What Happens to the Musicians When the Orchestra Music Stops?

Connecting the Dots – #YesThisIsAnArtsStory Repost from the Wall Street Journal

Betsy Morris | 14 October 2020

Julia McLean took decades of music lessons, spent thousands of hours practicing and coped with constant grueling competition, and in January it all paid off. She became a full-time viola player for the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.

She wasn’t yet out of grad school, but “suddenly I was on the roster, playing with this wonderful orchestra that gets amazing conductors—good pay, beautiful hall and a beautiful following,” she recalls. “It felt like this is it. I did it.”

In March, “Poof,” she says. “I achieved all of my career goals and then lost my entire career in five weeks.”

She played just two of the orchestra’s major concerts before the pandemic forced Indianapolis and other orchestras around the world to close their doors for what would become the rest of that season and the next. “No one expects an entire field to disappear,” says the 24-year-old graduate of New York’s prestigious Juilliard School. “It wasn’t just my job or my orchestra. It was everything.”