I was sad when I quit the Boise Philharmonic a few years ago. Being a member of the first violin section had been rewarding, and I had so many reasons to stay: In only two more years, I would have gotten my name on the Philharmonic plaque that honored members who had spent 10 seasons with them. The Philharmonic provided a regular income, and though it was small, I liked contributing to the family coffers. Mostly, there was the satisfaction of saying, "I belong to the Boise Philharmonic." People were more likely to hire me for gigs, or to teach their children, when they knew I had passed the Philharmonic's demanding audition, and performed challenging music on a regular basis.
However, though I hadn't been diagnosed with Grave's disease yet, the monthly concerts were taking a toll on me, on Dave, and on my children. I would come home tired each night, and the concert repertoire would repeat endlessly through my mind, preventing me from sleeping. It would take a few days after each concert to recover and regroup, and then in a couple of weeks, the routine would begin again. I found that my practicing was taken up with orchestra music--there was no time for solo repertoire or room for individual growth.
At the time of my resignation, the Philharmonic board made a policy change that has given me the ideal situation. There used to be a rule that local musicians, including former members of the Philharmonic, would not be hired as extras. But at the same time that I was making this decision, the board decided to allow local musicians, particularly former members, to join the orchestra as contract laborers. So far, I have been fortunate to have my name near the top of the list of local extras. I have been invited to play several concerts each year, and I have had the freedom to accept, or to turn them down. Occasionally, I can schedule myself in advance. For instance, whenever I see Mahler on the next season's schedule, I get a place in line right away, knowing Mahler will always require a bigger string section--and I love Mahler!
This week, I am playing Ravel, Schumann, and a new work by a living composer. I'm enjoying seeing my colleagues and working with them on this music. The negatives are there, too--difficulty sleeping, and grumpy children. It's nice to know that when the concert is over, I'll get a break. And in a few months, maybe I'll get lucky and receive another invitation to play.