From The Back Desk - Elizabeth Freimuth, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra

Have you ever got a concussion on stage? The Cincinnati Symphony's principal French horn player has... Find out more about the unsung side of being a top-flight orchestral musician here.

Name: Elizabeth Freimuth

Instrument: Principal Horn

Ensemble: Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra

Why did you decide to become a musician?
I believe that music chose me as much as I chose music. After attending a summer music camp when I was in high school, I realised there was nothing else I could imagine doing with my life that gave me the complete satisfaction that performing music does.  

What's the one performance from your career that sticks in your mind?
I remember a deeply moving performance of the Dvorak Cello Concerto with Yo-Yo Ma after my very close friend lost her life. She was also a cellist.  

What's the most embarrassing thing that's happened to you on stage?  
Once I passed out, hit my head on the stage (got a concussion) and then threw up during a performance when I played in the Colorado Symphony. That was as embarrassing as anything could ever be!

If you could work with one musician, living or dead, who would it be and why?
I've always thought that Mozart would have been a fun person to meet and hang out with. However, it would also be amazing to meet Mahler. His music is profoundly deep and connects with me. We also share a birthday!

In concert, have you ever thought, "I can't actually play this bit very well, I'm going to mime and hope no-one notices"?  
As principal horn, this would not be something I could easily get away with!  

Could you give us an example of the downside of the profession, something that the average concert-goer might not know about?
I can think of two small things - first, traveling with instruments on airplanes can be extremely stressful. Our instruments are irreplaceable (no two are exactly alike) and many people do not realise that. Also, there is no such thing as an honest 'day off'. Even during days off or vacation time, we must practice hours each day to maintain our abilities. Imagine taking your instrument on your honeymoon and having to practice every day!  

Does the touring lifestyle bring out rock star behaviour in the orchestra?
I’m not exactly sure what this is implying but our orchestra gets along extremely well on tour and people generally behave in ways that are true to their personalities at home.  

Have you witnessed any serious diva strops in your time as a musician?
Yes, but I’m smart enough not to name names!

What's the biggest challenge facing musicians like you these days?
Keeping the excellence of our art/music at the front of what people recognise about our organisation. There is no such thing as 'arriving at excellence' - musicians need to be artistically challenged to feed this growth.  

What's the best thing about being a musician?
Sharing music at a deep level with people.