Organizing chamber music among local free-lancers

April 6, 2018, 8:17 AM · I would like to start and organize a chamber music exchange among our local freelance community. I am thinking along the lines of sending out regular (once a month? less?) e-mails to a list of local freelancers asking what they are interested in, how often, etc. and putting together groups, perhaps organized around an informal concert or two per year. I understand that this will take regular work to keep it moving. I'm looking for suggestions. Would love to hear from anyone who has pulled this off. I live in a small city (Lancaster, PA). Most of the local freelancers are balancing family, work, gigging, etc. However, I hope that there are enough out there who love chamber music to make this work.

Replies (14)

April 6, 2018, 8:34 AM · How big is your local freelance community? I'd expect in a small city, that pretty much everyone that gigs knows each other. You probably see more or less the same set of faces -- i.e., how many local freelancers never play with, say, the Lancaster Symphony? and/or aren't already connected to the symphony players?

In other words, if everyone already knows each other, the ones who are interested in chamber music for fun are likely already hooked up.

April 6, 2018, 9:18 AM · Lots of talent in that area.Lancaster has a symphony .If you get a few of those people that would be great. If you can get the right connections there it should work well.Maybe a meetup group?

What material are you going to play? What maximum/minimum qualifications are you looking for?

Chamber music is probably advanced repertoire.

April 6, 2018, 9:59 AM · I'm thinking of sending out a survey (SurveyMonkey?) with a few questions, such as: "what repertoire are you interested in?" "Do you have music?" "Are you more interested in reading, or working up repertoire?" Would you be interested in informal performances?"

Any suggestions for questions? Survey software?

Yes. We actually have two symphonies: Lancaster Symphony and Allegro.

I am aware that I am letting myself in for a fair amount of work--but chamber music is what I love most.

April 6, 2018, 10:34 AM · The easiest thing is actually a Google Form, which produces a nice spreadsheet in Google Sheets.

You're probably only looking at a very small number of responses (I'm guessing less than 100, and probably less than 50), so it doesn't need to be complicated.

"Do you have music?" is a useless question, in my opinion, especially when talking to professionals. If people really want to play a work, they'll buy it if it's not available off IMSLP.

I'd divide "reading" into "sight-reading" (no preparation) vs "casual reading" (preparation but no performance intention).

You'll have to decide what the output is. I imagine most pros are more interested in having a list of people to contact. They don't want to be assembled into groups as if they were high schoolers at a chamber music retreat.

April 6, 2018, 10:44 AM · There are two basic approaches and a hybrid approach.

-Asking questions of potential players in my opinion is wise, however in the fine print you could state that you are only asking for suggestions because you may get much more than you bargained for in terms of suggestions and this might place expectations of candidates high that they will get to play what they want to play.Unfortunately they might not get what they all want. I'm sure you probably have some ideas too.

- Come up with some material to begin. As the initiator of this idea you should have the beginning thoughts in the creative direction.You probably have a vision already.Even if that vision is blurry.

- It could be a combination of those two. A bit of give and take. Initially you begin artistic direction and then if the group is small take suggestions.

Some people are team players and some when asked will take the reigns and run with it. If you don't mind that maybe you see this as an asset.

Some here have commented on the wonderful experiences they have had playing in small groups.Mostly for fun.

April 6, 2018, 11:10 AM · Thanks for the suggestions. I'll check out Google Form.


April 6, 2018, 11:40 AM · Just a note of caution; you acknowledge in your OP that most of the local freelancers are balancing family, work, and gigging. That doesn't leave much time to add another activity that will neither bring in money nor be a family activity.

Good luck--I wish you well--hopefully you'll find a group of like-minded players who are happy to have someone take the initiative.

April 6, 2018, 2:13 PM · Thanks, Mary Ellen. It's going to take a steady follow-through.
Edited: April 7, 2018, 6:11 AM · Christopher:
1. Are you one of the freelancers or involved with them in some musical groups?
2. Is there a place or function where these people come together so they are easy to communicate with?

