In Italy, up until the '80, conductors were allowed to ask a member of the orchestra to play a passage alone during rehersal. This led to some players being fired right away and their careers being ruined.

This until the labor unions banned it: as of today, only first parts (whose salaries are higher than those who play behind them) can be asked to play solo.

In my orchestra, the conductor insists that such a practise is still allowed "over the Alps" (in the rest of Europe).

I'd like to know how is this regulated in other parts of the world. Possibly, not just major Europe countries (like Germany, UK or France) but also in the US.

I assume this question is posed in regards of strings instruments only as the others are playing solo (or in small groups) by definition.

  • The Musicians Union may be able to shed light on this, as far as U.K. is concerned.
    – Tim
    Commented Dec 19, 2013 at 19:05
  • Given that this sounds like a mechanism for the conductor to humiliate the player, good thing it's banned. I think it's a great idea in, say high school orchestras (at least if every member in turn is asked to play the part), as it pushes the kids to be more comfortable being solo, rather than hiding in the crowd. But for professionals? ptttthhhh Commented Dec 19, 2013 at 23:17
  • Opinions varies on the subject. Some says that orchestras quality went down after the union reforms. Other says that, even if we're still in crappy conditions, we don't have to withstand that situation in which a director could put and end to your career. Must we favor mental health or artistic quality? Shouldn't the latter come only whith the former? It is still an open debate. Personally, I'm glad the laws prevents the first random conductor to destroy my mental health, even thou I realize that with such a menace I'd perform much "better".
    – Saturnix
    Commented Dec 19, 2013 at 23:58

2 Answers 2


Im not 100% sure on the law, but I have no problem asking players to play a passage alone for the whole orchestra in rehearsal. I take it as a chance for someone who has been putting in a ton of work and is understanding and performing a passage incredibly well to lead by example.

As someone who was a professional player at one point in my life, I also see the reverse in that it is extremely nerve wracking. A player shouldn't be allowed to be fired solely based on this alone, but I don't believe it should be illegal.

I think it depends how it's framed when the conductor asks.


I don't know of any laws anywhere, but at least in a professional orchestra, you are hired on the understanding that you can play all the notes effectively and artisticly, no matter what chair you are sitting in. You are supposed to show up well-prepared with your part learned. The days of the autocratic bullying conductor who can fire on a whim are long gone, in most cases, but that has to do much more with different aesthetic considerations than it does with any law, or for that matter union practices in either the UK or the US. I conduct a very good community orchestra in New York, and while I am not in the habit of isolating string players, I will from time to time ask two desk partners to play a passage together, for intonation, balance, to lead - as one commentator above mentioned - by the example of good playing and preparation. Never to humiliate...

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.