Best Players, Poor Attitude

Do you have students in your orchestra who have the “too good for this group” attitude? Here are some solutions from MENC March 2009 Orchestra Mentor, Constance E. Barrett, PhD, to dealing with the best players with poor attitudes:

  • Appeal to them for community service and encourage them to help out their school — it’s not all about THEM. They should serve as mentors to less advanced players.
  • Challenge them. Assign a student to teach another student to play a difficult passage and grade him or her on how well the student plays the passage. This will surely make the student invested in the other student’s success.
  • If they really do their part, offer them a special opportunity to play a solo with the orchestra.
  • Insist that they learn how to play 2nd violin. Make the sections more even by putting one of them as principal 2nd, one as concertmaster, and the third at the back of either section. Rotate them around. Be clear that they are not being demoted; they are being placed where their skill set can best help the orchestra.
  • Talk to these students individually and let them know that they need to change their attitude. They should not disrespect or bully other players. Three or four stellar players make a nice chamber group, but they don’t make an orchestra. Teamwork is essential.

What the best students have, regardless of how they play, is a team spirit and a love for playing that goes beyond the level of music the orchestra performs.

Remember: Attitude is Everything

MENC member Dr. Constance E. Barrett ( is a string specialist for the Greenwich, Connecticut, Public Schools. She is a 2007 recipient of the Yale University School of Music Distinguished Music Educator Award. A cellist, she frequently performs in the greater New York metropolitan area.

— Nicole Springer, September 16, 2009. © National Association for Music Education.