How to get accepted in my first symphony

May 6, 2015 at 11:47 AM · Could anyone give me some tips regarding how to get into my first symphony? I had a college scholarship for violin, but that was 10 years ago. I've kept polished and even been teaching ever since, but I would love to get in a symphony. I did try out for the main one here in town a few years ago and did not make it. Are there any suggestions about a good approach for me to take to crack this egg and get into a symphony? How far should I be willing to drive to get into my first symphony? How much of a challenge should it be for me to get into a symphony? Any tips are greatly appreciated!


May 6, 2015 at 12:07 PM · You need to win an audition so focus on that. How are your orchestral excerpts? If they're in shape then take any audition you can find just to get the experience. If you're not familiar with the orchestral scene in your area you have no idea what you're up against in auditions. Maybe there's a local orchestra that operates on a pro-am basis

(edited 'cause I accidentally submitted before finishing)

May 6, 2015 at 12:14 PM · Although Christina C. is correct, it may not be the only thing you can do.

If you haven't played in ANY orchestra in 10 years, you may want/need to join a community group just for the sake of re-learning the basics of ensemble playing: following conductor, blending with other violins, etc. because any symphony looking at a resume, seeing 'teacher' for 10 years may well look to someone with more recent relevant experience.

In addition, you may want to become part of the playing 'scene' in your city. Every place is different, so you'll probably have a better idea how to do that than I can suggest.

Try to get on the sub list for your chosen group--once people know your playing, you may have a better chance.

You'll still have to win the audition...of course...

May 6, 2015 at 12:23 PM · You asked, "How far should I be willing to drive to get into my first symphony?" i recently saw on Facebook an interesting definition of a musician: Someone who is willing to pack $5000 worth of equipment into a $500 car and drive 100 miles for a $50 gig.

On a more serious note, the short answer is that you can either find a less selective orchestra or you can improve your skill. Why didn't you make the cut at your last audition? How close do you think you got? Are the other orchestras within a 100-mile radius of comparable quality? Relevant experience is one thing, but personally I would doubt that a good orchestra will be impressed if you spent 3 years playing in the kind of ensemble where there are grown-ups who cannot tune their own violins. Those kinds of groups have their place, but not on your CV.

May 6, 2015 at 12:31 PM · Another thing people sometimes do is take lessons or a coaching with someone in the orchestra to see what they are looking for in auditions, this can also give you an idea of how far off/close you are to their requirements. Most professional orchestras have a pretty high standard given the number of out-of-work musicians floating around. If you have already made the cut to be invited to audition, the CV is less relevant, however keeping up your orchestral skills is very relevant. So if that needs to happen in a community orchestra, why not, if the community orchestra is a good one. How far should you drive--only you can answer that. It depends on how important this is to you.

May 6, 2015 at 01:38 PM · I was just reading your bio. If you're not ready to "dominate the first part of Don Juan", as you put it, you're not ready to play in a professional symphony. You can expect that the kids auditioning for all-state high school orchestras can already do so. Even for auditioned community orchestras, it's not unusual to find Don Juan (and other difficult-but-standard excerpts) on the list of required material.

You need to be capable of playing the required excerpts more or less flawlessly. If there's a concerto required, you should be nailing that, too, whatever it is (but think Brahms or Tchaikovsky for that, not Mendelssohn). My guess is that if you're having problems with Don Juan, you're also having challenges with your concerto.

Find a local community orchestra. Enjoy yourself. Work on getting better as a player -- find a teacher, preferably one who has experience coaching professionals trying to take symphony auditions.

Also, I'd suggest taking some gigs so you get to know the local freelancers -- assuming that you're playing well enough to do so. You'll probably end up playing stuff for gas money, basically (i.e. what you spend in gas driving to the thing will probably be break-even with what they pay you). Play well and people will start thinking of you when they need another violinist for something. If you're lucky, someone will eventually mention you as a potential sub for a professional symphony. Play well as a sub and you become a better candidate for join the symphony -- local symphonies will sometimes issue a first-round audition pass if they've gotten to know you as a sub, even. But you need to have the chops.

May 6, 2015 at 01:47 PM · I was very cut up when I got accepted into a symphony orchestra for the first time, and only signed up because my first wife was a tyrant and made me take the job. Never marry a Welsh woman - it's a fate worse than death.

New Zealander's of the female variety are a different kettle of fish, and are often wonderful musicians too. And VERY understanding. It's obvious that I'm no longer fishing in Welsh waters, but in more beautiful NZ ones!

