What makes a flute player so… flutist-like? Or a trombonist the way they are? We explore how we picture personalities as related to orchestral instruments. Part 1 this week takes us through flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, French horn, trumpet, and trombone.
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Casey Bozell 0:08
Today on keep classical weird, it’s a giant compilation episode, we’re exploring the bizarre fact that most instruments tend to attract a certain type of person. Or do they?
Gordon Rencher 0:21
This whole topic brings up the question, is it the personality that chooses the instrument? Or is it the instrument that makes the personality?
Casey Bozell 0:29
That’s, that’s the philosophical fork in the road we find ourselves right.
Gordon Rencher 0:35
There’s probably a little bit of both.
Liberty Broillet 0:50
Welcome friends to Episode 10 of keep classical weird. I am your host, Casey Bozell, and today’s episode explores the weird world of instrumental personalities. There’s a reason that jokes about musicians are so plentiful, and so hilarious. And that’s because when people picture someone who plays a particular instrument, they usually picture a particular type of person, sometimes all the way down to the fashion sense. So what makes these stereotypes, fair or not, so distinct? And is it nature or nurture, that brings people to these conclusions? I did the only natural thing to do with this question, which is to ask 14 orchestral musicians, each representing a different instrument to describe what they believe are the preconceived notions of said instrument. And then and I can’t tell you how fun this was. I asked them to tell me the preconceived notions of all the other instruments as well. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover. So let’s get started. What do you think of when you picture a flute player?
Leander Star 1:57
So my wife is a flutist. So this is modulated, I would say intense and driven
Gordon Rencher 2:04
meticulous list makers,
Matthew Tutsky 2:06
Whenever I think of flutes I think of like someone with a scarf has that kind of air about them. Not snobby. But like elegant, v
Lindsay Bohl 2:16
Very stylish, and I always think of them as having like very good fashion and hair. Their hair is always just great.
Ryan Zwahlen 2:23
Flutists are beautiful. I think they are as I mentioned before, quite diva ish.
Lucia Atkinson 2:31
Do you remember Rabbit from Winnie the Pooh? I feel like a rabbit from Winnie the Pooh is grew up for sure to be a flute player. Like every single characteristic a rabbit is like, very, very quick. You know, very clever and like quick to make decisions and everything. very organized.
Nicole Buetti 2:52
Liberty Broillet 2:54
Hello, I’m Liberty Broillet, I play flute. And Piccolo. As a flute player. I think we tend to think of flute players as prissy. Yes. And type A, in my experience and in what people perceive me, I’m often told I’m not like a flute player. And I think it’s because I’m a little lazy. I would I would firmly put me at a Type B, you know, so although if I did, I did make notes for this interview, so.
Casey Bozell 3:25
All evidence points to the contrary But okay,
Liberty Broillet 3:28
I chose the flute because we had one. And my sister played first My sister is a flute player, she is type A she is she is a flute player. I picked up the flute she’s six years older so when I was in first grade, I picked up the head joint made a really pretty sound and then when I picked it up in fifth grade, I was really good. And so I guess there is one like a flute playery characteristic is that I really like people telling me how good I am so so there you go. Because we are since the 70s perceived as a female instrument. I think that flute players are often considered bossy.
Casey Bozell 4:11
Ah to go– because because it’s
Liberty Broillet 4:14
because we’re because we’re ladies but we’re in charge ladies. We’re ladies in charge. And so people want to, you know, want to count us as bossy.
Casey Bozell 4:24
To the flutist’s left in the orchestra sits the oboe. Many interviewees suggested that the actual mechanics of playing the oboe somehow directly affected their personality.
Nicole Buetti 4:35
You gotta be a little quirkyl to choose a double reedi
Casey Bozell 4:43
Nicole Buetti 4:44
All that back pressure, you know
Liberty Broillet 4:45
And then the back pressure, I don’t know does something to their personality.
JáTtik Clark 4:49
I guess maybe people think because of all the backpressure that they have to deal with. Potentially that could be bad for mental health.
Nicole Buetti 5:00
They’re very crafty. And I mean that in both senses of the word.
Liberty Broillet 5:03
I love my oboe player friends, but they are a fussy, fussy bunch of people. That’s why they’re always sitting there with their little knives and,you know,
Leander Star 5:11
I mean, then there’s just the whole knives thing.
Michael Maier 5:14
Like you are spending 99% of your time hunched over a little desk in a small room. Making reeds and you have to be okay with that
Jason Schooler 5:25
high maintenance person.
