I play the clarinet and it’s my dream to play in an orchestra, being able to travel around while doing what I love, but do you think it’s too unlikely and I should find a more realistic career idea. I live in the UK, I don’t know if that would make a difference. Thanks
I don’t know so much about “two or three openings per decade” since there are more than a few clarinet seats listed open in the musician’s union newspaper right now and always seem to be a few in there. There are always seats for the best musicians to sit in. The key here is “best musicians” and certainly not “average Joe”.
If you’re the best, the chances are very high. The further down the list of “best” you are, the lower the chances get. A challenge for clarinetists (and some others) is that it’s simply not a very large section. Most orchestras have two or three players and that’s it.
Most orchestras also aren’t touring ensembles. That “travel around the country” idea isn’t so much what orchestras do. Sure, many do tour from time-to-time but that’s not their usual operation. Musical theater pit orchestras do a good amount of touring but you’ll need to play the entire woodwind group and not just clarinet for those jobs.
Is it too unlikely? Nobody here can answer that because we’ve not heard you play. It’s certainly not impossible, plenty of people make their living as professional performing musicians. There are more people who would like to than there are jobs for them to have but there are indeed jobs to be had if, and only if, you’re the best.
You might want to have a back-up plan for the lean times. Most performing musicians look to teaching as a good back-up plan. Those who don’t make a plan usually find themselves as waiters while looking for work.