May 6, 2015 at 04:23 PM · When you say you want to get into a symphony, what sort of symphony do you have in mind? A community orchestra or a mixed pro-am situation might be realistic. A professional orchestra, no.

Take some lessons with a fulltime member (if such exists) or the concertmaster of the local orchestra that you would like to be part of. After a month or two of hard work and progress, ask your teacher if getting into the local symphony is a realistic goal. If he says "no," believe him.

If anything, Lydia has understated the requirements to get into a professional orchestra. But just in case I am being wildly unfair in my estimate of your playing level, here are some standard excerpts, all of which you need to be able to play perfectly (in tune, in rhythm, and musically phrased with a beautiful sound):

First movement including cadenza of Mozart concerto #3, #4, or #5

First movement of a romantic or 20th century violin concerto (most popular choices are Sibelius or Tchaikovsky but we also hear a lot of Brahms)

First page of Don Juan, and maybe page six as well

Mozart #39 (1st, 2nd, 4th movements)

Beethoven #3, Scherzo

Schumann #2, Scherzo

Mendelssohn, Midsummer Night's Dream scherzo

Prokofiev Classical Symphony (1st, 2nd, 4th movements)

Shostakovich #5, 1st movement

Brahms #4, 3rd movement

And if the opening is in the 2nd violins, 2nd violin parts to Mozart Magic Flute overture, Rachmaninoff #2 (2nd movement), and the finale to the Mozart Jupiter.

May 6, 2015 at 06:08 PM · Dear Peter, thank you for that charming personal reminiscence.

May 6, 2015 at 06:19 PM · Hi Peter,

nice to see you contributing again Not clear what this post has to do with getting into a symphony but it probably qualifies for a red card given the recent awareness raising about how we can look at other peoples perspectives on gender.



May 6, 2015 at 08:10 PM · I figured that with the Don Juan problems, there wasn't much point to thinking about the other professional-audition excerpts. ;-)

For a community orchestra that requires excerpts, there's an extremely high chance of the Scherzo from A Midsummer Night's dream. If you really learn to nail anything, it should be this, since the ability to play fast spiccato with precision will stratify the skill levels of amateur players pretty clearly, and this is a common ask for professional auditions too.

Everything else you'll see on a community orchestra audition will be more random. There's usually overlap into the professional excerpts -- more likely Mozart and Beethoven, though -- and then something slow from a Brahms symphony for tone.

Most community orchestras have a baseline audition that's two contrasting pieces, one fast and one slow; excerpts and sight-reading tend to be extras.

May 6, 2015 at 08:37 PM · I thought I was being very fair an honest in my assessment of two of my wives! It in no way reflects how I feel about the female sex in general. I'm definitely in favour of the female sex, and only against if they pressurise one to have to spend one's life and day job with (usually) some grimly horrible male waving a stick over you for no logical musical reason ...

I forgot to put the (wink) after that previous post.

So here is an extra one ... (wink)

PS I often get given red cards from the two girls in my life. i.e. my wife and my female Lurcher (dog). But they also give me endless sunshine too!

May 6, 2015 at 08:44 PM · Greetings,

well, we are completely off topic now so my apologies to all. Peter, having had an awful marriage (that was at least half my fault) can understand the temptation to lash out in a sort of British humor style against things. However, just from my point of view, what you wrote seemed to generalize against both women and race. It is quite possible I am being over sensitive here because the recent difficulties made me take a closer look at how people do think and feel on this site and it is definitely worth taking a little extra care with what are , for an older Brit, me that is, deeply ingrained prejudices and stereoypes. I would have to say I found the post not only jarring but slightly offensive. I am well aware of the fact that if you and me wee getting pissed together it would be a lot worse but I can't say I am proud of that. No amount of winking is going to alleviate this.

I really wish you would visit is site and just give us the benefit of all the great stuff you know,



May 6, 2015 at 08:52 PM · Stephen - I think you are taking me too seriously - and for the record I love the Welsh. That's why i lived there for a while.

What I was really saying is that I can't think of any good reason to join any orchestra!! So I won't put in a (wink) as i'm serious, and you will also probably put me down as a habitual winker!

By the way, if you are an older Brit, what does that make me? I'm definitely a damned site older than you, I'm pretty sure!!

May 6, 2015 at 10:52 PM · I agree with Buri. It's all right to be funny but it shouldn't come at the expense of showing people respect.

BTW I love playing in orchestra! Good luck with your audition, Zack!

