What do college orchestras expect in auditions?

December 1, 2018, 3:40 PM · My student Brian asked me what he would have to be able to do to get into the Rutgers college orchestra. I don't know and a visit to the Rutgers web-site didn't clarify anything but the when and where but not the what they expected from an audition.

My guess is that somebody here has a clue as to what it might take to become a member of the college orchestra.

Replies (21)

Edited: December 1, 2018, 4:07 PM · My local conservatory requires the following, this is a direct copy and paste:


- Two contrasting movements from an unaccompanied Bach sonata or partita, or the entire Chaconne
- Two Paganini caprices, or any Ysaye sonata for solo violin
- A complete sonata for violin and piano from the 19th or 20th century
- A complete concerto from the Romantic period or 20th century
*All Bach solo works, etudes/caprices, concertos, and virtuoso pieces must be performed from memory

December 1, 2018, 5:27 PM · Contact the director of the orchestra.

Is this a "music class" or a "volunteer" or "after-hours" orchestra? That could make a big difference.

December 1, 2018, 5:57 PM · It entirely depends on the college in question. Christopher's list is appropriate for a conservatory or a university music school orchestra. I cannot imagine that Rutgers requirements would be nearly so stringent. I have a former student who got into a flagship state university (NOT one noted for a strong music program) orchestra with the first movement of Lalo.
December 1, 2018, 6:19 PM · A simple Google search will get you the info. Try this: LINK

It looks, like many other similar schools, that they have one orchestra for the conservatory (the Symphony Orchestra, RSO), and another for the general student body supplemented by some community members (the Sinfonia).

The RSO's audition material looks to be all excerpts, similar to a professional orchestra. The Sinfonia asks for two contrasting works (fast and slow), much more similar to a community orchestra.

My expectation that for the Sinfonia, intermediate-level repertoire would be adequate.

December 2, 2018, 7:28 AM · Good grief.
I couldn't play ANY of those.
And I held down a job as Principal First Violin in a professional orchestra.
And, you know, I was never asked to play any of those in the orchestra.
I've come across many people with a virtuoso technique, who couldn't fit in a section.
And couldn't do a short down bow to save their life.
December 2, 2018, 11:49 AM · I can’t play any of it either XD.
December 2, 2018, 12:34 PM · Christopher, they are audition requirements to a MM program, presumably to study with one particular professor whose students do well at major international competitions.
December 2, 2018, 7:40 PM · Are those requirements just to enter the orchestra, after one has already enrolled as a student?! They seem very intense just for orchestra placement.
Edited: December 2, 2018, 8:30 PM · At my school, the orchestra is only comprised of students, so I guess you have to be admitted to the program with those requirements before you can be in the orchestra. There is a symphony orchestra in my city, but most of the members there are either current students at my school or past graduates.

I should add that I am not in the music program at my school, so I do not know the full story.

Edited: December 2, 2018, 10:25 PM · Took me about 10 mouse clicks, but I found this:
http://www.masongross.rutgers.edu/content/rutgers-symphony-orchestra-string-audition-info
December 2, 2018, 11:07 PM · Paul, I linked to the orchestra info up above. :-)

Malcolm, surely your statement is hyperbole? You were never able to play two contrasting movements of solo Bach, a violin sonata, or a Romantic-or-later violin concerto?

Christopher, the norm for most universities is that you do not have to be a student at the conservatory to play in the orchestra. So the admission requirements for the conservatory are not equivalent to the orchestra audition requirements. Indeed, most college orchestras will audition for seating at least once a school year, if not each semester.

December 2, 2018, 11:29 PM · Yep missed that! ;)
December 3, 2018, 4:38 PM · Hi Lydia.
No, I'm not joking.
I've never been a soloist / concerto player.
I've never wanted to be either.
I suppose my greatest strength is being able to read the part and put it out to broadcast standard pretty quickly.
And to listen and fit.
For some of my career, I was playing in an inherently unbalanced (broadcast) orchestra. 3 desks of firsts vs full woodwind and brass.
So we had a mike on each desk - turned up. Scary stuff!
Malcolm.
December 3, 2018, 5:05 PM · Do not play and cannot play are two separate things. I dare say Malcolm that you could indeed play that repertory based on your orchestra skills. A few weeks of practice and you would have it.
The demands of professional orchestra repertory in an ensemble that has a 48 week season surely has a reasonable correlation with the skill to play the solo repertory well at least in the studio with the score.
December 3, 2018, 9:25 PM · Malcolm, how did you get a job in a professional orchestra without demonstrating skill as a soloist?
December 4, 2018, 4:00 AM · I believe that for college orchestras, you generally bring in one piece to play— could be Bach, a concerto, or something else that makes you look good. Maybe a contrasting one. Then they will have you read some orchestral excerpts, pre-advertised or pure sight-reading. This assumes that you are already attending the college, of course. But audition period usually involves processing a lot of applicants, so they’re not going to have time to hear the complete Sibelius AND the Chaconne from everyone.
December 4, 2018, 1:36 PM · Thank you everyone:

Rutgers has two "Orchestras" the music majors have one, the non-music majors have another. The problem is that when I called Rutgers music department they sent me to the web-site and, as I noted in my query, the web-site only references the "Where and When" auditions take place.

Perhaps I'll just have to take him to a performance and get him to talk to the conductor and players himself.

December 4, 2018, 4:45 PM · The material for the music major orchestra auditions at Rutgers seem pretty standard. Even at our state schools out here in California, a few excerpts from Debussy, Mozart, or Beethoven are fairly commonplace for orchestra acceptance/placement.
December 4, 2018, 7:51 PM · George, that's not true, per my link above. That page links to the two orchestras, and the orchestras link to their audition info.

Go here: LINK

Search for "string" on the page. Read the two paragraphs. The symphony orchestra links to audition excerpts. For non-majors and sinfonia, they specify audition requirements directly on the page.

December 6, 2018, 4:02 AM · Kate,
In the days I was auditioning, we were asked for "two contrasting pieces".
I remember preparing Smetana's Aus der Heimat No 2 in the Peters' edition (?) as used by Ricci in his famous "Virtuoso Showpieces" LP.
Corwin, thanks for the kind words.
Malcolm
December 6, 2018, 6:38 AM ·


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