRAINED
  N % N %
A Level Orchestras 92 63.0 54 37.0
B Level Orchestras 57 54.8 47 45.2
C Level Orchestras 27 56.3 21 43.8
TOTAL 176 59.1 122 40.9

 

As you know, curricula in professional schools and in liberal arts colleges vary in many ways. For example, music majors in a liberal arts college may be required to take as much as 60% to 70% of the total degree program in non-music related courses, while the conservatory or professional school student may take less than 20% in this area.

We asked our players to indicate the kinds of both music and non-music courses they took, how many years the courses were taken, and finally which were "most useful for a successful career as an orchestral musician," or "least valuable or relevant for success as an orchestral player." This is a particularly tricky issue to deal with in research of this type.

For our sample as a whole, among music courses taken, 98% studied the major instrument, 100% took theory, 100% participated in ensembles. There appears to be no difference in our two groups here. Likewise, 99% studied music history, and 77.5% studied a secondary instrument.

 

A COMPARISON OF MUSIC COURSES TAKEN BY
ORCHESTRAL PLAYERS BY TYPE OF TRAINING (%)
(One or more semesters)

COURSE TITLE % CONSERVATORY
TRAINED PLAYERS
% LIBERAL ARTS
TRAINED PLAYERS
OVERALL
Piano 95.3 89.1 92.8
Composition 45.4 65.0 53.4
Conducting 57.8 77.5 65.9
Chamber Music 93.6 89.2 91.8
Music Education 52.0 60.8 55.6

 

This chart indicates that more liberal arts educated players took courses in composition, conducting, and music education than their conservatory trained colleagues, and that more of those trained in professional schools studied chamber music and piano.

 

NON-MUSIC COURSES
TAKEN BY ORCHESTRAL PLAYERS
BY TYPE OF TRAINING
(One or more semesters)

COURSE % CONSERVATORY
TRAINED PLAYERS
% LIBERAL ARTS
TRAINED PLAYERS
OVERALL
AVERAGE
English 94.2 96.6 95.2
Foreign Language 67.6 72.9 69.8
History 63.6 86.7 73.0
Philosophy 49.1 67.5 56.7
Religion 22.7 41.0 30.1
Fine Arts 43.9 61.5 51.0
Art History 39.3 52.9 44.9
Science 52.0 79.2 63.1
Social Science 74.6 90.8 81.2
Business Management 5.3 15.4 9.4
Mathematics 30.6 54.6 40.5

 

 

Note from the data in this chart that more than half of the professional school trained players took courses in English, foreign language, science, and social studies although the requirements for the BM degree are minimal and often elective in this curricular area.

Finally, we asked our sample of players to write in those college courses they regarded as most useful and least useful for success as orchestral players. As might be expected, for the most part music courses were listed as most useful, and non-music courses least useful or relevant.

 

RANK ORDER OF USEFULNESS OF COURSES
TAKEN IN COLLEGE

  USEFUL NOT USEFUL
  MUSIC COURSES NON-MUSIC COURSES MUSIC COURSES NON-MUSIC COURSES
  RANK ORDER RANK ORDER RANK ORDER RANK ORDER
A: Private lessons Languages   Science
  Orchestra Fine arts   Math
  Theory Art history   Business
  Chamber music English   Religion
  Music history Social Science   Social Science
  Conducting     English
        History
         
B: Private lessons Languages   Math
  Orchestra History   Science
  Theory Fine arts   Religion
  Music history Art   Business/Management
  Chamber Music English   History
  Conducting Social Science   English
  Composition     Social Science
         
A: CONSERVATORY TRAINED
B: LIBERAL ARTS TRAINED

 

We need to spend a moment or two on this point. Note the non-music courses listed as "useful" and the rank order of those courses. Both groups place fine arts and art history courses ahead of English and social science. Also, in the "non-useful" category, we see consistency in the responses. You will not be surprised to hear that several of our respondents wrote us little notes about this question. I'll spare you the details, but just two comments merit repeating here: "We need more work in the symphonic repertory and in chamber music," and "Why aren't courses like this required—rather than just elective?" This comment—or ones much like it—appeared in another section of the study when we asked "What one major point would you make to young musicians about an orchestral career?" Although we noted some variation in comments by level of orchestra—when analyzed by type of training—very few differences appear.

Here are two responses:

A string player:
"Orchestra playing is a valid, rewarding career, not a substitute, or waiting period for would-be soloists. String teachers (possibly themselves frustrated soloists) of our country must learn this and impart it to their students."

A brass player:
"Too many people play solo literature well but slip on the orchestral repertoire at auditions."

Some mentioned "plan an alternative career" and "prepare to play music of many styles, including jazz, show music, and pops."

