I have a friend whose mother is convinced that all string instruments are guitars. My friend is multi-talented and has been known to bust out a violin, a cello, and even on rare occasions a viola, but no matter what the instrument, her mom says “Are you going to practice your guitar now?”
And about those violas (easy, killer – I’m going to lay on some rare sympathy). How many times have you heard a violist mention their instrument only to have someone inquire as to what, exactly, a viola is? What’s the difference, anyway? And the euphonium – blank stares all around, amirite? And the poor flugelhorn – that one just makes people giggle (hee; flooooogelhorn).
My point is that while everyone nods sagely for the proud clarinetist, the contrabassoonist is constantly explaining himself, and that’s kind of silly for an orchestral staple, don’t you think? There are still a bunch of symphonic pockets that are perfectly normal to those that inhabit the world but have little or no presence outside of it. Isn’t that weird? Have you ever played an instrument people didn’t recognize? Did it make you die a little inside every time, or did you cheerfully educate the populace, one at a time?
P.S. This is the first time I’ve ever given a post the tag “viola” without following it with “joke.”