May 7, 2015 at 01:08 AM · Man. I am recovering from being stunned by the quality of responses you all have me. I even enjoyed the forays into Welsh romance gone amuck. :) Seriously, I was not expecting to incite that level of informed and sincerely helpful feedback. You probably should have charged me a coaching fee! It was a great combo of direct ("if you can't crish Don Juan, you may as well keep your crappy butt home") and encouraging. I enjoyed the honesty/straightforwardness and helpful spirit so much. The truth is, currently I can't do the Don Juan, but I understand now how important a barometer that (and other excerpts) are. I do think you would really like other aspects of my playing though, and on that note, if any of you would like me to send you an email or text with a snippet of seething I can play well, i'd be happy to. Probably not customary, but you never know. And if one of you were inclined to wanna send me a vid of you playing something great (Don juan anyone?) I would love it. And I would vow to never contact you again. Your time is undoubtedly worth a lot. So my main takeaway idea from your feedback is to hit up the local Suzuki director. She's 3rd chair in our top symphony, and I'm confident she could assess me, help me set goals, and show me opportunities. Or as was mentioned, maybe she'd tell me to stick to my day job, which would be plenty valuable itself, though I don't expect I'm that bad. Anyway, THANKS again to you all.

May 7, 2015 at 01:31 AM · You could just post a YouTube private link. :-)

You can be a perfectly good player without being able to crush Don Juan, as you put it. You're just not going to be a professional symphony player unless you can.

Why not a community orchestra, though? I'm guessing if your locale can support a professional symphony, there's at least one community orchestra. Are they not good enough to feel like it's worth your while? Do you not like the conductor? Or have you just not explored the option?

May 7, 2015 at 04:52 AM · Funny marriages, Peter, I had a good laugh. Isn't walking the dog the best?

Don't worry, the militant feminists will start censor Shakespeare soon, he is not politically correct either.

Simply before posting check if the OP is female and then do not bother posting any opinion or you will be accused of mansplaining as happened in another thread. The forum will become dead but it will be politically correct.

May 7, 2015 at 06:20 AM · Thanks Pavel for the support.

Maybe I will just disappear off theis forum again. People take me too seriously.

May 7, 2015 at 06:22 AM · Greetings,

well that's kind of interesting. Peter posted something I found very slightly offensive and though some other people such as Welsh women might be upset by. Since it was also irrelevant to the thread (although I am as guilty as Peter in this regrad) I posted what I bought about it. I don't think I was rude to Peter but I told him what I thought. He stated his position and I have no interest in taking it further. My opinion of him as a valuable contributor this site has not changed and I don't feel any animosity towards him whatsoever. Mr Spacek is actually the first person to attack an individual rather than an opinion. His claims that I am a militant feminist intent on censorship have no grounds whatsoever. It is the only exchange so far that really deserves flagging. It's a shame that I can no longer express a robust opinion to Peter without being insulted. (not sur eit the term militant feminist is actually an insult given the current state of women's rights but that is another issue)

That is indeed, the true face of censorship and it's very ugly.


May 7, 2015 at 06:30 AM · i was slightly bewildered but not offended by Peter (and C in previous thread).

I am stunned and awed by the incredibly good information in both threads, still sifting through Katherine Li's responses.

Can't we all get over ourselves a bit, not take such quick offense?

May 7, 2015 at 06:41 AM · Buri, my response was not direct response to your post, it was a general statement, maybe my wording was strong (forgot to add parentheses or smileys). Never thought it would be taken as individual attack against you.

Peter berated his former wife in the public and praised his second, so what. It may be inappropriate to discuss his private marital matters in the public but it is his post. Someone else in another thread may berate her former husband, I would let is pass or laugh as well.

My example was to another thread when I found the reaction of the OP outright rude but let it pass, unless posts contain expletives I do not care much.

Political correctness and censorship/autocensorship - that is topic for another thread. Apology to the OP for temporary threadjacking.

May 7, 2015 at 11:13 AM · @ Jenny. Yes, the effect. Sorry I could not find anything condescending at the reply in the thread I mentioned, OP simply tried to be helpful as people generally are when they are answering the question in the thread. But your reply to him looked extremely patronizing to me.

I agree this is a private moderated forum and people should behave within the rules. My general statement about censoring was not aimed at this forum, if I wanted to be specific about the, I would formulate it differently.

There is a main problem that we use language for communicating (few things are so ambiguous as language, especially written discourse when the second party is not present) and people of different cultures, attitudes and ages post.

