My orchestra performed a concert this past Saturday night, so I'd like to review it for you. I won't review the quality of our performance because all I really know is what happened in my own seat as the 4th horn player.
We performed three things—the prelude to Wagner's Die Meistersinger, a Rachmaninoff piano concerto with a guest pianist, and a thing composed by an English guy who was in the audience. As I mentioned, I sat 4th horn because it was my turn. For some reason, the personnel manager alternates another player and me on 2nd and 4th, so for the May concert, I'll play 2nd.
Anyway, my part wasn't very difficult this time around and just required me to pay attention to counting and not be afraid to come in when I thought I should. During rehearsal, one of the horn players didn't come in on his cue, and the conductor stopped to determine the problem. The player, normally accurate in so many ways because he's darned good, explained that in counting a series of rests, "he doubted himself like only a horn player can." That drew some nervous laughter because it's so true.
I don't know what it's like to play any other instrument but horn and trumpet, but I suspect that with most other instruments, when you tell your horn to play a highish F using the proper fingering, the thing gives you an F. But with the French horn, if you tell it to play an F using the proper fingering (open valves except for the thumb key), and you use your facial muscles to get you there, you might hit that F, but you also might hit the G or A above it because all three notes are fingered the same way. The pitch has to be in your head, and all those tiny muscles have to know how to get you there. It's nerve wracking, and when you're focused on counting rests and remembering the pitch you need to aim for and hoping you don't crack the note and sound like water fowl, it's easy to doubt yourself.
When I first started playing this dadblasted instrument, I doubted myself all the time and with good reason. I could count like anybody else—1, 2, 3, 4, 2, 2, 3, 4, 3, 2, 3, 4...—but I could almost guarantee I'd be on the wrong pitch when I would come out with my first note, and I was afraid of being heard, so my tone was timid and weak. After nine years, I think I've improved considerably, so now, not only can I count, but I can also usually get the right pitch, and since I'm much happier with my tones these days, I am more confident on that first note.
So, overall personal concert review: I think it went well. I didn't embarass myself or throw off anyone around me by coming in at the wrong time or hold a note out on the wrong pitch so the glass in the windows cracked or earn a stink eye from the conductor. I've gotten that stink eye before, and it's no fun. No fun at all. The rest of the orchestra could have fallen on its face and driven the crowd for the doors, but as long I know I did my best, I think it was a hit.