Important Orchestra Questions to Ask When Selecting an Ensemble

Joining a Youth Ensemble?

Here are 7 important orchestra questions to consider asking when selecting a youth ensemble:

What is the prestige of the ensemble?

Distinguished and revered orchestras perform original, complex masterworks. Students who perform alongside talented peers and under influential directors receive valuable experiences that could be beneficial for them to succeed at both the collegiate and professional level. Students need to expand their musical repertoire and knowledge so they can hone their skills and become masters of their craft.

Can students expect quality performance experiences?

While many youth orchestras have concerts in public school and church auditoriums, some regularly perform in collegiate or even public concert halls. Visiting different venues can allow students to experience different settings and see what type of venues they like best. Additionally, some orchestras will offer travel opportunities, such as occasional Carnegie Hall concerts or international tours.

What is the reputation of the conductor?

Youth orchestra conductors have a wide range of credentials from top high school educators to collegiate conductors, and even some who also lead professional orchestras. Students should visit at least one rehearsal. Some orchestras offer open rehearsal nights for interested performers to sit in and play. Look for a balance of enjoyable and challenging rehearsal experiences. A reference letter from a respected conductor looks great in a profile!

Are there coaching opportunities?

Many youth orchestras employ instrumental specialists to assist with sectionals, lead chamber ensembles, or offer master classes. Others have “side-by-side” concerts with a local professional orchestra. Some have concentrated summer camp experiences. Coaches can significantly expand a performers music knowledge and techniques.

Does the ensemble have concerto or original compositions contests?

Auditioning in concerto contests can be valuable experiences because the competitive setting is similar to collegiate auditions. Submitting an original composition could provide an opportunity for judging panels to give performers constructive feedback to improve future performances.

What is the organizational structure of the ensemble?

Many youth orchestras offer ensembles at several age and ability levels, while others are only single advanced ensembles. Some are sponsored by local professional orchestras, performing arts organizations, home school groups, or public-school districts. Evaluate prospective ensembles by looking at an orchestra’s website, monitoring its social networks, and speaking with current orchestra parents. The size of the ensemble group is not always the best judge.

What are participation costs?

Nearly all youth orchestras have tuition fees. Many give family discounts and offer some scholarship opportunities. There will be concert attire expectations to consider and possibly the cost of travel and camp experiences. Whatever the price, these experiences are likely to give students a great return on their investment of time, effort, and resources.

A bit of exploration will help students and parents know what important orchestra questions to ask in order to make the best decision for selecting an orchestra ensemble.