Yup. It has been 4 years since my last concert as a member of the Boston Symphony and Boston Pops Orchestras. My last concert was a Christmas Pops concert. I really did love playing principal trombone in the Pops for so many years. There was a certain freedom playing Pops as well as being very challenging.
I love the orchestral literature. It was a wonderful opportunity to play in those great orchestras. Times have changed. The whole brass section is totally different with new players and style of playing from when I joined. When I joined it was near the tail end of when the character and uniqueness of a persons playing was really important as a musical component in the ensemble. In a way, it was filled with very individual players. Maybe it wasn't a 'perfect' blend, but wow, when it was happening it was really potent!!
My life is busier in a sense now but without the 'weight' of the orchestra. I choose to play in other kinds of musical ecologies at this point in time. There is no doubt in my mind that different orchestras have different ecologies. But hearing so much of how musicians are having physical, mental and emotional tension from the job, and oftentimes have to resort to taking drugs to ease the pain of nerves, saddens me. This of course was happening when I was in the orchestra. If the ecology was different, and the humanity and going for the spirit of the music was the most important thing, there would be no need for this stress and drug taking.
The High Art of music making needs an environment that is invitational to the essence of the music and the soul of the people who are being instrumental for it's appearance. I can only hope, pray and do what I can in my own way, that the values and deeper meaning of music and human life can be the most up-front feature and this other stuff just melt away in the brightness of that TRUTH.