A conductor was having a lot of
trouble with one
A conductor and a violist are
standing in the middle of the road. which one do you run over first, and why?
conductor. Business before pleasure.
Why are conductor's hearts so
coveted for transplants?
had so little use.
What's the difference between
a conductor and a sack of fertilizer?
What do you have when a group
of conductors are up to their necks in wet concrete?
Did you hear about the
planeload of conductors en route to the European Festival?
good news: it crashed.
What's the difference between
a symphony conductor and Dr Scholl's footpads?
Scholl's footpads buck up the feet.
What's the difference between
a pig and a symphony orchestra conductor?
are some things a pig just isn't willing to do.
What is the ideal weight for
2 1/2 lbs. including the urn.
What's the difference between
God and a conductor?
knows He's not a conductor.
What's the definition of an
mouse trying to become a rat.
What's the difference between
alto clef and Greek?
conductors actually read Greek.
What do you do with a horn player
that can't play?
him two sticks, put him in the back, and call him a percussionist.
What do you do if he can't do
away one of the sticks, put him up front, and call him a conductor.
What's the difference between
an opera conductor and a baby?
baby sucks its fingers.
A musician calls the symphony
office to talk to the conductor. "I'm sorry, he's dead," comes the
The musician calls back 25
times, always getting the same reply from the receptionist. At last she asks him
why he keeps calling. "I just like to hear you say it."
A musician arrived at the
"What did you do when
you were alive?" asked St. Peter.
"I was the principal
trombone player of the London Symphony Orchestra"
"Excellent! We have a
vacancy in our celestial symphony orchestra for a trombonist. Why don't you turn
up at the next rehearsal."
So, when the time for the
next rehearsal arrived our friend turned up with his heavenly trombone [sic].
As he took his seat God moved, in a mysterious way, to the podium and tapped his
baton to bring the players to attention. Our friend turned to the angelic
second trombonist (!) and whispered, "So, what's God like as a
"Oh, he's O.K. most of
the time, but occasionally he thinks he's von Karajan."
Once upon a time, there was a
blind rabbit and blind snake, both living in the same neighborhood. One
beautiful day, the blind rabbit was hopping happily down the path toward his
home, when he bumped into someone. Apologizing profusely he explained, "I
am blind, and didn't see you there."
right," said the snake, "because I am blind, too, and did not see to
step out of your way."
A conversation followed,
gradually becoming more intimate, and finally the snake said, "This is the
best conversation I have had with anyone for a long time. Would you mind if I
felt you to see what you are like?"
"Why, no," said the
rabbit. "Go right ahead."
So the snake wrapped himself
around the rabbit and shuffled and snuggled his coils, and said, "MMMM!
You're soft and warm and fuzzy and cuddly...and those ears! You must be a
right!" said the rabbit. "May I feel you?"
"Go right ahead."
said the snake, stretching himself out full length on the path.
The rabbit began to stroke
the snake's body with his paws, then drew back in disgust. "Yuck!" he
said. "You're cold...and slimy... you must be a conductor!"
A guy walks into a pet store
wanting a parrot. The store clerk shows him two beautiful ones out on the floor.
"This one's $5,000 and the other is $10,000." the clerk said.
"Wow! What does the
$5,000 one do?"
"This parrot can sing
every aria Mozart ever wrote."
"And the other?"
said the customer.
"This one can sing
Wagner's entire Ring cycle. There's another one in the back room for
"Holy moly! What does
that one do?"
"Nothing that I can
tell, but the other two parrots call him 'Maestro'."
A new conductor was at his
first rehearsal. It was not going well. He was wary of the musicians as they
were of him. As he left the rehearsal room, the timpanist sounded a rude little
"bong." The angry conductor turned and said, "All right! Who did
A violinist was auditioning
for the Halle orchestra in England. After his audition he was talking with the
conductor. "What do you think about Brahms?" asked the conductor.
violinist replied, "Brahms is a great guy! Real talented musician. In fact,
he and I were just playing some duets together last week!"
The conductor was impressed.
"And what do you think of Mozart?" he asked him.
