This one is a BIGGIE!
And I really, really do appreciate this right now.
While most people go to work, DC goes to play. :) He rehearses and performs with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and one of their resident quartets, and in turn receives regular checks all year round. It is a truly beautiful thing.
During our 8 years of married student life, we often wondered if we were chasing an impossible dream. < cue "Man of La Mancha" theme > :)
Could a person REALLY support a family doing music for a living? Or would we end up paying off student loans with some menial labor job, and regretting our choice to shoot for the moon?
Once DC started in on the professional orchestra audition scene, our fears only increased. It is a brutal world. You work your little tail off learning excerpts and concerto movements, you pay to get yourself to the audition, they listen to you for a few minutes, and then you are either advanced to "the next round" of several, or you are unceremoniously sent home with the 30-100 other musicians you were competing with. It can be so debilitatingly frustrating. DC auditioned for many orchestras over the course of two years before landing the position here. He met many other brilliant and talented violinists, many from the great conservatories, who were sent home as well after 5 minutes of playing in the first round.
Can you imagine what it feels like to have spent months preparing (no, years, really!) and sometimes hundreds of dollars getting yourself to an audition, only to turn around and go home completely empty-handed? And then do that over and over and over. . . . And this for a position that may only pay a schoolteacher's salary or far less. (There's a HUGE variety in payscale for orchestra musicians). It's way too easy to start feeling a little cynical and hopeless.
His mentor Igor Gruppman said once that landing a position with a professional orchestra is like winning the lottery. It is just so unpredictable what can lead someone to win over so many other amazing players.
How grateful we were to "win the lottery" in May 2004! We were euphoric for months.
So what exactly DOES a professional orchestral player do?
Well, here in Arkansas, a professional orchestra player is part celebrity-performer / part music-"evangelist". The evening and weekend work consists of rehearsals and performances downtown.
DC on far right (the one with the gorgeous profile :)
The weekday work is mostly traveling with the quartet to elementary schools all over the state to give demos and "instrument petting zoos". The ASO has an award-winning outreach program to introduce children to classical music and to help them fall in love with it.
It really is an awesome job. Part of the time he's doing what he loves, and the rest of the time helping to teach children to love it, too.
Now, I have to confess that I almost didn't write this post. Shamefully I have been guilty many times of complaining about this very blessing. (Usually about the killer schedule during the season. Oh yeah, and the pay could of course be higher--I think everyone feels that way about their job, though, eh?). But as I see how tenuous so many jobs are right now, and knowing well that the music industry is hardly considered a realm of stable employment, I have felt very humbled and grateful.
It's not a perfect situation, and someday we'd love to have him teaching full-time at a university somewhere, and performing only part-time. But for now it is a miraculous blessing, and we thank Heavenly Father for it.
It has enabled us to buy a house, provide necessities for our chiquitos, and best of all, given us hope of a lifelong musical career for DC. Those of you who know him probably can't imagine him doing anything else.