May 7, 2015 at 11:38 AM · I doubt that conversations will be lesser without people railing against the other gender, their ex-wives, "feminists," etc. Most people would simply rather talk about the violin.

May 7, 2015 at 05:09 PM · "Most people would simply rather talk about the violin."


that's exactly what I do here since many years. It's the first time at all I've been called a sexist - my wife laughed a lot when I told her the story.

I was always proud of this forum because it' was so different from other forums where the tone is usually less friendly. I fear this might have changed.

Pavel - you understood clearly what was happening. Thank you.

Jenny - I'm afraid you didn't. I decided to let it be, but since you continued to rant against me even in this different thread (that I've found just by chance) I beg you to stop.

You have misunderstood my comment completely.

With my fellow pro musicians (most of them women) there's either consent or arguments for each one's position. Never before it played a role that I'm a man.

Please consider seriously the possibility that you got it wrong and my answer wasn't really condescending at all, only meant as sharing experience. Maybe there might come something positive out of this.

I'm back to violins.

May 7, 2015 at 08:00 PM · "Simply before posting check if the OP is female and then do not bother posting any opinion or you will be accused of mansplaining as happened in another thread."

How is this OK?

Editing to add that expecting courtesy is not at all the same thing as demanding censorship.

May 7, 2015 at 08:12 PM · Back to the topic at hand.

As a member of my orchestra's string audition committee, I see all the resumes that come in for string openings, and have a vote on whether to invite each candidate to the audition. Here is what I look for: degree from a major music school and/or study with a known teacher (a master class with a name teacher is nice but not equivalent to, say, a BM from New England Conservatory).

At least a modicum of professional experience--the lesser the school listed, the more important this becomes. Juilliard plus little to no pro experience gets invited. University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople had better already be subbing with a top five orchestra or will not be invited.

The older the degree, the more essential professional experience becomes. If you got your degree ten years ago (even from a good school) and this would be your first job, I am going to vote thumbs down on the audition invitation because there is no way you would be competitive with recent Juilliard or Indiana grads.

The more extraneous stuff on your resume--objective statements, hobbies, All-State orchestra (we really don't want to read about your high school experience unless it involved winning a prize at the junior level Menuhin competition)--the less kindly I will think of you. It won't keep you out of an audition but it is annoying to have to dig through.

When we don't invite someone to our audition, we are doing that person a kindness although it probably doesn't feel that way on the other end. We don't want people spending $500 or more to take an audition which they have essentially zero chance to win.

May 7, 2015 at 11:20 PM · Do we invite Anne Robinson on to this site as a guest poster, remembering she had some things to say about the Welsh?

May 7, 2015 at 11:49 PM · Y'all kids heading off to college to study violin performance should print out Mary Ellen's post and frame it.

About the age of the degree -- while I certainly understand your point (we have the same issue in STEM doctoral program admissions), is it fair to conclude that if you don't have an orchestral job within X years of your degree, you won't?

May 7, 2015 at 11:58 PM · I think as time passes after graduating, the probability of winning an orchestral job goes down IF the musician takes audition after audition without ever getting past the first round. However, winning an audition is somewhat a game of large numbers. If someone is consistently getting past the first round, making finals on occasion, then I would not assume that he/she won't get a job eventually.

One of the saddest Humans of New York posts I have ever seen concerned a cellist who was getting ready to go audition for the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He had been taking auditions for 20 years and was determined to keep it up until he won a job. Naturally the comments were full of "Never give up! Hold fast to your dream!" and other such nonsense from people who know nothing about the professional orchestra world.

I didn't bother commenting because I was not in the mood to be eviscerated by ignoramuses, but all I could think of was how sad for him, and that either this was a major teacher fail (nobody told him it was not in his future) or his teacher(s) tried to convey reality to him but he wasn't listening. What a waste of time and money when he might have been able to have a fulfilling life going down a different road.

(Later on I learned the cellist's name and found a Youtube video of his assessment that he would never win an audition was correct.)

May 8, 2015 at 01:12 AM · Mary Ellen, thanks for the good insight. You're right. My audition is June 11 and I probably should look at it as my last pro-attempt if I don't make it.

Lydia, I don't think there are any non-pro orchestras in the area, otherwise I would definitely pursue that.

May 8, 2015 at 01:36 AM · Do you mean Arkansas Philharmonic or Arkansas Symphony? I don't think the latter is realistic for you. The former might be; I can't tell from the APO website just how professional it is but I suspect it is a freeway philharmonic gig.

For the curious, here is the Arkansas Symphony roster. Clicking on the violinists' bios is instructive: lots of high powered music schools and degrees, and this is a part-time orchestra in Arkansas!

May 8, 2015 at 11:42 AM · The mere fact that you've been invited to audition (and invited again after previous failure?), but you don't have a music degree, is already a statement about the level of the orchestra.

Have you worked with a coach for this audition? If not, you really should. You need the third-party evaluation.

May 8, 2015 at 12:24 PM · Point of information, no orchestra that I am aware of keeps a record of who fails an audition as a sort of blacklist for future invitations. The fact that the OP has evidently been invited back to audition for an orchestra that he has previously failed at means absolutely nothing. It's not unusual at all for people to take multiple auditions for the same orchestra.

Some orchestras might invite finalists at previous auditions directly into their finals, but that's completely different.

May 8, 2015 at 01:58 PM · Don't make any final decisions based on this audition. You haven't said how the preparation of the audition material is going… and if you can nail it then maybe you don't need anything else, but it sounds as though you don't have much orchestra experience & don't have a good feel for what your local orchestra scene is like. Just get out there & find a group you can play with and network in so that you can better assess where you fit into it & what's achievable.

May 8, 2015 at 02:48 PM · Mary Ellen, I looked at the roster you linked, and indeed many of these people have MM degrees. I'm not as familiar with the quality of music programs as you obviously must be, but I did not see Curtis or Juilliard represented among the violinists (there were two in the double basses and one oboist). However I did see Peabody, Indiana, Rice, and Northwestern.

One thing the OP might consider is not taking the audition if he doesn't think he's prepared. Even though there may be no written records, there must be at least some "institutional memory" and it's hard to imagine the risk is zero.

May 8, 2015 at 06:10 PM · Zach, just practice a lot and go for it. Make sure you practice the excerpts at least as much as you practice the piece.

May 8, 2015 at 07:00 PM · If it is a blind audition, which virtually all professional orchestra auditions are, the institutional risk is zero.

There is a difference between Arkansas Symphony and Arkansas Philharmonic. I think it's likely that the Arkansas Philharmonic is on a slightly lower level than the Arkansas Symphony, but that does not mean that the OP is necessarily qualified for it. But I also agree that one audition should not be the defining moment for him. Several months of lessons with a qualified teacher after which he and his teacher can assess his progress together is far more informative.

May 9, 2015 at 10:58 AM · Wow! How times have changed. Both in auditions and in censoring of comments.

First - auditions.

Yes - I was lucky. A lot of years back, most people would be listened to, and a "major concerto" wasn't a requirement, and there were no prepared excerpts. You got "sight-reading" which may be a well-known passage, or could be just off that orchestra's current programme. I wouldn't have a chance nowadays - and probably nor would a fair percentage of current incumbents.

I would say that over the years, I've come across a large number of people who are technically brilliant but can't fit with other people in a section. Imagine a second violin section of 12 or so of our leading soloists?

And are today's orchestras so much better than those of the past with these high-octane demands

Try listening to (Philharmonia in the early 50's)

Second part - we're all getting very touchy on imagined gender/race stereotyping. Yes, you have a right to be offended. How about a right to be offensive? Most humour has always been based on stereotypes. I'm English - stereotype:- Thick, only talk about the weather and have a fetish for forming queues. Mother-in-law stereotypes? Les Dawson anybody? Can we all please be less quick to take offense - especially on someone else's behalf.

Peter came in for criticism for his comments on his two ladies - personally, I find Peter's posts to be very funny. and we all know of his love of conductors and orchestral playing - long may they continue.

I shall now don my tin helmet

May 9, 2015 at 11:05 AM · Mary Ellen, I understand the auditions may be blind. But the CVs ... are they sanitized? Nobody ever sees the applicants names? If someone named Paul Deck sent you a CV three years ago, and again this year, nobody would remember that? I guess I don't know how many applications you handle -- maybe it's so many that the names really do fade away.

On balance, though, I agree that the risk is so low that it shouldn't be a factor deciding whether to take the audition. He should practice hard and go for it.

Malcolm, I see your point about hypersensitivity, and you're not alone to have made this point. Other long-standing, very respectable contributors have done the same. I enjoyed "Monty Python's Flying Circus" as a child, and I participated in my share of locker-room humor. But one thing that we've hopefully become aware of in recent decades is just how hard it really is to reach a true state of fulfillment for equal treatment and opportunity across racial and gender lines. This is a web site where the overwhelming majority of participants seem to be genuinely striving -- leaning in, if you will -- toward personal and professional betterment for themselves, their students, their orchestras, their communities, etc. So I can kind of understand why the tolerance for comments that seem to drag the discussions in the direction opposite progress is relatively thin.

May 9, 2015 at 11:20 AM · Buri

I was going to send you an email about this but you don't appear to have one, so I will have to say it on the forum, even though I'm trying hard to avoid all posting, as it only seems to get me a certain amount of criticism.

What I was going to point out was that my post where I mentioned a Welsh wife was made before I saw all the posts about JC and his demise. Not that it is that relevant, but you did say I should not have put it that way after the business just mentioned. However, I had not looked in on this forum for about three months prior to that day (it was about 6 or 7 May when I managed to log on again for the first time, and I only saw the JC posts and aftermath of what happened today).

It's all a bit beside the point anyway, as i think I may be having log on problems again so you may not hear from me for a couple of months. (I have to pay blood money to access this site, and until I change to a new ISP when my present contract runs out, I will probably not be around. I'm sure that is good news for many!)

May 9, 2015 at 02:16 PM · Zack,

Have you looked at Nathan Cole, the First Associate Concertmaster of the LA Phil (and a contributor to, is the violin teacher on The student uploads a video of her/his playing to Artistworks - Nathan looks at the video and then makes a video of his comments/demonstrations about your playing.

I am confident Nathan's input would help you refine your skills and at a most reasonable cost. My guess is many of his Artistworks students seek his guidance on audition pieces.

Don't let Nathan's FAC position at the LA Phil intimidate you. I took viola lessons from him on Artistworks and he couldn't have been nicer. Undoubtedly to this day I remain Nathan's only seated! beginner! viola! student - with the tapes still on the fingerboard!! I am rather proud of this distinction. I only regret it comes at Nathan's expense as he had to listen to my stiff and scratchy "playing".

Unfortunately, I was forced to abandon the viola due to the expensive monthly rental payments on the crane required to hold the viola up so I could play continuously for more than 5 minutes. Luckily, I eventually found a much, much easier instrument to play and am having a grand time.

Good luck to you, Zack.

May 9, 2015 at 04:04 PM · Paul, regarding the question of sanitizing CVs:

Once we have determined which candidates to invite to an audition, the resumes go away. We are contractually prohibited from looking at or discussing resumes at the audition. It really is all about the playing at that point. This is the biggest reason why "objective statements," hobbies, other skills, and so on don't belong on an orchestral musician's resume. The sole purpose of the resume is to convince us that the candidate is qualified to take our audition. Beyond that we don't care, so everything else just gets in the way.

July 6, 2015 at 12:09 AM · Hey everyone, just wanted to let you know I made the Orchestra!

July 6, 2015 at 12:16 AM · Bravo

July 6, 2015 at 01:59 AM · Congratulations!

July 6, 2015 at 03:45 AM · Congrats! How did the audition process go?

July 6, 2015 at 12:08 PM · That's wonderful news, I hope you enjoy yourself playing with the orchestra. Like Lydia, I'm curious to know what the process was like for you.

July 7, 2015 at 03:06 AM · Yes, share it with us here. Too few people talk about their auditions, and I'm glad yours was a success.

July 7, 2015 at 04:48 PM · Thanks y'all. Here was my audition process:

1. I contacted the orchestra via email to find out when auditions were.

2. They weren't sure.

3. I kept asking.

4. Finally they gave me a date and expectations which were 2 contrasting pieces of my choice.

5. I prepared the pieces.

6. Went to the University where the previous concertmaster recorded my performances (no piano - just me) and submitted the recording to the selection committee.

7. She said auditions wouldn't be fully complete till end of summer due to people being out of town, so I should expect to wait till September to find out. Fortunately I found out in early July. I was SO excited, as I've not been in an orchestra (let alone a professional orchestra) in 16 years!!!

July 7, 2015 at 05:55 PM · Again, congratulations! The process sounds more like a community orchestra than a professional one--is this a paid gig?

July 7, 2015 at 06:59 PM · Fascinating. You just won a professional orchestra audition using what are basically two Grade 6-level pieces? (And that process seems vastly more casual than even the community orchestra auditions where I live.) Congratulations, though!

Now I'm terribly curious what your orchestra pays per service!

July 16, 2015 at 04:22 AM · Audition season for local community orchestras is coming up, and I'm contemplating my options, in hopes of getting into an orchestra that rehearses on weekends (when I'm generally home rather than out on business travel).

One of the orchestras has a hell of an audition rep requirement. In addition to the excerpts, you need two contrasting pieces. This is the excerpt list (all of which need to be prepared). I'm shorthanding; figure that these are the usual excerpts from these works (just one per work, generally the one nearer the beginning if there are multiple possible candidates within the work, i.e., Don Juan is the first page, etc.):

- Mozart Haffner, 1st movement

- Mozart 39, 4th movement

- Schumann Scherzo

- Midsummer Night's Dream scherzo

- Beethoven 3, 3rd movement

- Don Juan

- Brahms 3, 1st movement

- Brahms 4, 4th movement

Note that this is a *community* orchestra -- completely unpaid. I can't decide what that rigorous of an audition requirement is meant to accomplish.

Any thoughts?

July 16, 2015 at 07:17 AM · Make sure its members know how to practise - even though there's no guarantee that the new member WILL practise after admission?

July 16, 2015 at 10:00 AM · I agree it is overkill, and an imposition on busy professionals. Also unnecessary, there are far less burdensome ways to tell quickly if a person can play or not. It could be to discourage people who are not serious about it, or a way of announcing to one and all that they are a really really exclusive group.

July 16, 2015 at 10:02 AM · There are adult community orchestras and ... adult community orchestras (as Alice has hinted). The three I belong to have a minimum requirement of grade 8(+), and/or proven orchestral experience at that level, each has a sprinkling of retired, or even semi-retired, symphony pros, and the conductor of one was 20 years in the first desk of the London Philharmonic. Formal auditions for players are therefore deemed unnecessary, but a new arrival in a string section will spend his or her initial rehearsal in the first desk of the section being informally assessed by the principal, the second desk, the conductor and the concert master. The player is then assigned to a specific chair as a result of the assessment. One of my orchestras has the policy of regularly swapping violinists around within a section and between the sections, the only constant person being the CM.

We always audition conductors. You're courting disaster if you don't - says the voice of experience ;)

The fully professional orchestras/ensembles in my area do of course audition their applicants.

At the other end of the scale are those essential adult community orchestras aimed at those who are starting out on the orchestral road, or returning to playing after a long absence. Auditions for these are obviously inappropriate.

July 16, 2015 at 11:31 AM · Depends what the level of the amateur orchestra is then that list may or may not be too bad. There are amateur orchestras where all you need to do to join is simply show up, others that has a minimal requirement and then others that teeters on the verge of professional. I've seen more than my share of each type of amateur orchestras. If you can overcome the excerpt list, then it isn't a bad idea to audition with them. It's what it is all about; the experience in my opinion.

July 16, 2015 at 11:31 AM · I find that when community orchestras program something way out of their reach (as they often do), it's for the benefit of the conductor rather than the musicians, or indeed even the audience. I doubt DC audiences are eager to sit through a Don Juan performed by people who have little time to practice, either individually or as an ensemble.

July 16, 2015 at 12:52 PM · That may be *community* orchestra but they obviously love to keep their standards high.

July 16, 2015 at 01:47 PM · I know a few of the excerpts on that list, as a result of previous audition prep, but not the entire list, and in any event I haven't played those excerpts in the last ten years, and some of them not for 20+ years, going all the way back into my teens. Some serious woodshedding involved even for the excerpts that I do know.

The list feels a bit redundant, too -- for instance, why *both* the Midsummer Night's Dream scherzo and the Schumann scherzo? They're both precision fast spiccato passages.

July 16, 2015 at 02:40 PM · MSND and SS are almost always both on professional audition rep lists. I never thought about why, actually. Different character?

July 16, 2015 at 04:12 PM · Now that I think about it more, it's slightly different bow control. In the Schumann, the spiccato is continuous and it's a left/right-hand coordination test. MSND, you're switching back and forth, the eighth notes need to be clean and precise, the longer note held exactly, the sforzandos respected, and so on.

Normally in a community orchestra audition you don't get both, because at that level the conductor's primary concern is "do you have a passable spiccato, yes/no", and a half-page of MSND, or even a single line of it, will answer that question.

July 17, 2015 at 12:45 PM · Lydia: Just curious, do you know the caliber of the orchestra or do you have a way of finding out whether they're worth the time, work & energy to prepare the audition material? Have you been to their concerts? The proof is in the pudding, as it were. I've seen enough community orchestra putting on programmes that are beyond the average level of their players to know (as you probably do as well) that you can't judge an orchestra by it's repertoire … I'd assume the same for audition lists.

