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You Gotta Start Somewhere:Community Orchestras

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Hi, The response from my "Over 40 Years Post" has been significant! Thanks!

Anyone have any experience with small orchestras?

What I did in addition to lessons again (I dragged out the old books and played catch up on my own for two months, to feel this out) was to join ASTA (for the instrument insurance discount through Merz Huber). Each state ASTA branch lists orchestras for everyone.

We have a community (county?) orchestra here in NJ, got in touch with conductor and she said no auditions but come on Sept. 11 for first rehersal. I am scared!

But in preparation, I got a hold of the sheet music for second chair, xeroxed it big at work (don't laugh) and have been using it in lessons. Oh, have I learned alot in the last month. The pieces are Poet & Peasant by Suppe, Trumpet Concerto by Haydn and (yikes!) Sibelius' Symphone No. 2

Had it not been for the pressure of this, I'd never pushed myself from an elementary first position to shifting and third position in less than two weeks!

How the heck can I play so many notes in one measure when I can't even think that fast?

Let's hope the community orchestra will cut some of it and go alittle slower. What I've been doing is listening to CD's on how it is "supposed" to sound. I have two weeks left.

Anyone have any experience? There was no audition for this, just a reference from my teacher

...Jackie

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The label "community orchestra" can cover a pretty wide range of groups. Some (especially in places like NJ and NY) are very serious groups with a mixture of professionals and advanced amateurs who bring in well-known soloists and perform a full subscription series of concerts. At the other end of the spectrum are groups that welcome all comers and play more modest programs, usually for free or a small ticket charge. Chances are if your teacher knows the orchestra in question and he/she recommended you, it will be suitable for you. But if you don't like it for some reason, by all means keep looking. There are probably at least a couple of community orchestras in your area.

Standard advice for new orchestra players: Be sure to bring a pencil and an orchestra mute to rehearsal. If you're seated in an "inside" chair expect to turn pages. Pay careful attention to the conductor and the section leader, and be sure to count your rests, and you will be fine!

Enjoy!

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You might want to try my 1 from 4 technique: practice sixteenth note patterns at the beginning by playing the first and third sixteenth notes as 8th's. This will keep you in rhythm, you will not negatively effect what's going on around you, you will have a positive effect on those around you who are trying in vain, sloppily, and off tempo,to play all of the sixteenths, and you will be amazed to find that you will soon be able to stick the missing notes right where they belong. This really works! You are participating, for which you shoud consider yourself covered with congratulations. By your own account you are moving farther in less time than you ever thought you could. Play proud!

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My teacher also suggested I think about joining the local community orchestra ("thinking about it" is as far as I've dared to go!). They don't normally have auditions except for principals. It is a very scary prospect though, since about half of the members are, or have been, professional teachers and/or players, and much of the repertoire reflects that level. Still, in talking with a couple of the 1st violinists, the attitude seems to be that they like to help build up the lesser players and not point fingers.

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If you're not familiar with the level of play in this particular group, I would strongly suggest sitting in on a rehearsal as a spectator (auditor, actually) before taking the plunge. Given that you are only beginning to learn shifting, have you talked with your teacher about whether you're ready to join this orchestra? Have they recommended that you do this and are they familiar with the level of play in this group?

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Make sure you don't hurt yourself physically trying to keep up with everyone else. If you have any weaknesses in your posture or position, they are sure to be exaggerated in the heat of the moment. But it's worth a try!Even if you just play the first note of every beat (in tune), you will be learning something and won't detract from the whole.

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Every community orchestra is different. Some welcome beginners. Some don't. Some seat by seniority, some seat by ability, and some rotate or randomize seating. Rehearsal schedules (and attendance policies) and the frequency of concerts vary. So too does the difficulty of the repertoire, and the degree to which there must be compensation for the fact that the players are not full-time professionals; in general, cuts are not made, but tempos are sometimes slightly slower. The ages of players, their demographic, and their attitudes towards newcomers vary, too. These are all things that you'll get a sense of during your first set with them; don't be afraid to look around at other orchestras in your area, if this one doesn't turn out to be to your tastes.

By the way, you mean "second violin", not "second chair".

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Whoops, I meant second violin, not chair. I, too had misgivings about this and wanted to wait a year. But, after playing for my teacher, and have called her this evening, she has reassured me that I'll fit in just fine as she is familiar with this group. Heck, it doesn't hurt to try.

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