"Oh, he's just swell! I
just had dinner with him last week!" replied the violinist. Then the
violinist looked at his watch and said he had to leave to catch the 1:30 train
Afterwards, the conductor was
discussing him with the board members. He said he felt very uneasy about hiring
this violinist, because there seemed to be a serious credibility gap. The
conductor knew for certain that there was no 1:30 train to London.
A Player's Guide for Keeping Conductors in Line
by Donn Laurence Mills
If there were a basic
training manual for orchestra players, it might include ways to practice not
only music, but one-upmanship. It seems as if many young players take pride in
getting the conductor's goat. The following rules are intended as a guide to the
development of habits that will irritate the conductor. (Variations and
additional methods depend upon the imagination and skill of the player.)
Never be satisfied with the tuning note. Fussing about the pitch takes
attention away from the podium and puts it on you, where it belongs.
When raising the music stand, be sure the top comes off and spills the
music on the floor.
Complain about the temperature of the rehearsal room, the lighting,
crowded space, or a draft. It's best to do this when the conductor is under
Look the other way just before cues.
Never have the proper mute, a spare set of strings, or extra reeds.
Percussion players must never have all
Ask for a re-audition or seating change. Ask often. Give the impression
you're about to quit. Let the conductor know you're there as a personal favor.
Pluck the strings as if you are checking tuning at every opportunity,
especially when the conductor is giving instructions. Brass players: drop mutes.
Percussionists have a wide variety of dropable items, but cymbals are
unquestionably the best because they roll around for several seconds.
Loudly blow water from the keys during pauses (Horn, oboe and clarinet
players are trained to do this from birth).
Long after a passage has gone by, ask the conductor if your C# was in
tune. This is especially effective if you had no C# or were not playing at the
time. (If he catches you, pretend to be correcting a note in your part.)
At dramatic moments in the music (while the conductor is emoting) be busy
marking your music so that the climaxes will sound empty and disappointing.
Wait until well into a rehearsal before letting the conductor know you
don't have the music.
Look at your watch frequently. Shake it in disbelief occasionally.
Tell the conductor, "I can't find the beat." Conductors are
always sensitive about their "stick technique", so challenge it
As the conductor if he has listened to the Bernstein recording of the
piece. Imply that he could learn a thing or two from it. Also good: ask "Is
this the first time you've conducted this piece?"
When rehearsing a difficult passage, screw up your face and shake your
head indicating that you'll never be able to play it. Don't say anything: make
If your articulation differs from that of others playing the same phrase,
stick to your guns. Do not ask the conductor which is correct until backstage
just before the concert.
Find an excuse to leave rehearsal about 15 minutes early so that others
will become restless and start to pack up and fidget.
During applause, smile weakly or show no expression at all. Better yet,
nonchalantly put away your instrument. Make the conductor feel he is keeping you
from doing something really important.
is time that players reminded their conductors of the facts of life: just who do
conductors think they are, anyway?
Donn Laurence Mills is the
NSOA contributing editor. He holds music degrees from Northwestern University
and Eastman School of Music. A conductor and music educator, he is also the
American educational director for the Yamaha Foundation of Tokyo.
What's the first thing a
musician says at work?
you like fries with that?"
What do you call a musician
without a significant other?
Why do musicians have to be
awake by six o'clock?
most shops close by six thirty.
What would a musician do if
he won a million dollars?
to play gigs until the money ran out.
What's the difference between
a conductor and a stagecoach driver?
stagecoach driver only has to look at four horses' asses.
The stages of a musician's
Who is name?
Get me name.
Get me someone who sounds like name.
Get me a young name.
Who is name?
were two people walking down the street. One was a musician. The other didn't
have any money either.
A community orchestra was
plagued by attendance problems. Several musicians were absent at each rehearsal.
As a matter of fact, every player in the orchestra had missed several
rehearsals, except for one very faithful oboe player. Finally, as the dress
rehearsal drew to a close, the conductor took a moment to thank the oboist for
her faithful attendance. She, of course, humbly responded "It's the least I
could do, since I won't be at the performance."
Saint Peter is checking ID's
at the Pearly Gates, and first comes a Texan. "Tell me, what have you done
in life?" says St. Peter.