July 17, 2015 at 12:56 PM · I've listened to them on YouTube, but the recording is from a few years ago. It's in an acoustically problematic space, so I can't tell whether the ensemble-cohesiveness issues are the players or the acoustics. Good for a community orchestra but definitely not at the level of the best community orchestra in the area that I've heard, or at the level of the community orchestra that I played with when I lived in the Bay Area.

July 17, 2015 at 03:58 PM · Wow .. I'm really thinking about what it means when a completely unpaid orchestra can demand that kind of audition preparation. I guess one thing you can do is see if any of their prior programs are still available online and if they played any of those pieces.

But another thing that I've seen mentioned here -- and experienced first hand -- is a community orchestra that tries to play pieces that are well beyond the average skill set of its players. How is that fun for anyone?

July 17, 2015 at 05:03 PM · I think the answer is "it depends". You can often stretch beyond the ability of the string sections as long as each string section has enough strong players to carry along the weak ones. You don't want to push too far beyond the ability of wind and brass players in soloist roles.

When I was a kid, starting at about age 13, I played 1st violin in an adult community orchestra that tackled really difficult repertoire, including a Richard Strauss work every summer. It had a terrific brass section, a decent wind section, and a massive range of ability in the string sections. I learned a huge amount from making the effort, and I enjoyed the music.

Long-time community orchestra players are usually interested in the orchestra doing a broad range of repertoire rather than retreading the same warhorses, even if this results in perhaps a bit too much challenge.

Locally, most orchestras are auditioned (although ironically the best one is just "come and play", though the conductor is eagle-eyed). Many require excerpts in addition to a piece (or two contrasting pieces), but not so difficult or extensive.

My two pieces for this fall's audition are the first movement of the Beethoven concerto, and Wieniawski's A-major Polonaise. The last audition I did for community orchestra, about two years ago, just required a single concerto movement (I did the first movement of Prokofiev No. 1). So the repertoire prep is also non-trivial.

August 19, 2015 at 03:01 AM · A little follow-up on this...

I did an audition for another community orchestra that my teacher thought would be a relative cakewalk. Excerpts but not difficult ones, plus the player's choice of two contrasting pieces.

In the warm-up room in the hour before my audition, the other concertos being played were two Tchaikovsky (1st and 2nd movements), two Sibelius (1st and 2nd movements), and a Wieniawski 2 (2nd and 3rd movements).

Apparently one shouldn't underestimate the amateur crowd around here.

August 19, 2015 at 03:43 AM · Geez, you have to play two entire movements of a concerto for a community orchestra audition? The audition committee must be filled with hardcore masochists or just people with lots of time on their hands. Did those people in the warm up room sound like good players? I would rather hear a well played suzuki piece than a poorly played wienawski no. 1, yuck that piece sounded ridiculously hard when I heard my teacher butcher it at a recital.

I remember when I did stuff like all state, all you had to do was play a page or so of your concerto aside from the excerpts. I guess it's a completely different level from high school, but how many amateurs with full time jobs would have the time to get that much material to a audition worthy level :).

August 19, 2015 at 12:23 PM · The committee picks and chooses what they want to hear from what you've prepared, so you have to prepare the whole work (just like you would for a professional audition) but you don't get to play the whole thing.

There was one really excellent Sibelius (from a player who had an exceptionally good violin, too), one competent but not outstanding Sibelius, one good Tchaikovsky, one rather out-of-tune and timid Tchaikovsky (the only player who should almost certainly have chosen something less difficult), and an immaculate Wieniawski 2.

This orchestra's audition is competitive -- seating is ranked (unusual for a community orchestra) but unlike a youth orchestra, seating is fixed other than adding new players, rather than there being a re-audition each year.

Some percentage of the "amateurs" around here are professionally trained -- i.e., they hold violin performance degrees but did not win orchestra jobs or decided to leave the profession, and have since gone on to do something else professionally.

August 19, 2015 at 07:46 PM · Wow that sounds pretty intense. People with music much more competitive than something like youth orchestra.

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music: Check out our selection of Celtic music

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

JR Judd Violins
JR Judd Violins

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Thomastik-Infeld's Dynamo Strings
Thomastik-Infeld's Dynamo Strings

National Symphony Orchestra
National Symphony Orchestra

Violins of Hope
Violins of Hope Summer Music Programs Directory
Find a Summer Music Program Shopping Guide Shopping Guide

Colburn School

Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Jargar Strings

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop


Los Angeles Violin Shop


String Masters

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine