@Allison — you make a number of good points for discussion; let me take them one at a time. First, you said:
“@Pamela, the top 15 or 20 orchestras in the US pretty much have the same level of extremely high talent in their ranks. The same small group of superb players travels from audition to audition in search of a job. One who didn’t play his best in the Chicago audition might hit his stride in Detroit, or vice versa. We take the first job we’re offered, as there are usually college loans and instrument loans to pay off.”
With all due respect, orchestral players are extremely good readers, able to correctly perform music from any period in the history of music. Their value, just the same, lies in terms of their working well in an ensemble. Some of them do rise to the level of artists, performing as soloists from time to time, but that’s usually not what they are paid for, is it?
In different orchestras, the players come under the baton of different conductors, as you well know. If the players were equal to the conductors, would they not be able to command the same salary? If players were equal to the world-class soloists, would they not be able to hire a hall and fill it individually? So, finding a mindset for the players that is not hindered by misconceptions can be a difficult thing. In addition, these good music schools are churning out new ‘superb’ graduates every year, are they not, also eager for work and with tons of youthful energy?