The Texan says, "Well, I
struck oil, so I became rich, but I didn't sit on my laurels--I divided all my
money among my entire family in my will, so our descendants are all set for
about three generations."
St. Peter says, "That's
quite something. Come on in. Next!"
The second guy in line has
been listening, so he says, "I struck it big in the stock market, but I
didn't selfishly just provide for my own like that Texan guy. I donated five
million to Save the Children."
Saint Peter. "Come in. Who's next?"
The third guy has been
listening, and says timidly with a downcast look, "Well, I only made five
thousand dollars in my entire lifetime."
"Heavens!" says St.
Peter. "What instrument did you play?"
St. Peter's still checking
ID's. He asks a man, "What did you do on Earth?"
The man says, "I was a
St. Peter says, "Ok, go
right through those pearly gates. Next! What did you do on Earth?"
"I was a school
"Go right through those
pearly gates. Next! And what did you do on Earth?"
"I was a musician."
"Go around the side, up
the freight elevator, through the kitchen..."
A guy walks into the doctor's
office and says, "Doc, I haven't had a bowel movement in a week!" The
doctor gives him a prescription for a mild laxative and tells him, "If it
doesn't work, let me know."
A week later the guy is back:
"Doc, still no movement!"
The doctor says, "Hmm,
guess you need something stronger," and prescribes a powerful laxative.
Still another week later the
poor guy is back: "Doc, STILL nothing!"
The doctor, worried, says,
"We'd better get some more information about you to try to figure out
what's going on. What do you do for a living?"
"I'm a musician."
The doctor looks up and says,
"Well, that's it! Here's $10.00. Go get something to eat!"
Variations on a Theme
What's the difference between
a seamstress and a violist?
seamstress tucks up the frills.
What's the difference between
a seamstress and a soprano?
seamstress tucks and frills.
What's the difference between
a seamstress and a french horn player?
seamstress says "Tuck the frills."
"Wagner's music has
beautiful moments but some bad quarters of an hour."
"Richard Wagner's music
is better than it sounds."
"A critic is like a eunuch: he knows exactly how it ought to be done."
"A drummer is a
musician's best friend."
a Martin Mull album.
"The present day
composer refuses to die."
"Beethoven had an ear
"The clarinet is a
musical instrument the only thing worse than which is two."
The Devil's Dictionary, by Ambrose
Did you hear that Mr. Solfege
had a dog?
name was feedo.
What do you get when you put
a diminished chord together with an augmented chord?
How many producers does it
take to change a light bulb?
don't know...what do you think?
A first violinist, a second
violinist, a virtuoso violist, and a bass player are at the four corners of a
football field. At the signal, someone drops a 100 dollar bill in the middle of
the field and they run to grab it. Who gets it?
second violinist, because:
No first violinist is going anywhere for only 100 dollars.
There's no such thing as a virtuoso violist.
The bass player hasn't figured out what it's all about.
did the Philharmonic disband?
sax and violins.
Borodin nothing to do!!
Gone Chopin. Bach in a minuet.
Haydn's Chopin Liszt
Chef Boyardee Raveli
sour cream and Ives
· Mozart-rella cheese
I Can't Believe it's not Rutter
of serial (opera)
new door Handel
quartet: a good violinist, a bad violinist, an ex-violinist,
and someone who hates violinists, all getting together to complain about
an indication that the trombones are to play with their slides removed.
a technique adopted by string players for difficult runs.
piano: indicates an opportunity for some obscure orchestra
player to become a soloist.
indicates to orchestras that they are to stubbornly maintain the correct tempo
no matter what the conductor tries to do.
sordino: a term used to remind the player that he forgot to put
his mute on a few measures back.
beat: a threat made to singers, i.e., sing, or else....
a reminder to the performer that he has been playing too loudly.
a musician who is adept at following many people at the same time.
something to jump from before the viola solo.
the act of moving the relative pitch of a piece of music that is too low for the
basses to a point where it is too high for the sopranos.
used by singers to hide the fact that they are on the wrong pitch.
step: the pace used by a cellist when carrying hi
soprano: a singer who has great trouble finding the proper
note, but who has a wild time hunting for it.
