Performing with orchestra
Is performing with an orchestra, professional or amateur, as easy as dropping them an email and asking them so?
I presume you mean playing with the orchestra - not playing a solo :D
No. I meant playing a solo with an orchestra
I think usually the concert organiser seeks out the soloist—not the other way around. The soloist ends up being the concertmaster or local talent, and not some randy.
The amateur orchestras I play in often make contact with people studying at the local music conservatoire. You could try emailing, I can’t see it doing any harm!
Jake, indeed, normally the orchestra asks a soloist (whom they know through various possible connections) or sometimes even launches a call for soloists who then audition. I am talking amateur orchestras, just to be clear. But: I believe it is harmless to send a polite email to a local community orchestra, introduce yourself, and ask if they would be interested in putting your viola concerto on their next program (with you as the soloist). You could offer to meet the conductor and play for them, so that they can hear you play, chat a bit, talk about rehearsal schedules, etc, get to know each other. Just be realistic and understand that the probability is high that they will not be interested, for whatever reasons. But it is not impossible.
Also keep in mind that virtually all professional orchestras, and even many amateur orchestras, set their programs a year or more in advance. In late 2017, soon after becoming principal violist in an amateur orchestra, I tried to recommend a soloist to our conductor, only to be told that all the soloists were already booked through the 2018-19 season.
You might have the best chance if you joined an orchestra and established an excellent reputation - politeness, preparedness, cooperativeness - as well as outstanding performing skills.
It really depends on the orchestra. I volunteered to play a solo with our local (no-audition) community orchestra. I've been playing viola with the group for a couple of years. I told the conductor I wanted to perform the Beethoven F Major Romance Op. 50 as a soloist. He said, "Fine." They bought the score and parts for me and everything. I'm performing in December.
Good for you Paul - I played that (on violin) with my orchestra at the time. One of the biggest thrills of a lifetime :)
Just as an anecdata point: the no-audition community orchestra I play in tends to feature principal players - in recent years, cello, harp, flute, and violin (the concertmaster gets more as a perk of being concertmaster). Since I joined, we had a high school violist from where the conductor teaches and an outside cellist (perhaps he was connected but I don't know). There are also community/semi-pro orchestras around here that hold concerto competitions to select student soloists.
If only! I don't know how it is everywhere, but we live in a large US city, and even the amateur community orchestras have competitions to pick their soloists. Maybe it is different when you are outside a big city, but here it is actually rather hard to get to solo with orchestra.
In my city (and probably most others), the only time you'd ask a conductor for a performance opportunity is if you're friends with them & it's a student/amateur orchestra. Otherwise, they already have enough choices, due to the oversupply of young highly trained performers.
I know there is a solo concerto competition thing in my nearest city (about 17 miles away). However, I think it is for 21 and under (I am 22 this year)
My community orchestra's situation is similar to Mengwei's. We are auditioned, but lightly so, in that we accept most string players. The conductor generally plans soloists a season or two in advance. We feature principal or highly skilled section players, who usually have experience playing solos with orchestra (and as the concertmaster, I have more of these opportunities). Like most amateur orchestras, if we engage outside soloists they are usually people that we expect to draw a significant audience -- often those people are principal players in local
Jake, what's your orchestral experience?
@Steve, I played in 2 youth orchestras for over 5 years but that was almost 4 years ago. I attended my local amateur orchestra for 2 rehearsals before they decided they didn't want me. I'm going to go back there before christmas this year
I'm sure that's the way to go - not by cold-calling but by establishing a relationship with an orchestra and conductor before broaching the subject of playing a concerto with them
Anecdote time - 40-odd years ago a young schoolboy named Paul Brough, probably aged about 14, turned up at our Greenwich Symphony Orchestra (one of the world's worst) and asked if there was a vacancy to play timpani, at which he turned out to be rather good. After a while he presented us with some nicely written parts of his own composition to play. One of the senior players commented that he thought it "better than some of Sir Arthur Bliss's stuff". A few years later while Paul was at college he organised a chamber orchestra that played at some quite prestigious venues around London. I forgot about him until a few years ago when his name cropped up as conductor of the (100% professional) BBC Singers. From his wikipedia entry he seems to have become quite a success as a conductor and teacher at the Royal Academy of Music. I think the moral is "cultivate your grass roots".
Oh! I should have added that we played the Larsson viola concerto (concertino?). I'm uninformed about where that falls in a typical repertoire progression. The violist also joined us after intermission for Sibelius 2.
