The Pomona College Orchestra is an auditioned group. Although the conductor recognizes that most people in the orchestra will not be majoring in music, and some may not even be taking private lessons, it is nonetheless essential that everyone is able to meet the challenges of the orchestra’s repertoire.
Returning members are not required to re-audition. However, re-audition is recommended for those who are unhappy with their seatings or assignments, in case the conductor has misjudged their musical strengths.
When are the auditions?
Auditions for new members are held at the beginning of each academic year, during the first weekend after classes start. (The orchestra does not meet during the first week of the Fall semester.) For the 2021-22 academic year, the audition dates are September 4 and 5. The orchestra’s first rehearsal will be on Tuesday, September 7, at 6:30.
Auditions may also be arranged during other times of the year. However, repertoire decisions and assignments are made in advance, so it will not always be possible to accommodate new members once rehearsals have begun.
Those interested in auditioning for the orchestra should use the signup sheets posted in Thatcher, on the large bulletin board on the north wall (to the left of the department office).
What should I play?
Auditions consist of the following:
- Any solo piece of the applicant’s choice. Neither memorization nor accompaniment is required.
- Major scales, up through four sharps or flats, to demonstrate range, intonation, tone, articulation, etc.
- As appropriate, demonstration of comfort with different clefs and transpositions. Violists must read treble clef; cellists must read tenor and treble clefs; bassoonists and trombonists must read tenor clef. Horn and trumpet players should be familiar with common transpositions, but complete facility is not required.
Returning members should be in touch with the conductor before auditions for the new season begin in case their spot within the orchestra may be challenged.
Who gets the top chairs?
Like many professional orchestras, the PCO uses a rotating seating. The string principals will usually be consistent, but the orchestra does not have “ranked” chairs. Someone sitting 4th is not considered inferior to someone sitting 3rd; for that matter, someone sitting 8th is not considered inferior to someone sitting 2nd. Seating assignments will vary from one program to the other, including some shifting between the first and second violin sections. The conductor attempts to balance the string sections and give the orchestra’s musicians the experience of sitting in different places. Similarly, different people will play principal wind parts in different pieces.
Is it difficult to get in?
The orchestra does not limit the number of qualified string players on its roster, although it has sometimes been necessary in the past to reduce the viola and cello sections for certain pieces. For wind players, the number of spots will generally be limited as follows:
- Woodwinds: Maximum of three per instrument, except usually four flutes. Note: flautists are strongly encouraged to double on piccolo. The music department has piccolos that can be borrowed when necessary.
- Brass: Maximum of six horns, four trumpets, three trombones, and one tuba.
- Harp and percussion: No limitation.
If in doubt, try out! Musicians who cannot be offered a spot in the orchestra as first-semester freshmen are encouraged to audition again in later semesters.