The pandemic’s toll on younger orchestral musicians

Posted on: October 15, 2020

From left: musicians Hugo Valverde, Julia McLean, Jon Carroll

Julia McLean, a 24-year-old violist hired in January by the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, “played just two of the orchestra’s big classical-series concerts before the pandemic forced Indianapolis and other orchestras around the world to close their doors,” writes Betsy Morris in Wednesday’s (10/14) Wall Street Journal (subscription required). “The indefinite intermission … is particularly tough on younger musicians who haven’t yet established careers or teaching studios…. Pre-pandemic, about 160,000 musicians played for orchestras, according to the League of American Orchestras. ‘The thing that keeps me up at night is the individual hardship,’ says Simon Woods, CEO of the League of American Orchestras. ‘Musicians’ lives are about playing music for people and communities, and they’ve been silenced. There’s an emotional strain along with the financial hardship.’ … Hugo Valverde, a 26-year-old French horn player in the Metropolitan Opera orchestra, describes the shutdown as ‘devastating: It feels something was ripped away from you.’ He’d landed his seat at the Met after a blind audition at the age of 22 and last year received tenure. His finances forced him to return to his family in Costa Rica…. Ms. McLean … got a job as a coronavirus contact tracer. She’s planning to audition for orchestras in Germany.”