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Carey Nieuwhof

december 11, 2023


Dear Alma, My orchestra friends are plotting against me

From our agony aunt:

Dear Alma,

I have a group of friends in my orchestra, we hang out socially and also find outside playing opportunities for fun. We have played on music cruises, small concert series, and sometimes even done a bit of recording.

Last week, I was included on a text that was sent accidentally by one of these members to another. They said some pretty hurtful things, such as how it’s difficult to play with me and that they were considering replacing me for concerts. I didn’t let on that I received the message. I am very hurt by this, after all we have been through together. Should I confront them? Or just ignore and carry on?

Hurt by a Friend

Dear HBAF,

Having musical outlets outside of your main job is essential to mental health. It helps us stay fresh, challenges us, and gives us something to look forward to. Something to organize on our own terms, choosing our repertoire, booking our own travel and hotels, and following our own rules. You clearly enjoy your friends and this group. I would take the message with a huge grain of sand, more like a boulder, not get defensive, and do everything I could to preserve this part of your life. It’s easier to maintain something than to start something from scratch.

I once sent a message to a colleague accidentally. We had been going through a particularly rough patch, and my husband knew all about it. He was livid about my work environment and was pressuring me to quit. The work environment was putting a terrible strain on my home life, and the fact that I was getting pressured both at home and work made things twice as bad. I wrote the message to my husband, essentially irate over a new work episode, but sent it to my colleague instead. I realized within a moment, but it was too late. I quickly read the message again, and sent another to my colleague trying to obscure the meaning of the first and making some kind of migraine excuse to throw some gravy all over the mess. It worked and didn’t work. The damage was done and couldn’t be undone. But we worked through it.

I have learned from that moment. Not only to double check the recipient but also generally to refrain from putting things in written form. Things can certainly be misunderstood. The person reading can be jumping in on the middle of a thought and not know the context. And especially with text/sms/WhatsApp, things are short and quick and partial.

I would take a second to investigate my own behaviors, my preparation, my work ethic. The message you received says it is difficult to play with you. Does that mean emotionally or technically? It’s not clear what the complaint is.

My advice, Hurt by a Friend – ask for a lunch meeting with your friends. Suggest that you talk about the season ahead and bring any concerns or thoughts to the table. It’s not too late to remedy the situation. Tell them how much this group means to you and that you would like to work through any problems. Let them give you another chance. Fight for it. That mistaken message could have just saved you from losing this group. Let’s hope!

Questions for Alma? Please put them in the comments section or send to

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