There I sat in the midst of the crowded theater listening to the orchestra. Not my normal Saturday night routine, I'll admit. But some of my friends felt that I needed a little culture, so there I sat, getting a healthy dose of sophistication.
Occasionally throughout the performance, the conductor would motion to a man who played the violin and have him stand. The crowd applauded wildly. When I left that night, I took with me not only my newfound "culture," but a whole bunch of questions as to what made that guy so special.
And let me tell you, I got an education. Turns out that guy was Michael Davis, the first-chair violinist, or concertmaster. Next to the conductor, he was the Mac Daddy.
Shows you how much I know.
In time, Michael and I became good friends. But that first night I just saw him as the guy who got all the applause.
It's fun to be number one.
Not so much if you're second. The great conductor Leonard Bernstein was once asked, "What is the hardest instrument to play?" To which he replied, "Second fiddle. I can always get plenty of first violinists, but to find one who plays second violin with as much enthusiasm . . . now that's a problem."
I wondered if that was literally true, or just a figure of speech. So I posed the question to my talented musician friend Michael: Is it really harder to play second-chair violin in an orchestra as opposed to first-chair?1