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Author Topic: Joining a community orchestra  (Read 4086 times)
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davdud101
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« on: Jan 05, 2017, 03:51AM »

Hey guys!
I have planned to join my local community orchestra a couple of months after I get myself settled state-side. But the issue I need to work out is figuring out which instrument I should apply for. Anyone at ANY age above high school level is allowed to join this orchestra. I haven't really considered doing tenor trombone, but my sights are for the moment set on either trumpet OR playing bass on my large bore.
The big thing here is that my reading is not *very* good on trumpet, but it'll improve a LOT, FAST by joining this group (this I know, because my reading has always improved when I've been in a group, rather than alone in a practice room working on tone and technique without any tunes or goals). However, my bass trombone playing/low-range reading could also improve a lot - not that I have any SERIOUS needs for it, but it'd be fun to get better in that way anyway.

What are some thoughts on this? I don't really have so many goals with the trombone (or bass, even) at the moment, and I'm certain it'd be *more* useful for myself to join as a trumpeter, but what would you guys do?  :-P
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« Reply #1 on: Jan 05, 2017, 05:42AM »

I'm not sure what you should do. But what I would do would be first to scout them and find out what they needed the most, then see if I could fill that position. Otherwise, I would just present myself and let them figure it out. If I didn't like it, I have the option of either not going back or using it as a stepping-stone to something either within them or elsewhere that I really wanted.

...Geezer
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« Reply #2 on: Jan 05, 2017, 05:44AM »

For local community orchestra?

If you want to play trumpet, play trumpet!

I can guarantee they'll be thrilled to have you, even if your reading isn't *very* good on trumpet. You may not be a great reader in your mind, but you're probably a savant by community standards.

Orchestral bass 'bone parts don't necessarily go that low, so it might not be a fruitful endeavor anyway.
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« Reply #3 on: Jan 05, 2017, 05:47AM »

Are you sure it's fair to the group for you to knowingly join on instruments or reading levels that you are weak on?

Why wouldn't you improve the group and join on the instrument you are best at?
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« Reply #4 on: Jan 05, 2017, 07:20AM »

If it's a community orchestra playing standard repertoire music you won't get much sight reading practice on any brass instrument. Lots of practice counting rests.

If they play adaptations or pop music you might get a bit more action.

If you want more sight reading practice, join a band.

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« Reply #5 on: Jan 05, 2017, 07:49AM »

You might also be surprised that even community orchestras sometimes have auditions, and they usually keep people for the whole season unless someone leaves. Orchestras generally don't have 8 trombones, they will limit it to 3 or 4. Community bands are more likely to take anyone who shows up.

Best of luck.
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« Reply #6 on: Jan 05, 2017, 07:54AM »

You might also be surprised that even community orchestras sometimes have auditions, and they usually keep people for the whole season unless someone leaves. Orchestras generally don't have 8 trombones, they will limit it to 3 or 4. Community bands are more likely to take anyone who shows up.

Best of luck.

True, but they also often times have a sub list. Not entirely sure how that works, but I would guess it involves having everyone at rehearsals and then picking the best available for a concert, with the "understudies" filling in and/or on reserve call-up? Anyone have experience with this scenario?

...Geezer
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« Reply #7 on: Jan 05, 2017, 07:58AM »

The answer depends on so many factors. 

  • What parts does the orchestra need covered?  I sure wouldn't double a trumpet part, and leave a trombone part uncovered. 
  • How strong is the orchestra?  In community orchestras where I've played, the brass have always been solid.  I've got a trumpet and a tuba at home, but if I played them in this group, I would not be adding to the quality.  (I play in other groups that beg me to bring my tuba.) 
  • How many rehearsals does the group have for a given concert?  Plenty of community orchestras have dreadfully long rehearsal seasons for a single concert.  Why not play trumpet?  It takes plenty of the string players that long to get up to speed.


Talk to the music director.  They've always been honest and helpful to me.
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Steven Cangemi
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« Reply #8 on: Jan 05, 2017, 08:29AM »

If your sight reading on Bb trumpet playing Bb music isn't strong, you're really going to have trouble when they throw a part written in D at you.

That said, if you can get the music in advance, sight reading would be less of a problem. It seems to me that a lot of community orchestras get most of their repertoire off of IMSLP; if that's the case, all you need to know is what to download.
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« Reply #9 on: Jan 05, 2017, 09:20AM »

True, but they also often times have a sub list. Not entirely sure how that works, but I would guess it involves having everyone at rehearsals and then picking the best available for a concert, with the "understudies" filling in and/or on reserve call-up? Anyone have experience with this scenario?

I'm not sure there is is any typical when discussing community groups.  In groups I've seen, the subs, when needed, have been ringers.  They are highly capable players who are not usually members of the group.
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Steven Cangemi
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« Reply #10 on: Jan 05, 2017, 09:22AM »

If it's a community orchestra playing standard repertoire music you won't get much sight reading practice on any brass instrument. Lots of practice counting rests.

Much?  You shouldn't get any.  The rep is published and you should prepare it before the first rehearsal.  In fact, you should have listened to each piece and made an attempt to understand the music in entirety, not just the trombone part, before the first rehearsal.

That isn't always practical, but it should be the goal. 
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Tim Richardson
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« Reply #11 on: Jan 05, 2017, 09:29AM »

I'm not sure there is is any typical when discussing community groups.  In groups I've seen, the subs, when needed, have been ringers.  They are highly capable players who are not usually members of the group.