I have been playing chamber music since 1948 and fairly regularly since 1960. Some links to other players came from my work contacts, but mostly they came from my involvement in community orchestras - something I have done consistently since around 1960 and irregularly for 12 years before that. I have moved twice since then (big moves 1-East Coast to Calif. desert and 2-desert to SF bay area). Prior to each move I made sure there was a community orchestra before committing to move. In each case community orchestra involvement quickly led to chamber music activities.

Most recently (in addition to my involvement in a 30-piece conductor-less chamber orchestra and a 20-year stint in a piano trio) we took from the string sections of the chamber orchestra a biweekly "string serenade" of about 13 musicians (enough to do those fantastic serenades with 13 different parts). It went fairly well for the first year but has started to peter out this 2nd year --and I think this is more fun because we can now do octets, or sextets, quintets, or even quartets (we've never been reduced to a string trio - yet).

It depends on whether you want to run an organization or play music. If the latter, this "serenade model" is open to lots of options (this morning we read some 2-cello quintets, the Schubert Op. 163 and a Boccherini because the 2nd viola was off in Louisiana building houses for the homeless. Two weeks ago we played the Brahms Op. 18, 2-viola quintet.

We always know who is coming to the next session, communicating by email, so we know what music to bring.

We are all kind of and even very OLD ( 60s, 70s, and 80s) and so are able to play during the day (actually in the mornings - we would probably crap out in the afternoons - at least I do). However a number of our players also have other chamber groups and additional orchestras they play in.

April 7, 2018, 9:34 AM · Andrew asked, "Is there a place or function where these people come together so they are easy to communicate with?"

Nowadays the most likely answer is Facebook.

April 7, 2018, 9:51 AM · Playing chamber music on a regular schedule with a few other local musicians is a major goal of mine as an adult-learner of violin (and maybe a few Early Music stringed instruments). I'm not good enough yet, but luckily my son, who is a very talented pianist with unusually strong perfect pitch in every way, is patient and skilled enough that I have finally at least been playing some duets with him at home, a baroque program we hope to play for our extended family this Christmas.
April 8, 2018, 5:37 AM · Christopher I'm only about 10 miles away. I'm a multi instrumentalist , however I'm basic on violin.I'm also very busy with other things but I'd be willing to give a low ( low as in basic) part a try if I could fit it into my schedule. It might help me to improve faster.
Is the Allegro Symphony a community orchestra? In my investigations here I only found what looked like a children's kind of thing and then the more advanced Lancaster Symphony.
April 8, 2018, 5:53 AM · Christopher - Thinking further about this I now remember that David Lusterman, who is the publisher of STRINGS magazine and a cellist, has actually done this sort of thing in my neighborhood.

It is quite possible that by emailing him at the magazine ( ) he might provide a helpful reply.

The magazine's offices were within a mile of my residence until rents started to rise during the economic recovery and I did play a bit of chamber music with David once or twice.

Edited: April 8, 2018, 11:53 AM · I think organizing freelancers for chamber-music is really different from organizing amateurs for chamber-music. Most people have been noting their amateur experiences.

The Lancaster Symphony is a professional orchestra -- a freeway philharmonic. (I take coaching from its concertmaster, who commutes from the DC area. I know he plays chamber-music regularly, both in performance and for fun.)

I actually think that for professionals, the best way to attract people is to start with the performance opportunities, and work backwards from there. For instance, do you have a relationship with a local church, where you might be able to start a chamber-music series -- say, just two or three performances a year? (If you don't, do you know any of the local church music directors? If not, you should get acquainted.) Ask a couple of your friends to volunteer to play, and to bring their groups if they have them. Put out a call for more performers. People will probably come out of the woodwork, and the resulting network will probably help you pull in pianists (i.e., a useful connection for the people playing orchestral instruments).

Alternatively, have a chamber-music party. Invite your freelancer friends and ask them to invite their friends in turn. In my personal experience, this has been the most common "read chamber music for fun" approach for freelancers, for whom free food and wine is a major attraction! Though in my personal experience, the host tends to be a local chamber-music lover (and often an amateur musician) who has a big house and is well-hooked into the musical scene (i.e., has a family member who is a local pro, is a big symphony donor, or the like). If you know one of those people, you might be able to persuade them to host. (Or these parties might already exist in your area, but you just haven't gotten hooked up, in which case it's worthwhile to ask around.)

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