scale: an instrument for weighing that indicates half-pounds.
line: a gathering of people, usually among which may be
found a musician or two.
libitum: a premiere.
what music students do to each other with their instruments. The down beat is
performed on top of the head, while the up beat is struck under the chin.
when everybody hopes you're going to stop, but you don't.
a musician with very high morals. (I know one)
a complex organizations of sounds that is set down by the composer, incorrectly
interpreted by the conductor, who is ignored by the musicians, the result of
which is ignored by the audience.
an ill wind that nobody blows good.
two hours before a nooner.
fifth: an empty bottle of Jack Daniels.
fifth: a full bottle of Jack Daniels.
there's one in every family.
major: an uncle in the Marine Corps.
minor: a girlfriend.
band: when the bar pays enough to bring two banjo players.
"refill this beer bottle".
what you do until they just expel you.
women ain't nothin' but.
the things you run around in softball.
a foreign country you've always wanted to see.
the man who punches your ticket to Birmingham.
"Ain't he that storybook kid with the big nose that grows?"
good choice for a used car.
440: the highway that runs around Nashville.
men who wear dresses.
An advanced recorder technique where you change from alto to soprano
fingering (or vice-versa) in the middle of a piece
when everyone else is playing twice as fast as you are.
of sharps: what a wimp gets at the bar.
tone: frequently heard near the baked beans at family
C: the only fruit drink you can afford when food stamps
pitch: the smooth coating on a freshly paved road.
a compound word: "Hey, woman! Fetch me another tuba Bryll Cream!"
that ugly thing your wife always vacuums dog hair off of when company
The heroine in Monteverdi's opera Frottola
note: what's due after failing to pay the mortgage for a
what you try never to fall off of.
clef: where you wind up if you do fall off.
not to be confused with "Tom's toes," "Bubba's toes" or
third: your approximate age and grade at the completion of
minor: loretta Lynn's singing dad.
scale: the thing the State Police weigh your tractor trailer
tone: what most standard pickups can haul.
what you get from a bad cold or hay fever.
name used on your second daughter if you've already used Betty Jo.
the proper way to answer the phone.
typical response when asked what you hope to catch, and when.
a bedpost with a bad case of gas.
horn: your wife says you smell like a cheap one when you
come in at 4 a.m.
what they use on deer-crossing signs so you know what to sight-in your pistol
nova: the car your foreman drives.
signature: what you need from your boss if you forget to clock
inversion: grandpa's battle group at Normandy.
how you did all the ceilings in your mobile home.
scale: what you say after chasing wild game up a mountain:
"Damn! That was a major scale!"
mode: how you like Mama's cherry pie.
chorale: the place behind the barn where you keep the horses.
a collective noun, as in "a plague of conductors."
the act of putting oneself under extreme duress to satisfy the sadistic
intentions of someone who has already made up his mind.
fifth: a 36-ounce bottle.
consort: when someone in the ensemble has to leave to go to the
firmus: the part you get when you can play only four notes.
de geste: dirty songs.
Mrs. Santa Claus.
a tritone with a bent prong.
like knitting, but faster.
a lot of mallards.
the way you look when you've been playing the Krummhorn.
what they put on letters in Quebec.
a tiny recorder played by neums.
the thing that fits into a crochet to produce a rackett.
how long it takes to find the right note. There are three kinds:
Major interval: a long time.
Minor interval: a few bars.
Inverted interval: when you have to go back a bar and try again.
singing through one's nose. Considered highly desirable in the Middle Ages.
motet: when half of the ensemble got a different edition from
the other half.
a boy soprano.
ficta: when you lose your place and have to bluff until you
find it again.
melishma: a bronchial disorder caused by hockets.
the hero in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.
an early Italian method of teaching music without score or parts.
an early Italian form of Montezuma's Revenge.
the difference between shawms and krummhorns.
the 6th and 5th steps of a descending scale.
lasso: popular with Italian cowboys.
beginning viol class.
capped reeds class
a Verdi opera.
proprietate: cussing in church.
a malevolent neum.
a lot of sackbuts.
something Bach didn't have on his organ.
dei: a famous female church composer.
a city-dwelling dwarf.
a disease that Monteverdi had.
an alto who moves to the soprano section.