Our data form provided a full page for "any additional information or opinion about orchestral training and careers which you feel is important to our understanding. . . ."

We could detect little difference in the quality of these comments when analyzed by type of training. Level of orchestra did reveal some differences however. Chiefly, the "B" and part-time players' comments tended to deal with the high level of competition (for career employment and progress), the low level of financial support from the community, and the need to "prepare for an outside occupation."

"A" level players volunteered a wide variety of suggestions. Here are a few:

Snobbism in school toward an orchestra career by teachers and peers was a problem. Concertos and sonatas are inappropriate repertoire for orchestra playing. Schools should include more courses that relate music to other arts and cultures—inter-disciplinary seminars.

A woman is space bound, can't move. My work is determined by my husband's full-time job.

Orchestras should include a [contract] package that includes teaching and chamber music. Most string players hate orchestral life.

Do you consider college professors good examples of professional musicians? (Ask this question in your next study)

You all are aware that the number of women playing in orchestras is on the increase. That increase, however, is comparatively small in the top, or A level, orchestras, especially in the "Big Six." The higher percentage of women are to be found in the B level or part-time orchestras and in the urban and community orchestras.

An increasing number of highly competent women instrumentalists are hoping to enter the full-time professional orchestral field. Although the picture is somewhat better than it was twenty years ago, we still need to improve employment opportunities.

One young woman, a violinist in an "A" level orchestra, commented:

None of my training prepared me for the repertory of an orchestra; colleges are not practical in regard to getting a job. Many professionals live in a tenured dream world. Women should be told it's a man's job. Women never get a chance to be a conductor or concertmaster.

 

C. Getting a Job: Audition and Sponsorship

Our data indicate that the conservatory trained musician seemed less likely than the liberal arts trained musician to regard sponsorship as important in getting orchestral jobs. We found that A level players, both conservatory and liberal arts trained, are more likely than are B and C level musicians to regard performance as more important than sponsorship although the majority of our respondents at all levels see performance as more crucial than sponsorship.

 

TYPES OF SPONSORSHIP REGARDED AS "VERY
IMPORTANT" BY TRAINING TYPE (%)

  MUSICIANS IN ORCHESTRA TEACHERS CONDUCTORS FELLOW INSTRUMENTALISTS PERSONNEL MANAGER
A: 25 25.5 61.3 9.5 13.6
B: 26 21.6 69.7 12.8 20.6
A: CONSERVATORY TRAINED
B: LIBERAL ARTS TRAINED

 

Since audition procedures are more stringent, and competition more keen for positions in A and B level orchestras, it is likely that the differences we reported in perception of the importance of the types of sponsors and of the role of sponsorship overall are a fairly accurate picture of the relative importance of sponsorship versus performance competency in seeking an orchestral position.

 

D. "Success," Work Satisfaction, and Career Commitment

The definition of success in an occupation is subject to several interpretations. The meaning of this term, often used both by those in the occupation and by persons not in the particular form of work being evaluated, is to see persons as successful if they are employed in an organization having a high level of prestige compared to other organizations of a similar nature. Thus, for example, to be a teacher at Harvard is perceived to be more successful than to be a teacher at Washington University, or at Oberlin. In orchestral terms, this means that being a member of the Chicago Symphony is seen as more indicative of success than playing in the Indianapolis Symphony or the Rochester Philharmonic. Such a definition of success equates success with membership in an organization high in the stratification system of relevant types of organizations and as such is a structural meaning of success. In our present study the most successful persons, by this logic, would be players in the A level orchestras, and the least successful, those in the C level orchestra. Thus, an examination of the findings where orchestra levels are compared provides some evidence on the correlates of success when defined in these terms.

It seems important to point out, however, that other definitions of success are often employed by musicians; a characteristic definition is based on income: the higher the average income of an individual, the more successful that person is. Musicians, as well as many other persons in skilled or professional occupations, judge their peers on the basis of such criteria as the demonstration of technical skill, consistency of performance, reliability, cooperativeness, etc. Such criteria are difficult, if not impossible, for outsiders to use since they relate to intrinsic occupational qualities unknown to those not in the occupation.

Of equal importance to these "objective" definitions of success are those based on the subjective impressions of the persons in the occupation concerning their own accomplishments. The distinction here is between how others evaluate an individual's success as measured by the prestige of employment, income, skill, etc. and how the person perceives his present situation in terms of his aspirations, expectations, and frustrations. A person might be a player in the New York Philharmonic, for example, yet feel frustrated or trapped, if he believes that his skills or interests are not being satisfied by his experiences in the orchestra. By the same token, a member of the New Jersey Symphony may feel quite successful with his work, despite the fact that his orchestra has far less prestige than the orchestra across the Hudson River. Our measures of satisfaction reported in this study attempt to look at this subjective meaning of success and to relate such self-perceptions to training and family experiences.