Absolutely the case - in my experience with community bands. I hate it, although I bend over back'ards to help them by pointing out quirks in the music that popped out during rehearsals - quirks that may not be self-evident to even a skilled sight-reader. After all, the goal is to make good music via teamwork. I was hoping that community orchestras would operate at a higher level though <sigh>.

...Geezer
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« Reply #12 on: Jan 05, 2017, 09:37AM »

True, but they also often times have a sub list. Not entirely sure how that works, but I would guess it involves having everyone at rehearsals and then picking the best available for a concert, with the "understudies" filling in and/or on reserve call-up? Anyone have experience with this scenario?

...Geezer

In the groups where I play, ringers are used in sections where they just can't find enough amateur players, like the violin section. Subs are sometimes handled by the player who is going to be absent, or maybe the director, or a personnel manager. Some groups do have a formal sub list. Some don't.
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« Reply #13 on: Jan 05, 2017, 09:39AM »

True, but they also often times have a sub list. Not entirely sure how that works, but I would guess it involves having everyone at rehearsals and then picking the best available for a concert, with the "understudies" filling in and/or on reserve call-up? Anyone have experience with this scenario?

...Geezer

I play in several orchestras in this area and can describe what most of them do:

"Solo" chairs, i.e. where one player plays a part, are filled with regulars if available.  If a regular is not available there is usually a list of preferred substitutes.  In my orchestra we have 4 trombone players; 3 are regulars and one is the sub.  The sub gets to play a lot since the regulars often have to bow out of performances due to external commitments.  This coming concert we had one regular and the sub bow out and I'm bringing in a promising youngster for some experience.

If you play an orchestral string (violin, viola, cello, bass) anybody is welcome, almost regardless of ability.  If instead of trumpet you decided to play viola, there is no limit on how many groups would take you in (depending on how well you can play).  I know of a few trombonists who learned an orchestral string in order to get known by an orchestra so when a trombone chair opened up they were there.

Community bands will often take whomever is available.  The trombone section in the Hollis Town Band has varied from 2 to 12 during the years I was there.  In some bands there is a limit.  For example, in the Nevers Band of Concord NH we only have 3 trombone folders and it's tough to read 3 players on a folder; 2 is the limit.  So Nevers limits the trombones to 6.
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Bruce Guttman
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« Reply #14 on: Jan 05, 2017, 10:14AM »

Absolutely the case - in my experience with community bands. I hate it,
...Geezer

I'm with you there.  Though the ringers (in a band) are usually excellent players, they tend to do it their way and we end up accommodating them, so tempo and dynamic changes we worked on don't get used, etc.  One band I play in always has ringers show up at the concert, and it's always less than optimal. 

Sitting in an orchestra as an inexperienced trumpet?  I would never dare.  There's only one of you, you're very exposed, and they expect a level of professional expertise out of trumpet and trombone that isn't required on second desk violin or viola. 
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Tim Richardson
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« Reply #15 on: Jan 05, 2017, 10:44AM »

Much?  You shouldn't get any.  The rep is published and you should prepare it before the first rehearsal.
What kind of community groups are you playing in?  I've been playing in various ones (orchestras and bands) for about fifty years and have never, ever been given the music before the first rehearsal.

As for the op's question, go where the need is.  If you don't know the group's personnel make-up then talk to the conductor.  You will probably be up to speed on any part in no time at all.
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Steve
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« Reply #16 on: Jan 05, 2017, 11:02AM »

What kind of community groups are you playing in?  I've been playing in various ones (orchestras and bands) for about fifty years and have never, ever been given the music before the first rehearsal.

As for the op's question, go where the need is.  If you don't know the group's personnel make-up then talk to the conductor.  You will probably be up to speed on any part in no time at all.

As an orchestra Librarian (in addition to trombonist) I will try to hand out the next concert's music when they turn in the current concert's music.  So I will have the May concert music at the March concert.  When I can I will have the March concert music at the Christmas Concert and usually most of the Christmas concert music at the November concert.  I don't hand out November concert music in advance.

When I can, I will refer to IMSLP so players can get a head start on their parts if they are so inclined.  String players tend to be pretty finicky on bowings and often will want their real parts and have to wait.  With a new piece I try to give the Conductor and the Concert Master parts to work out the bowings in advance (mostly for major works; Pops stuff is done ad hoc).
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Bruce Guttman
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« Reply #17 on: Jan 05, 2017, 11:11AM »

Good discussion points, guys!

The other thing I dislike about a band calling in it's "ringers" is getting passed over for a higher part that I could easily play. Not fair. That said, I totally don't mind their calling in someone to fill in the bottom part(s).

...Geezer
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« Reply #18 on: Jan 05, 2017, 11:28AM »

I joined a community orchestra where all the first parts were filled by ringers.  Meant that all the rehearsals the key solos were silent.  Drove me nuts.  Then the ringers would come in for the last rehearsal and the concert.  We might as well have skipped all the rehearsals before.

Fortunately, that conductor got sacked after she "fired" me and the next one promoted the best players of the regulars to the Principal chairs.

I don't mind being picky about the principal players, but if you are a principal player in one of these organizations you should be at all (or at least most of) the rehearsals.
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Bruce Guttman
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« Reply #19 on: Jan 05, 2017, 11:32AM »

and i'd bet the ringers got paid
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