Ryan Zwahlen 5:29
My name is Ryan Zwahlen, and I play the oboe. I think when people picture an oboe is they’re definitely thinking about quiet, pretty anal retentive. probably pretty introverted people. And I would say I think that’s a pretty decent stereotype for the oboe world. And I think most of that comes from the fact that we spend more of our time whittling away at wood and obsessing over the way we sound than we actually get to do all of our practicing and playing. It’s horrible. They don’t tell you about remaking when you are saying I want to play the oboe. They don’t tell you where you’re going to spend 90% of your time whittling away.
Casey Bozell 6:25
So they like they sucked you in, they recruited you and then informed you later that this was part of the deal
Ryan Zwahlen 6:32
years later. We definitely can I think it’s much more subtle. But I would say another stereotype that can fit a lot of oboes is kind of a subtle ego sort of superiority. What’s that– complex superiority complex. We definitely have that. But I think we’re a little more subtle about it than maybe a violinist or a flutist would be.
Casey Bozell 6:59
So if you had to picture what your opposite was.
Ryan Zwahlen 7:03
That’s a tricky one. Because I think, um, oboists are so much more superior than any other instrument that everyone to some extent is really kind of an opposite. See, it’s not always subtle.
Casey Bozell 7:19
While, many of these instruments conjured up immediate agreement among my interviewees. The clarinet was tougher.
Lucia Atkinson 7:31
I feel like clarinet.sa seem always surprised to be there.
Katherine Evans 7:34
I mean, they’re kind of chameleons. In some ways,
Leander Star 7:36
I don’t really think this is exactly the right word, but boring.
Ryan Zwahlen 7:40
I think clarinets are pretty just kind of like cool cats. They’re kind of quiet, they kind of do their own thing. Then they get to rip out some Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue. And it’s like, you’re so cool.
JáTtik Clark 7:51
In some ways, kind of maybe the unsung hero of the wind section.
Gordon Rencher 7:55
You got to feel sorry for clarinet players, because they’re the people that were shoved in lockers in Middle School.
Louis DeMartino 8:01
My name is Louis DeMartino. And I play the clarinet.
Casey Bozell 8:04
What do other people think of when they picture a clarinetist?
Louis DeMartino 8:07
I don’t know there was that there’s that joke about clarinetists staring at the orange juice, and they were doing that because it said concentrate. Maybe that is a clarinetist thing. I don’t know. Actually, you know, I talked about this with my other clarinet friends and other wind player friends. But how it’s it’s very male dominated actually. Lots of girls play clarinet in, you know, school, but then for some reason, in orchestras, it’s like, just lots of guys playing clarinet for some reason, so we talked about bad it’s kind of funny. I think that they were only like, five or six female principal clarinets in North America
Casey Bozell 8:46
Louis DeMartino 8:47
Couldn’t be that low. Yeah. Which is crazy, because I know so many really great. You know, female clarinetists, yeah, but it’s a lot of boys that play the clarinet, which is kind of funny. I think clarinetists can be kind of competitive. And although I have a lot of really good friends that are clarinetists so but they can be a little bit competitive. They can be vibey at auditions. You know, I have a theory that you always people always dislike the instrument that sits behind them. You know, flute players also never like clarinet players because we’re always blasting into their heads.
Casey Bozell 9:23
Even though our next instrument the bassoon is a double reed instrument just like the oboe. No one brought up any back pressure at all.
Matthew Tutsky 9:34
bassoon has a very like unique voice, kind of characters like quirky,
Louis DeMartino 9:42
Usually really fun. They’re very quirky people. It’s like the misfit instrument.
Liberty Broillet 9:46
Lindsay Bohl 9:47
I always think of bassoonists as having to have like a really good sense of humor because their instrument is what it is.
Katherine Schultz 9:53
They still like to make reeds so they have a little bit craftiness.
Leander Star 9:57
They’re smart, they’re dorky. They know all the television shows because they’re making their reads that are just watching TV like constantly.
Katherine Evans 10:06
It’s like the sound of friendship to me.
