Meredith’s L.A. Phil Introduction

At one of the concerts of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Meredith was tasked (on this concert) with doing the introduction to the audience of the guest conductor. She’s a charmer, is Mere!

Good evening and welcome to our Casual Friday Concert.

My name is Meredith Snow and I’m just finishing up my 21st season in the viola section. Stand up violas, show yourselves …… and well deserved too.

Which brings me right to tonight’s topic for discussion, It’s about the jokes, you know the ones I mean:

What’s the difference between a viola and an onion?
No one cries when you chop up a viola.

What do violists and lawyers have in common?
Everybody’s happy when the case is closed.

Why do orchestras limit their intermission to 20 minutes?
So they don’t have to retrain the violists.

What do lightening and a violist’s fingers have in common?
They never strike twice in the same place.

The list goes on and on. It’s endless. My question is, why us? What is it about the viola, or the people who play it, that inspires such unmitigated ridicule?

Now, over the course of a 30-year career, I have lived in New York City, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. I have met several hundred violists and I have found us to be a thoughtful, well-spoken, eclectic, but affable species. Which is not to say that I haven’t run into a few lunatics here and there … (mostly here). But by and large we’re friendly, easygoing, just the sort of person you’d want to buy the house next door. So, why us?

The most common answer I have received is “Well, you’re a failed violinist. Couldn’t make it on 1st, couldn’t make it on 2nd, so now you’re playing 3rd violin.”

I don’t buy it, for 2 reasons. First of all, I know plenty of failed violinists who are still playing the violin. Not here, perish the thought. Second, the perceived failure to excel does not account for the level of scorn and disdain – I might go so far as to say malice – that is inherent in these jokes. There has to be a deeper motivation.

Ladies and Gentleman. Imagine, if you can, over the course of a lifetime, the countless hours of self-flagellation in a windowless practice room. A lifetime of criticism, burning desire, frustration, delusions of grandeur, low self-esteem coupled with an enormous ego. Now multiply that by a hundred.


I think we have found our motivation.

Scapegoating, ladies and gentleman.

The unconscious projection of unwanted thoughts and feelings onto a specific, targeted group. Their fear and anxiety is projected onto the violas, which allows them to maintain the narcissistic illusion of their own superiority.

Now aren’t you ashamed of yourselves?

We, the violists of the world, have been too nice, too accommodating. There’s nothing wrong with us … it’s the rest of them that are nuts.

Well, this has been lots of fun. But as you can see, the natives are getting restless. So join us downstairs in the café after the show and we can continue our discussion. I can promise you that every one of my colleagues will have at least a dozen viola jokes at the ready. Please check to see that your electronic gear is turned off, cell phones and whatnot, and without further ado, our guest conductor for this evening, Maestro ……