Finally, success may also be thought of in terms of commitment to an occupation. In this sense a person is successful to the extent that he wishes to remain in this work and takes some measure of pride in its execution.

The orchestral players who responded to the series of questions regarding job satisfaction reported differing degrees of satisfaction. The data indicate that "liberal arts" players are somewhat more satisfied with non-economic factors than their "professional music school" trained colleagues.

A level conservatory trained players appear to be less dissatisfied than liberal arts trained players with economic aspects of their work, although all express considerable dissatisfaction in this area.

To get a single measure of work satisfaction, we asked, "All in all, how satisfied would you say you are with your career in orchestral music?" The data suggest generally high satisfaction for our sample of musicians, but with the liberal arts educated, somewhat more satisfaction than with the conservatory trained. We asked players to cite factors that they would stress when advising young musicians seeking career information. Answers did not reflect differences by type of training; some variation, however, was seen when we examined responses by orchestra level. A level players stressed "study with a fine teacher" more frequently than B or C level players, and C level players indicated more often "keep your options open." Approximately 80% overall indicated "get a thorough education in a conservatory or music school." These volunteered statements varied somewhat among players from various orchestral levels, but considerably more by section (woodwinds, brass, string) as might be expected. "Competition" was cited by many. String section players often mentioned the lack of "personal fulfillment," "preparation to play in an orchestra," and "it's hard work." A and B level players, more often than C level players, wrote a single word"—practice."

Commitment to orchestral playing as a career was studied through an analysis of responses to a series of items designed to deal with opinions frequently expressed by players themselves about orchestral work. Respondents were asked their level of agreement from "strongly agree" to "strongly disagree." When responses were analyzed only by type of training, a pattern emerged indicating that conservatory trained musicians tended to be somewhat less committed than those who attended liberal arts colleges. Very few agreed that there are "more frustrations than rewards in orchestral playing." When job commitment was analyzed by the level of orchestra, however, we found a general similarity. It is apparent that A level players, overall, are less enthusiastic about orchestral work, and perhaps are also less idealistic than those at the B and C levels. Similar findings are reported when we view commitment items with both level and type of training simultaneously. The data suggest that some players, not highly committed to an orchestral career, may be "trapped" in their positions by economic considerations.

Such findings suggest the vast differences between the musician who earns all, or a considerable share, of his income from orchestral performance, and those who play for recreation, self-realization, or, in the traditional sense, who are "living to play" not "playing to live."

 

THE EXTENSIVE MATERIAL IN OUR REPORT
TITLED "MODELS OF SUCCESS"

A preliminary estimation "furnishes a most important answer to the following excerpt from the Endowment's Program Solicitation for Category VIII":

The objective is that the study will provide an evaluation of the impact of historical educational and training experience on the career achievements of the musicians of symphony orchestras. An important question to be answered by this study is whether differences in education and training patterns are discernible in relation to career achievements by certain demographic variables.

As a result of our analysis of the data, we observed that career success for orchestral musicians is not an all-or-nothing affair, and that success may have several dimensions in part independent of one another. Thus even though training patterns appear to be important factors in determining where musicians end up in the national system of orchestras, many other factors must be taken into consideration.

The shaping influence of the several factors as we measured (and described in detail) appears in career choice, in aspiration levels, in the quality of education, and in other components of career development that precede entry into the job market.

To isolate a single factor, post-secondary education for example, and to indicate that one type of training pattern is a highly significant predictor for "success" is not appropriate in our view. The lesson of the aggregate data is fairly clear: If our musician is successful in one respect, it is predictable that he will be unsuccessful in another. As stated in our report, the social, economic, and artistic contexts of musical professionalism do not support one another.

 

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FURTHER RESEARCH

We are aware of the very small sample used for the study, and that the ASOL classification system, based on annual budget, does not serve well as an indicator of the variance among types of symphony orchestras in the U.S. Likewise, our other population, that of post-secondary institutions, should be further represented by adjusting sample size and representation to include several liberal arts college music departments. A "pilot" study should, of course, identify sampling and methodology problems one might expect to correct or modify for an extensive research project in the future.

In this respect, we can also recommend that our data-gathering instrument, although considerably revised during a pre-test period, appears to be well suited to the task for which it was designed. However, follow-up interviews for certain areas of career preparation and development would undoubtedly provide additional information to support those data supplied in completed questionnaire forms.

Earlier research studies of orchestral players have used interviews almost exclusively. Our research suggests that in any future study of this population a balance of both objective and interview data would be helpful. Obviously, much more time than we had would be needed to carry out such a procedure.