Nicole Buetti 10:09
My name is Nicole Buetti, and I play the bassoon and contrabassoon. If you’re a non musician or non concert goer, you think, what is a bassoon? And then you have to explain to the person Well, it’s that tree looking thing that sticks out of the orchestra, or contrabassoon, you got to tell him it’s the giant wooden paperclip that kind of flatulates every once in a while and, and so that’s what, that’s what they think. But I think concert goers and and musicians. They think that we’re very eccentric, quirky people. The bassoon is the platypus of the orchestra. We are the odd ducks. We’re kind of the strange people that you say, why did you pick that instrument in the first place? It’s, it’s a bit of a masochistic type of thing. Because the bassoon, you know, we’ve got a billion keys and we got to make our own reeds and all of that. So you got to be a little bit of a masochist to choose bassoon, also intelligent as well. I think I’ve heard that we’re mysterious. I don’t know about that. But some people have said that bassoonists are mysterious. We’re definitely mischevious. We’re always up to something always up to some kind of trouble. And we definitely have a dark side. That’s another thing you got to have to play the bassoon, you got to have a little bit of a dark side.
Casey Bozell 11:39
Wow. So do you think now, given this archetype, do you think you fit the particular archetype of a bassoonist?
Nicole Buetti 11:47
Oh, yeah. No question. I am definitely a platypus. I am completely out there. Definitely mischievous. I’m definitely always up to something.
Casey Bozell 11:59
And now to the instrument that bridges the gap between the woodwinds and the brass, the French horn.
Louis DeMartino 12:08
French one is I love French one players. It’s my favorite brass instrument by far and I actually always think that French horn players are really sexy.
Nicole Buetti 12:16
I find French horns very complicated,
Jason Schooler 12:20
Katherine Schultz 12:22
somebody that likes to listen to themselves play. But is actually fun to hang around with
JáTtik Clark 12:31
probably, most people might consider them the the wild childs of the brass family, very difficult instrument, to master
Lindsay Bohl 12:39
French horns are always wanting to make sure everybody knows that their instruments, the hardest instrument to play like it’s harder than yours.
Katherine Evans 12:46
The only thing people can think of is how hard it is to play.
Michael Maier 12:49
It might be really easy. And they’ve told us all that it’s really impossibly complicated and hard. And I’m pretty sure it is.
Leander Star 12:57
My name is Leander Star and I play the French horn. French horn is the most diverse instrument in the brass family. So like, we could be a lot of different things compared to like other brass sections. I do have to say that, like one out of every two horn players, basically looks like me. So that is to say, a white guy with like dark hair and glasses and like impeccable like shoe taste.
Unknown Speaker 13:26
Casey Bozell 13:26
so that’s approximately 50% of French horn players.
Leander Star 13:29
Yeah, approximately, and which leads in gigs. Everyone’s like, I think I played with you before. And I’m like, Nope, never, never, never met, I can be a little more outgoing than the very typical horn player. But as a rule, I would say that jo– horn players are pretty jolly. There’s a 90% like, 10% thing going on with personality.
Casey Bozell 13:55
Leander Star 13:56
So 90% of horn players are jolly, they’re a little insecure. They’re very humble. And like, this is like, we we feel like you suck at our instrument. And we’re like, you know, just trying our best all the all the time. And then there’s the 10% who are like, total sociopaths, those 10% end up usually in principal horn positions where you need sort of like the nerves of steel and like the sort of I don’t really care kind of attitude sometimes. And I don’t think the most people think about that when they think about horn players, but they exist. This is the like underbelly of French horn personality.
Casey Bozell 14:38
I had no idea there was an underbelly. A seedy underbelly. That’s Wow.
When it comes to trumpets, the struggle to find the words was, well, there was no struggle.
Gordon Rencher 14:51
I’ll put this nicely. Very self confident.
Michael Maier 14:54
You should want to hear what I’m doing. Because kind of the personality like, kind of a big deal
Nicole Buetti 15:03
Confident, very, very confident
Liberty Broillet 15:07
Lindsay Bohl 15:07
having the big ego and wanting to be the center of attention.
Ryan Zwahlen 15:10
Trumpets are total ego maniacs.
Katherine Schultz 15:13
People always think of trumpets as having big egos. But I think they kind of have to, right because if you’re playing in an orchestra, you’re just sitting there cold, for who knows how long and then you have to come in and just nail this solo out of nowhere that everybody can hear. They can totally hear if you screw it up. So yeah, you do have to have a lot of self confidence.
Katherine Evans 15:33
My name is Katherine Evans, and they play the trumpet.
Casey Bozell 15:36
What do you think other people think of when they picture a trumpet player?
