Saturday, December 17, 2005

How do I like touring?

I subscribe to an online yahoogroups list of horn players, and receive a "digest" of emails sent daily. I occasionally post to the group, in reply to questions about my life on the road. This is how I responded today:

On Dec 17, 2005, at 8:12 AM, wrote:


How do you like touring? It's a great place to get experience for
better things to come.


Dear Nancy (and List),

It is the opposite situation with me. I'd already had 21 years of professional orchestra playing experience (Nashville, Mexico (Toluca), Sacramento and San Jose when I first went on the road with "Phantom" over eight years ago.

Although our 12-member touring orchestra does have some younger members (our concertmaster is 26) the average age of our pit musicians is probably around 45. I am 51. One of our musicians is in her late 50s. Many of us "older" ones have already played in major symphony orchestras. A lot of young musicians emerging from conservatories are trying to get orchestra jobs, not tour with a Broadway show.

Of course, times are changing and jobs are ever harder to come by, so this is not quite as pronounced as it was a few years ago.

This is ironic, because the current trend is to carry less traveling musicians with touring productions on new shows. Phantom, with its comparatively large amount of travelers, is an exception; this particular touring company was established thirteen years ago at a time when touring orchestras were bigger.

In symphony orchestras, I played much of the rep and experienced many conductors and soloists. I performed the "usual suspects" (Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Dvorak etc.) many, many times. I was ready for something different by the time the Sacramento Symphony went bankrupt in 1996.

Believe it or not, playing "Phantom" over and over again is much the same as playing Tchaikovsky 5th for the upteenth time. Phantom is a bit less tiring, though.

As with any job, there are positive and negative aspects. Overall, I believe that the older musicians come to touring jobs with a broad perspective, already having had their fill of the symphonic scene. We've "been there and done that".

Of course, there's something special about playing one of the "classics" in a big orchestra -- those rare magical moments we've experienced which keeps us wanting more -- and I hope to do so again someday as a freelancer. But at this stage in my professional career, touring is a nice change of pace.

I find that the most challenging aspects of being on the road is living in cities I do not care for; having to find where everything is all over again each month; changing environments from one climactic extreme to the other which is hard on the body, and especially, dealing with horrible traffic.


horn, (US) touring company of "Phantom of the Opera"

P.S. We will be playing some cities in Canada this summer! (Calgary, Saskatoon, Edmonton and Winnepeg)


  1. Cameron, I had no idea you were a horn player! Is this the french horn (is there any other kind of horn?). I played the French Horn for three years in high school and really do miss it. And I love Phantom's music!

  2. Wow, Crystal, are you reading my blog from the beginning?

    Thanks for stopping by!

    Yes, French horn is often called just "horn", especially in the horn community.

    But of course it's also widely used to describe ANY kind of wind instrument, from clarinets to trumpets and saxaphones -- especially amongst musicians.