Jake, why did your amateur orchestra decide "they didn't want you"? Whose decision was that, and what was the reason?
Just a clarification -- my performance of the Beethoven Romance will be on violin, not viola. I can't imagine playing those high scales on viola. That would sound awful.
When I soloed with a community orchestra, it was the Bruch Romanze, which I recommended because I thought the orchestra could handle it. It has among the easiest orchestra parts in the viola-and-orchestra literature. I don't think most community orchestras can play Walton or Bartok, and any orchestra that can play those will get professional soloists (except for the occasional youth competition winner).
My local amateur symphony is sort of semi professional. They are very good and could do Walton or Bartok. However, since starting this discussion, I had a brain wave. There's a less good amateur group, which is run by one of my conductors from youth orchestra. I think they could pull off the concerto I had in mind
My previous community orchestra did the Walton with our principal violist as the soloist.
In my dotage I am fortunate to play with a conductor-less 30-piece chamber orchestra of mostly aged, seasoned amateur musicians. We perform several concerts every year and during the summer months, with a relaxed "rehearsal" schedule we allow any of our anxious members to play a solo with us (usually a concerto). If they go particularly well we encourage them to perform them in one of our regular season concerts.
*Lydia, its Zelter's E-Flat viola concerto. I'm learning it currently
Rare work, no readily available orchestral parts (therefore $$$ to rent or buy, if it can be tracked down by the orchestra's librarian at all, which may not be possible for amateur librarians), and almost certainly not known by the conductor, and probably neither conductor nor orchestra members have ever heard it before. Bad choice.
The orchestra are known for playing not as well known pieces. I think it would be a good fit. According to the foreword in my edition, parts are easily available
I just did a quick google search for parts and only came up with piano reductions. I would suggest tracking down the actual parts yourself before telling the conductor or orchestra librarian that the parts are easily available.
@Mary Ellen, I have also just done a Google search and found them haha. I must admit from what you said I didn't think I would
Very curious to know where you found them since I found lots of links that appeared to have the parts but when I clicked through, turned out to be the piano reduction. Could you share the link, please?
Zelter was the poor man's Germanic version of Mozart, no???
I'll repeat what others said; your best chance would be to volunteer a solo with the orchestra where you are currently principal Viola. Be sure the parts and score are available, affordable, and within the orchestra's size and technical limits. The last time I did a solo with my orchestra, it was an obscure modern work, and I bought the parts. -- Can you do Berlioz, Harold in Italy ?
@Jean, thats the link I found
Amateur-orchestra conductors who choose lesser-known works generally pick works that speak to them that might not be played as heavily by professional symphonies. Most obscure works are not masterpieces. You will want to pay for not just a set of the parts, but also a conductor's score.
Thanks, Jean and Jake.
@Lydia, no way to get things more known than playing them ??
Here's the thing: you are not the conductor. You need to convince the conductor to program both the piece and you as the soloist. If you have a good reputation in your area, you are more likely to convince a conductor to play an obscure piece. If you don't have a reputation as a performer, picking a piece the conductor isn't familiar with makes it that much harder to get the opportunity.
Andrew explained my point succinctly.
@Amdrew & Lydia, I understand your points. But unknowns are not always bad and could potentially get an audience due to being unknown because people are curious. Thats my thinking anyway
Good luck convincing a conductor of that. Your conductor is going to wonder, "Who is this guy? Why should I take a chance on him?" You don't have a performance degree; as far as I know, you don't hold an FRSM that would give some indication of performance qualification. It's unclear to me whether you study with a famous teacher. I suspect if you did, you would not have needed to ask this question in this forum. If you did, it would be better if that famous teacher called a conductor he knows and says, "I have this exceptionally talented student that I think would really wow an audience" and sales-pitches a concerto (and thus provides assurance that it should go well). The paper qualifications suggest at least a minimum level of competence, and the conductor can feel reasonably assured that the famous teacher would not send him a student who isn't ready.
@Lydia, you have some valid points there
If you finance the venue, rehearsals and concert out of your pocket, any orchestra will play with you.
Tony's statement is not correct. You can HIRE an orchestra to play with you, but you cannot normally buy a slot on an orchestra's regular season. (If you're leaving a large bequest to a community organization, you could certainly pressure them into that as a condition of the gift, but it would not be a guarantee.)