Katherine Evans 15:42
I think most people, I mean, first of all, a man mostly. But primarily somebody who’s playing taps on Memorial Day who’s playing military calls of one kind or another. Or maybe it’s solo on in a band stand somewhere outside during the summer. But I think a lot of people who listen to classical music, there’s a bunch of superhero stuff in there, because the principal trumpet has fared so well, in john Williams’s movies. So you have these incredible heroic melodies, from Indiana Jones, and Star Wars and Superman. So people think of nerves of steel and high notes and lots of breath support. I was actually chatting with a bunch of other trumpet players who were in the audience at a professional symphony concert. And we all sat there at the intermission and talked about how we have residual anxiety when the major trumpet parts come up in each piece. So it’s not all it’s a little bit of show there. We’re sitting in the audience saying, Go, go, go, go go. Especially when I was younger people would meet me and say, Oh, I could have sworn you play the flute or the violin. I don’t present in any way mannerism, or, or physically or anything. As a principal trumpet player, and yet, in my soul, I fit the stereotype pretty well.
Casey Bozell 17:03
internally, you’re like, Yes, that’s correct.
Katherine Evans 17:06
Internally, I finally had to kind of admit it to myself, what I ended up coming down to was that the trumpet is that that’s where that part of my personality takes its voice. So in the moments that I am heroic, and brave and soaring, that’s on my instrument.
Casey Bozell 17:24
On to the next instrument in the brass family, the trombone.
Matthew Tutsky 17:30
trombone makes me think of like, like, beer drinker. Kind of like a dude,
Katherine Schultz 17:38
somebody that can hold their liquor.
Gordon Rencher 17:42
In one word, beer,
Leander Star 17:44
you meet a trombonist, you can just be like, so what are your hobbies right now? And they’ll just like, really get into it. And like, they’ll say, well, right now, like I’m, well, well, a lot of the hobbies are gonna be alcohol based. So like, usually it’s gonna be like, growing hops to make beer like, you know, making cocktails at a, you know, bow loving antique shaker or whatever.
Louis DeMartino 18:06
They’re nice. They’re like they’re Bros.
Nicole Buetti 18:08
Loud and possibly any inebriated.
JáTtik Clark 18:10
Trombone, probably one of the most disrespected instruments in the orchestra. You know, I think there’s so many jokes.
Michael Maier 18:23
My name is Michael Maier, and I play the trombone.
Casey Bozell 18:25
What do you think people think of when they picture a trombone player,
Michael Maier 18:29
Personality wise, just kind of like, they like to drink beer and hang out together?
Casey Bozell 18:36
Do you feel like you fit that archetype?
Michael Maier 18:39
Some of it. I like to like to drink beer. I mean, not. Not as much as some people probably. But the Hangout together. I think that’s very true about trombone players. They don’t– You can’t be like a big diva if you’re playing trombone, because you can’t take yourself as seriously. So I feel like the most trombone players are pretty nice. And they like, like one another and have a lot in common. So I do feel like I fit that, that part of it.
Casey Bozell 19:10
So they like to hang out with each other or with other people, or both,
Michael Maier 19:14
probably with each other. I’m not sure if that’s because other people don’t want to hang out with them. Or they just, they don’t have as much going on. Maybe.
Casey Bozell 19:24
Can I tell you my favorite thing that your lovely spouse said about the trombone is that she said a lot of great things about the trombone, but she said also trombones really like to tune things at the end of rehearsals when I’m ready to go home.
Michael Maier 19:44
[laughter] We don’t get to play that much.
Casey Bozell 19:46
Right. until after rehearsal is over and then those 10 minutes. That’s Yeah, that’s your time.
Michael Maier 19:53
Yeah, sorry to everyone everywhere for that.
Casey Bozell 19:56
It’s just plain fascinating, isn’t it and We are only halfway through so we’re going to leave it there and explore our exciting instrumental conclusion next week. Are you enjoying the podcast? We are having such a blast producing it and we want to know that you’re enjoying it too. leave us a review and a five star rating on Apple podcasts. And with that, let’s cue our theme music. This music is composed by the trumpet player Thomas barber. Check him out at Thomasbarber.com web development support is provided by Tina at Citybeautifuldesign.com, keep classical weird is created and edited by me Casey Bozell, find us on Facebook, Instagram, and Patreon. Have questions comments or ideas that you’d like to be read on the podcast. shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org we’ll be back next week with part two of instrumental personalities. Thanks for listening everyone. Stay safe and stay weird.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai