Associate Principal vs Assistant Principal

Discussion in 'Orchestra / Solo / Chamber Music' started by tpter1, Mar 27, 2007.

  1. tpter1

    tpter1 Forte User

    Jan 12, 2005
    Northern New York
    Manny- What is the difference between these 2? Is it merely just an issue of semantics or contractual language or is there a real difference?
  2. Manny Laureano

    Manny Laureano Utimate User

    Sep 29, 2004
    No, Glenn, there's a difference albeit slight.

    Think of the associate as someone who does a lot more playing; sort of like a co-principal would do. An assistant would likely play concerti and things but probably not get whole programs except on an emergency basis. Of course, there would be assisting if a principal needed it. There's not a whole lot of difference but it depends on the relationships that have been cultivated within the section.

    Having said all that, every orchestra is different and will have its own rules and policies, official and unofficial. Again, it depends how well everyone gets along. Doug is an absolute sweetheart about playing stuff for me when I need time off and he's always happy to play. Who wouldn't be?

  3. ecarroll

    ecarroll Artist in Residence Staff Member

    Jul 13, 2005

    I was associate principal in Houston for a short time back in the 70s.

    My job was to play the first half if the principal wanted the relief, play 3rd on the second half (if applicable) and stand in if the principal was down.
    You have to keep your "A" game ready in that chair...

    Honing my "B" game,
  4. tpter1

    tpter1 Forte User

    Jan 12, 2005
    Northern New York
    Ok... I got it, thanks to both of you.
  5. ebtromba

    ebtromba Pianissimo User

    Isn't it interesting how various orchestras will call the same job different things? In the Chicago Symphony, Mark Ridenour is listed as Assistant Principal. Chicago Symphony Orchestra - CSO Musicians Roster - List Section
    For him this means he mostly plays 3rd trumpet when the principal trumpet is playing 1st, and plays 1st when the principal trumpet is not playing.

    In the New York Philharmonic, Matt Muckey (Bob Sullivan previously held this position) is listed as Associate Principal, ( New York Philharmonic: Trumpet ) and his job description is basically the same is Mr. Ridenour's listed above, and yet one is called 'Assistant' and the other is called 'Associate'.

    and don't even get me started on Cleveland, who list Cornets and Trumpets separately, ( The Cleveland Orchestra )and are the only orchestra in America to do this, and perhaps the only major American orchestra ever to do this (although I very well may be wrong about that) The reason for this is actually very interesting, but I guess that is a whole different can of worms.

  6. tpetplyr

    tpetplyr Pianissimo User

    Dec 15, 2003
    This is how I've typically understood the distinction and heard it used (not always, but typically). Keep in mind that I have only the slightest fraction of experince of many of the posters above.

    Associate Principal (aka third trumpet) plays third when the principal is onstage in the case of a single part. Plays first auxiliary part (eg Trumpet, Cornet or Bb Trumpet, Eb Trumpet or Onstage/Offstage) when principal is on first, and plays principal on the stuff that the principal does not play (concerti, etc).

    Assistant Principal assists the principal player ON HIS PART while the principal is onstage, either by doubling or relieving the principal in certain sections.

    So in my next orchestra concert, my associate is playing third (and is very excited because he has a few big solos with the 'bones and the horns, not uncommon in third trumpet parts) but I ALSO have an assistant helping me out on first because we're playing a John Williams concert and I'm only so strong.

  7. robertwhite

    robertwhite Mezzo Piano User

    Nov 11, 2003
    Stuart, I think most groups these days have one or the other, making the situation you describe impossible.

    The only orchestras I can think of that have both Assistant Prin. and Assoc. Prin. trumpets are Houston and Cincinatti. Not sure how they split things up, but it may be like how you described it.
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2007
  8. 40cal

    40cal Forte User

    Dec 13, 2005

    I'm glad you asked this question. For me it was one of those things that I often wondered, but never got around to asking.
  9. ccaranna

    ccaranna New Friend

    Mar 29, 2007
    Columbus, Ohio
    Hi, new guy here-

    I've always found it interesting that in some of the instances that I've seen, that the 3rd player would play the 1st parts whenever the actual principal is sick, on leave, or whatever and NOT the 2nd trumpet player.

    For example:

    In the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, the Principal trumpet passed away recently (it's a very sad story :-( ) and the 3rd trumpet player now plays all of the first parts while the 2nd player continues to play 2nd.

    Could you say that it would actually be preferable to play 3rd in a symphony than 2nd? Obviously, you may get to play more frequently as a 2nd trumpet due to not all scores require 3+ trumpets, but often there's more opportunity to shine and play fun 3rd parts (Don Quixote, Shostakovich Sym. No. 1, etc. i.e.) and even play 1st when needed.

    What are your thoughts?

  10. MrClean

    MrClean Piano User

    Oct 22, 2005
    Sometimes it is just a matter of semantics. I started out in Denver as assistant principal and negotiated to have it bumped up to associate, as I thought it more accurately described my workload. The job didn't change a bit.

    I think Marie might have been assistant principal in Cincinnati, but she certainly played a good deal of 1st parts. I was associate in Houston and am associate here in LA, but play a LOT more 1st here, on big-ish pieces, than I ever did in Houston. Additionally, I also assist the principal on his part when necessary, and did so in Houston, too. Also, both Houston and LA link the associate with the 4th chair, not the 3rd. I think Cinci was like that when Marie was there, too.

    So, each orchestra defines it in their own way - there is no concrete definition.


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