When is it time to join a community orchestra?

September 27, 2010 at 01:03 AM ·

What Suzuki book should a student be working in, before they are good enough to join a community orchestra? For example: If a student is very comfortable with all the material in Suzuki , Vol 5 – is that the time a student can join a community orchestra and have the skills to be able to play the music in the violin section?

Replies (25)

September 27, 2010 at 05:01 AM ·

 The answer to this question is: when you can fulfill the audition requirements for the orchestra and can pass the audition.  Each one will be different.  There is no simple answer like "x Suzuki book = y Result".  The variables x and y are subject to how well you play, what the expectations are, what the competition is like etc. etc.  In fact the best way to answer ANY of the kinds of questions that you often ask is to simply go out there and experience it for yourself.  You will learn better from personal experience than you will from reading replies on a forum.  It's like fruit on a tree.  Which will tell you better what an apple tastes like?  Reading about it or going to the tree yourself and picking the apple?  That's the best encouragement I have to offer because even though music is something you study, it is also something you have to experience first-hand.  Enjoy.

September 27, 2010 at 08:34 AM ·

 Two main kinds of audition: the formal one, where you perform your piece in front of a small panel and are given some sight-reading; and the informal one (which I think is much more helpful to all concerned), where you're placed in the front desk alongside the section leader for most of a rehearsal and are quietly assessed by the leader, the second desk behind you, other leaders nearby, and the conductor.  

And then there are those situations with no audition, like beginners and returners orchestras, and similar community orchestras, where auditions are inappropriate.

If you're already known as an experienced player there are orchestras that may head-hunt you, or invite in if you apply.

September 27, 2010 at 12:39 PM · Your Suzuki advancement would make you a likely candidate for many community orchestras. Your note-reading/sight-reading ability & experience following a conductor are as important, if not more important. My area has at least 13 orchestras that include some (or all) non-professional musicians. Check "New Horizons International" to see if a college near you offers this wonderful opportunity. It is part lesson, part performing group for adult players of every advancement. Sue

September 27, 2010 at 01:34 PM ·

 There are non-audition community orchestras, in some areas string players are in demand and you can just show up and sit where you feel comfortable.  It is a good idea to talk to the conductor, section leader, and/or chairperson (who is usually a volunteer) about what is expected in terms of attendance.  Sometimes you can play just one concert in the season to give it a try.  If you can get a copy of the music, or at least find out what is being played you can look it up on IMSLP or listen to a recording to get some sense of whether the music is something you'd enjoy playing or would be too overwhelming.

I think that you'll find most community orchestras are welcoming and friendly and as long as you're willing to come to rehearsal reliably, practice your part at home, and give it a good effort, they will be very happy you are there.  Everyone else is also doing it for fun and learning too.  

September 27, 2010 at 02:35 PM ·

It really comes down to what the orchestras are like near you. If you have a specific orchestra in mind, go check it out. As Karen said, speak to the conductor but I would especially suggest that you get an inside look rather than seeing the polished product at the concert....sit in on a rehearsal, hopefully early on in the season for a given concert so that you can hear what the group sounds like when they're starting from the ground up. Scan the folks in the violin section (with special attention to the folks at the back of the seconds, I'm guessing)  try to get a feeling as to whether you'd be able to do that. It's par for the course in many community orchestras that not everyone can play every note.

October 3, 2010 at 02:04 PM ·

It's a bit of a catch 22 isn't it? I know that being in a community orchestra would improve my playing and confidence but would I pass the audtion? The pieces in Suzuki 5 are fairly demanding however so I think a lot of community orchestras would be suitable. If you can find one nearby. Good luck!

October 3, 2010 at 07:38 PM ·

 Thanks everybody for your replies.  By your answers, I think that knowing the material in Suzuki Book 5  gives me enough technique to feel comfortable with playing the violin music in a community orchestra.  Thanks again.

October 3, 2010 at 08:27 PM ·

To be fair, the catch-22 doesn't apply if you view the situation from another perspective: namely, that the audition is a "game" so to speak in which you can't lose. If you don't get in, you have all the hard work you put into preparing for the audition, and you know what to expect next time around. And if you get in...well, you got in! This may be a more constructive way of looking at your first orchestral auditions.

Having said that, the entry-level volunteer orchestras that I'm familiar with would all audition or accept someone in Suzuki book 5. It all depends on the organization. Best wishes.

October 3, 2010 at 09:11 PM ·

Two orchestras I've been with in the past, and my present one, a chamber orchestra, ask for Associated Board (that's in the UK and Commonwealth countries) level 8.  This is immediately below professional level studies and would, I think, be equivalent to Suzuki Book 8.  Suzuki books 9 and 10 I believe are looking at a professional level equivalent to the graduate levels beyond Associated Board 8.  Orchestras like the ones I've just mentioned also operate the informal assessment procedure I described in my previous post, and of course will welcome a player who may not have the paper qualifications but has the proven experience.  A grade 8 (Suzuki or AB) is, I suggest, the minimum to do justice to the professional repertoires these orchestras have.

