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Classical Notes: June 6, 2008 Archive

Pit of Iniquity?

Posted at 11:15 AM on June 6, 2008 by Gillian Martin

Two items about drug and alcohol use among orchestra musicians as a defense against stage fright have appeared in the news this week.

This article from the Times of London addresses the problem:

Substance abuse among concert musicians has been going on for decades but has been kept under wraps. Unlike drugs taken in competitive sport, the self-medication of highly strung musicians is not about cheating or winning unfairly but about avoiding mistakes caused by a nervous twitch or a sudden lapse in concentration.

Professional oboist Blair Tindall wrote this column in the British newspaper The Guardian in response to the Times article. She offers more context:

Although most of us don't end up in dire circumstances, we, like anyone else, are just people. We're tempted. We say yes or no to drugs. But, because of our discipline, we most often say no: drugs and impairment are not worth risking a lifetime of practice.

It seems to me that Tindall's piece is a bit more balanced and seems more realistic. Regardless of what one might do after the show, a person who's impaired before the show is not going to perform well.