In Chapter IV of our report can be found a very detailed analysis of the several factors related to career development and "success" when subjected to sophisticated statistical models. These path models are appropriate for use with the student responses as well. This pre-professional group, still in training, may provide even more insight into the special issues of curriculum design and career entry data related to the several meanings of success as we have defined them.

Our study, as a pilot project, was carried out over a short time period and was funded at a level that limited our use of certain analytical techniques. Based on the observations of highly respected researchers in the field, we can recommend that this issue deserves long-term study using, in addition to our techniques, case-history and longitudinal examination. For example, the stability of commitment to the job of orchestral playing might be analyzed by identifying young performers while still in training, or very early in their careers, in the same manner as Strong and Campbell followed the occupational history of their subjects over a thirty-year period.1 We have already been assured that should such a venture be initiated, we could expect the hearty support of the major accrediting agency for professional schools of music.

Our pilot study does identify the chief components of a college level program for training the potential orchestral performers. Many of our respondents pointed out certain failings of that program to meet their needs as orchestral players. It might be noted in this respect that during the early 1970s a major funded study, the Contemporary Music Project, initiated a national program to reform the fundamental components of music study at the college level.2 A chief objective was to produce a performer who could play more than a single instrument well, could perform music of many styles, periods, and cultures, and had the ability to verbalize about those musics to audiences. The effort was controversial to say the least. A number of colleges and some professional music schools adopted the curriculum revisions designed to accomplish these objectives. It would be worth our time to identify certain graduates of those schools now playing in orchestras, and to explore the influences, if any, that the "new" curriculum has had on attitudes and opinions about orchestral playing and music in general. No such study has been carried out and one should be in the next two or three years. If this project has any impact on the issue of training the career instrumentalist, this could be its most important contribution.

Studies of other music careers should be carried out using the same types of data-gathering instruments and techniques developed for this project. The same dimensions we explored—family background, early musical experiences, college level training, career satisfaction and commitment—might be studied with music teachers, young concert artists, composers, and/or conductors, and singers as populations. Our questionnaire could be modified and re-designed for such research. Current interest in the importance of arts education lends urgency to the need to study the career training of potential teachers of the arts, for instance. Our data indicate that almost half of those playing in orchestras (practicing their art actively) also teach in schools and colleges, or privately. It would be useful to learn the extent of this career duality among other artists and how this duality influences job satisfaction and commitment.

As a pilot study "For the Systematic Review of the Educational History and Training of the Professional Musicians Currently Performing with the Major, Metropolitan, and Community Symphony Orchestras in the U.S." (from the NEA Research Division Program Solicitation), our project provides at least a framework and considerable data that can be further studied by additional statistical analysis and interpretation. We are prepared to recommend that the next phase of the study, the analysis of students' responses and cross-tabulation with those already tabulated and stored in our data sets, be carried out. In order to continue research on the issues raised by our findings, we are seeking additional support from appropriate funding sources.

The following policy areas merit review in light of certain findings in our pilot study:

First, for public school music teachers, parents of young instrumentalists, and their studio teachers: the high level of encouragement for full-time career as a professional performer seems unjustified in the light of job opportunities. A more honest and dispassionate evaluation of career potential may be in order in light of the high level of competition for very few full-time orchestral jobs available.

For those in the stressful position of management of symphony orchestras, the tradition of sponsorship and the wide variation in audition policies merit immediate attention. We learned that even the best qualified performers exhibit considerable doubt regarding the relative value of these time-honored practices. Further, if the current pressure for the employment of musicians who can perform in informally organized ensembles, who can improvise, who can articulate the content of music verbally, and who are willing to teach as well as play are critical considerations in gaining a job, it might be wise to state a clear policy in the published employment notice. For those administrators of both professional schools and college music departments, a policy of clarifying the importance of entrance auditions appears to be in order. Certainly, a review of the balance between non-music and music courses is needed, with particular attention to the advisement and guidance role of the studio teacher, who may—or may not—be alert to current trends in career development. For example, our data suggest that much more attention is needed in the area of chamber music performance competence. It is also evident that the performer who is capable of teaching may indeed be the most "successful" and "committed" orchestral player.

Finally, it does appear from the data we analyzed in this study that the current pattern of financial aid for a selected number of independent conservatories merits early review. Our data clearly indicate that the employment and career development of the successful orchestra player do not relate to training alone. Many variables, some identified for the first time in this study, need to be considered.

As Director of this pilot project, I, myself, plead for a new look at our national policy for support of our talented young people who will become the performing artists of the future, and for the continued concern of not only the National Endowment, but of the College Music Society, the National Association of Schools of Music, and the several other national agencies and organizations who are the proper advocates for the young career musician.


1E.K. Strong Jr. and D.P. Campbell, Manual for Strong Vocational Interest Blanks (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1966).

2"The Education of the Performing Musician," College Music Symposium, Vol. 13, Fall 1973.

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