Maestro (to Horns):
"Give us the F in tune!"
When asked by the Pope (I
forget which one) what the Catholic Church could do for music, Igor Stravinsky
is reputed to have answered without hesitation: "Give us back castrati!"
Three violin manufactures
have all done business for years on the same block in the small town of Cremona,
Italy. After years of a peaceful co-existence, the Amati shop decided to put a
sign in the window saying: "We make the best violins in Italy." The
Guarneri shop soon followed suit, and put a sign in their window proclaiming:
"We make the best violins in the world." Finally, the Stradivarius
family put a sign out at their shop saying: "We make the best violins on
Once there was a violinist
who got a gig to play a recital at a mental institution. He played the recital
brilliantly, and backstage after the concert, he got a visit from one of the
"Oh, the concert you
played was just lovely. The Paganini caprice was stunning, the counterpoint in
the Bach came out so clearly, and the phrasing in your Debussy was just
exquisite!", said the patient.
"Why, thank you,"
said the musician (thinking this person seemed pretty normal for a
institutionalized person). "Are you by chance a musician?"
"Oh yes, I was
concertmaster of an orchestra for many years, I've played all of the major
concertos: Tchaikowsky, Brahms, Mozart, all the major ones." said the
impressive," said the violinist. "Did you do recitals as well?"
"Oh yes, I've done all
the major sonatas, Bach, Kreisler, Vieuxtemps, all of the major ones," said
"Wow! Did you ever do
chamber music?" asked the violinist.
"Oh yes. Duets, trios,
quintets, sextets, all the major repertoire," said the patient.
Puzzled, the violinist asked
"Did you ever play string quartets?"
All of the suddenly the
patient went berserk and shouted "String
quartets!... String quartets!... String quartets!... "
Quite a number of years ago,
the Seattle Symphony was doing Beethoven's Symphony
No. 9 under the baton of Milton Katims.
Now at this point, you must
understand two things:
There's a quite long segment in this symphony where the basses don't have
a thing to do. Not a single note for page after page.
There used to be a tavern called Dez's
400, right across the street from the Seattle Opera House, rather favored by
had been decided that during this performance, once the bass players had played
their parts in the opening of the symphony, they were to quietly lay down their
instruments and leave the stage, rather than sit on thier stools looking and
feeling dumb for twenty minutes. Once they got backstage, someone suggested that
they trot across the street and quaff a few brews.
When they got there, a
European nobleman recognized that they were musicians, and bought them several
rounds of drinks. Two of the bassists passed out, and the rest of the section,
not to mention the nobleman, were rather drunk. Finally, one of them looked at
his watch and exclaimed, "Look at the time! We'll be late!"
The remaining bassists tried
in vain to wake up their section mates, but finally those who were still
conscious had to give up and run across the street to the Opera House.
While they were on their way
in, the bassist who suggested this excursion in the first place said, "I
think we'll still have enough time--I anticipated that something like this could
happen, so I tied a string around the last pages of the score. When he gets down
to there, Milton's going to have to slow the tempo way down while he waves the
baton with one hand and fumbles with the string with the other."
Sure enough, when they got
back to the stage they hadn't missed their entrance, but one look at their
conductor's face told them they were still in serious trouble. Katims was
furious! After all...
It was the bottom of the Ninth,
Reprinted without permission
from Edmonton Centre newsletter, Canada, and Canadian RCCO newsletter.
The following program notes
are from an unidentified piano recital.
Tonight's page turner, Ruth
Spelke, studied under Ivan Schmertnick at the Boris Nitsky School of Page
Turning in Philadelphia. She has been turning pages here and abroad for many
years for some of the world's leading pianists.
