First Orchestra Experience - Adult Learners

March 4, 2004 at 05:59 PM · Hi -

I have just joined a local community orchestra. It's my first orchestra experience (at the age of 27, not 7! :(

Anyway, I have joined their rehearsals 2 times and it's still quite overwhelming. I'm amazed at people's sight-reading skills and the ability to play the music so fast as if they have practiced 50 times already. People encouraged me that it'll take quite a while (6 months?) before you get used to it. so just wondering if other adult learners have similar experience and how you have overcomed all the difficulties... and how you feel about the whole experience :)

Replies (11)

March 4, 2004 at 06:49 PM · To my mind, it's kind of like when you are learning to drive - you go into sensory overload for awhile, then you get used to it. Then it becomes FUN.

"Don't stomp on the brakes! Watch the traffic! Check the mirror! Check the other mirror! STOP! Turn left! Watch out for that car! Use your blinker! Watch out for that other car!" etc. etc.

March 4, 2004 at 07:40 PM · I am a student, but my first orchestra experiences were also pretty overwhelming. You'll catch on, don't worry! The more you do it, the easier it gets, and the more fun it becomes! It's a new skill. You don't have to worry about making mistakes, or getting lost, it happens to everyone, just try your best, and make sure you are having fun!

Best of Luck!

March 5, 2004 at 12:03 AM · Greetings,

I know. The horses were really upset by the blinkers,



March 5, 2004 at 12:04 AM · Greetings,

sorry, back on track. Auer wrote that he too was overwheemd the first time he sat in an orchestra so you are in good hands...

The three most important rules of orchestral playing are:

1) Get sed to emorising a bar or so and then keeping your head up. Obviously you don`t want to disorientate yourself, but if you have 2000 bars of repeated c then the music is absolutely superfluous for thta time.

2) Always count the rest, no matte rhow long. Ane mentally subdivide the beats in the bar before a new entry whree necessary.

3) Ignore the conducter.

4) Don`t get caught staring at the flute players legs.



March 29, 2004 at 04:02 PM · Violin Mac:

Just joined and saw your post. I too just joined an orchestra in January and as an adult learner it was at first overwhelming. It's a community college orchestra, anyone can join, but according to the college catalog you have to audition for public performances. However, our director lets all play at the public performances. He just says, "play the notes you know." Perfect orchestra for adult learners. At the first few sessions, I was wondering whether I should continue as everyone seem so much better than me, but as I learned the literature and began to contribute, I felt more comfortable. So what I've learned/experienced so far. I attempt to learn all the literature as best I can. If a section is just too difficult for my ability, I'll drop out some notes. So, that the notes I do play are in time and contributing to the section. I've discovered that later as I become more familar with the section, I can add the notes (the ones I've been leaving out) back in. The other members of the the orchestra have been very supportive, save one, who always gives me a dirty look if I make a mistake. I've learned a lot about playing and many of the things taught in class, now begin to make sense. So, far playing in the orchestra has been an enjoyable and yes thrilling experience. There is nothing more exciting than hearing all the strings around you and knowing that you're a part of it.

March 29, 2004 at 09:19 PM · Hey Mac,

You're in good company. I'm 25 and just started orchestra back in September. At first it was a little intimidating/humiliating but as I got to know other players who were patient with me, it's been a great experience. I play with a great group of adults and students and it is very enjoyable even if I have to drop out in a few parts here and there because I can't play them fast enough.

It's definitely an adjustment but also worthwhile. The feeling of being part of something musical that is bigger than you are is amazing.


March 30, 2004 at 03:17 PM · Now that I'm doing more chamber music I'm also rediscovering that it really is worthwhile to make a point of developing your ability to sight-read & your music reading skills in general as part of your regular practice routine or even away from your instrument. Gobs of technique won't get you anywhere if your brain can't makes sense of the jumble of ink on the page in front of you!

Try carrying around a pocket score. When practicing, read through unfamiliar music on a regular basis & when you're playing familiar pieces, work on reading ahead, rhythmic subdivisions and note & interval identification. The ability to sight-read & read music well really facilitates & enhances one of if not the thing that makes amateur music so enjoyable- playing music with others.

March 31, 2004 at 12:26 AM · I started playing when in orchestra when I was 10. But I think there are things that I've lerned over the years that are pretty helpful for everyone. If your sight reading skills are not that great. Don't worry! as someone said the more you do it the better it gets. But I think playing in orchestra is also very helpful to improve your own playing especially discovering musical phrases. I think the most important thing in orchestra is to listen to everyone else. If you try to play all the notes and don't play the rhythm then the whole rehersal will become pointless. Try to use body language to connect with other players. Watch out for down beats even if you're not playing. That way the conductor will notice that you are engaged with the music itself. There's always time to practice afterwards!

Have Fun!


March 31, 2004 at 12:54 PM · I tried 2 rehersals in a community orchestra and was enjoying it a lot, but considering I need too much time to practise, I'm in the opinion that I am not ready for it. As much as I wanted to stay, I've decided to concentrate on my violin exam and return later when my sight-reading and technical skills are more proficient.

March 31, 2004 at 02:16 PM · As a first-time poster but long-time (15 years) player in community orchestras, I have 3 other pieces of advice:

1) Don't be afraid to play! Community orchestra conductors don't chew people's heads off, otherwise soon they wouldn't have an orchestra. But still there is a type of community-orchestra section player who maybe never misses a rehearsal, but gravitates to the back stands and plays everything pianissimo (the air-violin players). What's the point?

2) If you get a chance to sit at the first or second stand--even if just for one rehearsal--take it. You'll be more aware of everything up there and it will make you a better player.

3) Depending on local policy & ownership, go ahead and mark up your part as much as necessary (in pencil of course). If it helps you to remember something to do or to watch out for, a reminder in pencil is always better than forgetting.

I second what was said about the importance of listening and always counting rests. As for never watching the conductor, you'll figure out those places where a conductor is a useful thing to have.

April 1, 2004 at 07:06 AM · Thanks all for your response! I have attended couple rehearsals so far and I think I'm getting better slowly. One thing is, I found it hard to understand the counting from the conductor! I feel most of the players in my orchestra don't really look at the conductor too!

William, which exam are you going to take? are you taking about ABRSM?

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

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

Shar Music
Shar Music

Yamaha Silent Violin
Yamaha Silent Violin

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Find a Summer Music Program
Find a Summer Music Program

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases Business Directory Business Directory Guide to Online Learning Guide to Online Learning

Dominant Pro Strings

Antonio Strad Violin

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Bobelock Cases


Los Angeles Violin Shop

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Metzler Violin Shop

Leatherwood Bespoke Rosin



Johnson String Instrument and Carriage House Violins

Potter Violins

String Masters

Bein & Company

Annapolis Bows & 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