We need to move away from the scourge of “sameness”[John Bruce Yeh is a very expressive, artistic, and distinctive member of the clarinet section of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra who has playing that is deemed too "soloistic" to warrant a principal chair in an American orchestra; even his own.]
plaguing even our best American symphony orchestras. The alternative is boring orchestras that suffer
declining attendance, resulting in budget shortfalls, shortened seasons and more bankruptcies. Audition
by committee needs to be replaced by a system that favors the John Bruce Yeh’s of the world, rather
than passing them over in favor of bland players that can appeal to an entire committee. There is no
shortage of these bland players around, which means that they can be easily replaced by other bland
players, which is a problem when it comes time to negotiate salary and contract. How can you make
demands for your services when what you do is virtually undistinguishable from the next guy?
Distinctive soloistic players are a rarer commodity – their unique voices are a competitive differentiator,
using business school terminology, which means that they are much harder to replace.
Drapkin gives a sober assessment of the current realities of orchestral musical life, including what he aptly identifies as "followership." If you have any interest in the direction the professional practice of orchestral music has taken, you should read his whole article.