In 1988, Ms. Spelke won the
Wilson Page Turning Scholarship, which sent her to Israel to study page turning
from left to right. She is winner of the 1984 Rimsky Korsakov Flight
of the Bumblebee Prestissimo Medal, having turned 47 pages in an
unprecedented 32 seconds. She was also a 1983 silver medalist at the Klutz
Musical Page Pickup Competition: contestants retrieve and rearrange a musical
score dropped from a Yamaha. Ms. Spelke excelled in "grace, swiftness, and
For techniques, Ms. Spelke
performs both the finger-licking and the bent-page corner methods. She works
from a standard left bench position, and is the originator of the dipped-elbow
page snatch, a style used to avoid obscuring the pianist's view of the music.
She is page turner in residence in Fairfield Iowa, where she occupies the
coveted Alfred Hitchcock Chair at the Fairfield Page Turning Institute.
Ms. Spelke is married, and
has a nice house on a lake.
Orchestra Personnel Standards
tall buildings in a single bound.
short buildings in a single bound.
short buildings with a running start and favorable winds.
clears a quonset hut.
marks high on wall when trying to clear short buildings.
over doorstep when trying to enter buildings.
buildings and walks under them.
Wilson is tired of paying for clarinet reeds. If he adopts a policy of
playing only on rejected reeds from his colleagues will he be able to retire on
the money he has saved if he invests it in mutual bonds, yielding 8.7%, before
he is fired from his job? If not, calculate the probablitity of him ever working
in a professional symphony orchestra again!
Jethro has been playing the double bass in a symphony orchestra for 12
years, three months and seven days. Each day, his inclination to practice
decreases by the equation: (total days in the orchestra) x 0.0076. Assuming he
stopped practising altogether four years, six months and three days ago, how
long will it be before he is completely unable to play the double bass?
Wilma plays in the second violin section, but specializes in making
disparaging remarks about conductors and other musicians. The probability of her
making a negative comment about any given musician is 4 chances in 7, and for
conductors is 16 chances out of 17. If there are 103 musicians in the orchestra
and the orchestra sees 26 different conductors each year, how many negative
remarks does Wilma make in a two-year period? How does this change if five of
the musicians are also conductors? What if six of the conductors are also
Horace is the General Manager of an important symphony orchestra. He
tries to hear at least four concerts a year. Assuming that at each concert the
orchestra plays a minimum of three pieces per concert, what are the chances that
Horace can avoid hearing a single work by Mozart, Beethoven or Brahms in the
next ten years?
Betty plays in the viola section. Despite her best efforts she is unable
to play with the rest of the orchestra and, on average, plays 0.3528 seconds
behind the rest of the viola section, which is already 0.16485 seconds behind
the rest of the orchestra. If the orchestra is moving into a new concert hall
with a reverberation time of 2.7 seconds, will she be able to continue playing
this way undetected?
Ralph loves to drink coffee. Each week he drinks three more cups of
coffee than Harold, who drinks exactly one third the amount that the entire
brass section consumes in beer. How much longer is Ralph going to live?
Rosemary is unable to play in keys with more than three sharps or flats
without making an inordinate number of mistakes. Because her colleagues in the
cello section are also struggling in these passages she has so far been able to
escape detection. What is the total number of hours they would all have to
practice to play the complete works of Richard Strauss?
EFFICIENCY & TICKET, LTD., Management Consultants
After attending a rehearsal
of this work we make the following observations and recommendations:
We note that the twelve first violins were playing identical notes, as
were the second violins. Three violins in each section, suitably amplified,
would seem to us to be adequate.
Much unnecessary labour is involved in the number of demisemiquavers in
this work; we suggest that many of these could be rounded up to the nearest
semiquaver thus saving practice time for the individual player and rehearsal
time for the entire ensemble. The simplification would also permit more use of
trainee and less-skilled players with only marginal loss of precision.
We could find no productivity value in string passages being repeated by
the horns; all tutti repeats could also be eliminated without any reduction of
In so labour-intensive an undertaking as a symphony, we regard the long
oboe tacet passages to be extremely wasteful. What notes this instrument is
called upon to play could, subject to a satisfactory demarcation conference with
the Musician's Union, be shared out equitably amongst the other instruments.
if the above recommendations are implemented the piece under consideration could be played through in less than half an hour with concomitant savings in
overtime, lighting and heating, wear and tear on the instruments and hall rental
fees. Also, had the composer been aware of modern cost-effective procedures he
might well have finished this work.