This article has been floating around and I thought it'd be nice to share it with you!
It's funny because it's so true that orchestras are the only ensembles that actually play behind the beat - in relation to the conductor and not the jazz style of playing behind the beat (although the context for both are quite similar). And if you're not used to seeing and playing that way, it is extremely complicated and frustrating!
I've been in school bands (wind bands - the more accurate term) since I was 8, and every conductor that I have crossed paths with and played under, ALWAYS wanted the band to play on the beat, with the baton, landing together, creating one sound that way. Even after school and entering SAF Bands, it was the same throughout. That's probably about 14 years of playing on the beat with the conductor.
The first time I ever played in an orchestra was actually (shockingly, rather) in November 2010 during my first year in YST. The conservatory orchestra was playing with guest tenor José Carreras and our concert was held in the Esplanade Concert Hall (the school usually holds their concerts in the school concert hall back then).
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what was going through my mind, but if you've been so used to one-thing for 14 years, suddenly you're all deer-frozen when seeing and reacting to something completely different. (Something like this, and then this, and finally this)
When the music doesn't match what the eyes see, it certainly can be distracting. For those wondering how orchestra musicians "do it", I'm actually not too entirely sure myself! I think it's actually very paradoxical because you can't really calculate it yet also can't just randomly place the beats. To me, it really is a sensation and feeling, and really about that chemistry JoAnn talks about. Even now, I find it hard to place beats with the SSO, and that's because I don't play with them regularly (as in full-time/weekly) and it's hard to develop good chemistry without spending time playing frequently as an ensemble or as a group. On the other hand, performing with the Lorong Boys is a lot easier because we have built good rapport and chemistry over the years.
Still, I personally think Adam Neely's video (it's right at the bottom of the article) gives a more accurate attempt to explain this phenomenon. I watched his video last year before this article came out, and it helped me better understand the differences, especially since Adam comes from the performer's point-of-view instead of from a conductor's point-of-view from the article.
What do you think? And how do you cope with the adjustments if you constantly work with different conductors wanting the ensemble's reaction to be behind or on the beat? Also, I do have a question for my conductor friends - won't the music you hear while conducting be distracting? After all, you are conducting way in front of the beat!
As always, thanks for reading! I hope you guys stay safe and well!