October 3, 2010 at 11:33 PM ·

 Thanks Emily and great Youtube channel, I think I ask to be your friend. Yes, I think Suzuki book 5 will get me in the door of a entry-level volunteer orchestras.

Trevor, that is what I needed to know. I will work my way to Suzuki book 8.  Thanks

October 3, 2010 at 11:44 PM ·

 Also, Emily and Trevor -

How did you reply to my comments so quickly?  I usually have to go through the discussion topics and try and remember what topics I made a comment on, then go to that topic and read the latest postings.

October 4, 2010 at 12:43 AM ·

I just joined the regional community orch here, but they don't hav eany audition, they invite you come and sit with them, and if you think you can play the music within your level they be happy to have you. Of course there is no monetary or anything from that, you are all volunteer muscians, gaining experience to play in large group. its a good experience and a good setting to learn. iIt will be  a great help, if you sight read, that is an advantages.

October 4, 2010 at 02:32 AM ·

@Robert - I don't do anything special to be able to reply quickly, just am logged in on the site at the right time, I guess!

October 4, 2010 at 02:50 AM ·

If you have a New Horizons program in your area, you can play in an adult community orchestra without an audition. The New Horizons program has group instruction as part of the programs so the beginners, or those who need a little more help can ease into the orchestra. Beginners may only play one or two of the pieces at a concert. The cost is minimal, the benefits priceless.

October 4, 2010 at 07:50 AM ·

Robert: I'm a bit confused with your level - I thought you were 'early advanced' on another topic?  That would seem to be well beyond Book 5... Or maybe my catagories are different.  

Hey it would be pretty cool if thats the entry level of advanced, then I could claim the same :)

October 4, 2010 at 04:47 PM ·

 @ Elise Stanley,

Sorry for the confusion, but I thought Book 5 was “early advanced”.  My mistake and please excuse me.

October 4, 2010 at 05:21 PM ·

Don't apologize!  I think its great... It would be interesting to have a poll as to where the 'divisions' of beginer/intermediate/advanced should be.  Twould be really cool to be approaching the latter (but I fear I am not close yet).

October 5, 2010 at 12:27 AM ·

 @ elise, 

That would be great.  I think we should use the Suzuki Books as  a starting place. What do you think? We could say that Book 1 - 4 - are beginners , books 5 - 7 are intermediates and so on.  Let me know what you think.  I was just guessing. 

October 5, 2010 at 12:28 AM ·

 @ elise, we should start a new thread.  You start it, and I will look for it.

October 5, 2010 at 04:11 PM ·

This could get interesting.  Part of what I do at work is enroll people in the art classes and workshops we offer.  I've had people tell me that they are definitely "advanced" painters because they have taken not one but TWO 6-week classes at the local Podunk Y; others (who are actually quite accomplished) describe themselves as beginners because, as one man said, "I don't draw nearly as well as Raphael did."

October 6, 2010 at 04:19 PM ·

That's a more positive way of looking at it, Emily,  I suppose I just see all auditions as slightly traumatic!

In response to the whole 'what level am I' stuff I wouldn't worry about it too much. In my opinion abrsm grade 4-6 is intermediate-ish. I would put Suzuki book 5 around grade 6 but could be totally wrong.


October 6, 2010 at 10:30 PM ·


That is ok with me.  At least I can call my-self an intermediate violinist at this point and moving upwards quickly. 

October 7, 2010 at 12:44 AM ·

 Perhaps we should really also consider how the Suzuki / abrsm music is played by the student before allocating a "grade".  Listen to Takako Nishizaki* playing all the music in Suzuki 4 (including, incidentally, those movements from the Seitz concertos that were left out of the book) and you'll hear playing of a professional standard - the ultimate standard that Shinichi Suzuki envisaged for his students.  It's not a bad idea for a student who has just gone through book 5 to reprise book 4 - and then to realize he needs to make a much better job of it;  perhaps I'm being a little autobiographical :-).

* Takako Nishizaki has recorded all of Suzuki 1-8, and it can be downloaded in mp3 format from Amazon.  Her recordings of  the Mozart concertos in Suzuki 9 and 10 are separately available from Amazon. 

October 7, 2010 at 03:18 PM ·

I think that's a really fair point about Suzuki book 4. I can play the pieces from one end to the other but there are real weak spots usually involving difficult shifts, second position and awkward rhythms. My previous teacher moved me on to book 5 and  whilst I was happy to learn new pieces I was very conscious of the need to make big improvements to those '4' pieces. But everytime I re-visit them I isolate those tricky spots and give them lots of attention.

October 8, 2010 at 12:42 AM ·

 Well, I am just talking about generally, as far as calling someone a beginner, intermediate, or advance.  But we should start in a thread.  I guess I will start it.  I will call it, "Can we use the Suzuki violin method books to label students?  You folks can meet me there. 

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