In the wings of British orchestras: A multi-episode interview study among symphony players

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30 Scopus citations


An orchestral career has often been looked upon with awe by the public. A contract position with a well-known orchestra is highly regarded, and often the target of competitive auditions. Yet, orchestral life-style is easily misconceived by outsiders. Only a few researchers have been able to penetrate group barriers and gain the confidence of orchestra members, and none of these have reported emotions and cognitions pertinent to occupational development, career aspirations, vocational motivations and performance experiences. In this study, 54 British symphony orchestra musicians from 14 performance organizations were interviewed 8 times over a 10-month period at four major concert halls across north-west England. The interviews each followed mood-induction procedures consisting of abbreviated progressive muscle relaxation training, guided affective imagery and music exposure applied via the Somatron® Acoustic Massage™ Power Rechner. The descriptive narratives were examined using qualitative approaches including content analysis. On the one hand, the musicians viewed membership of a symphony orchestra as representing the final surrender of the ambition to join the ranks of celebrated world-class soloists. On the other hand, they viewed their orchestral career as the essential means by which they could socialize with like-minded people, and experience camaraderie, teamwork, solidarity and friendship. Contrary to what has been previously reported in the literature, the current study provides a view of symphony orchestra players' motivations and commitments to the music profession as based on a lifelong passion for music and music performance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)673-690
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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