Musicians embrace instrument-centered jokes

Posted on: August 28, 2012

In Sunday’s (8/26) Los Angeles Times, Donna Perlmutter writes, “Insider jokes are not just for White House Correspondents’ Assn. Dinners or ESPN kibitzers or Academy Awards emcees. They also crop up in discussions about symphony orchestra musicians—a society unto itself. There are jibes and even sober-minded studies that characterize personality types according to the instruments they play. … But instrumentalists easily affirm or puncture the stereotypes. Or laugh them off, with qualifications. Consider Ariana Ghez, one of the most visible members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic because cameras at Hollywood Bowl concerts often fix on her, who says, ‘Yes, we oboists are neurotic—but legitimately so. Our instruments are more finicky. We need to sound awesome despite all the things that are going on beneath the surface.’ … ‘Oh, so do you guys [in percussion] read music?’ [timpanist Joseph Pereira] says he’s asked. ‘Do you play notes?’ … Clearly, everyone is ready for a put-down. As protection, perhaps, section players do engage in self-mockery. And it seems none more so than violists, who, historically, used to step down from the more difficult violin as they aged, switching to the lower-voiced instrument that supposedly required less proficiency. … Now, even though violists are uniformly superb technicians, the underdog jokes still have free range.”

Posted August 28, 2012