How do I audition for the Amherst Symphony Orchestra?

Just sign up for a 15-minute hearing during Orientation period on the sign-up sheet in the lobby of the music department. Hearings will be conducted during the last two or three days of Orientation; the times and place may vary from year to year so please consult your Orientation Guide.

You are only required to audition once for the orchestra!  Once you are in, you are in, and only seating may change during your time with the orchestra (the orchestra has excellent retention, with about 80-90% of all members performing with us for their entire career at the College).  We encourage you to audition right out of high school, even if you are worried about the time commitment as a first-year; you can always join later when you feel you have time.  And even if you have not picked up your instrument all summer, don't worry--we expect that the orchestra will be finding its footing again during September when we start up rehearsals (we're all a little rusty after the summer!)  However, if you feel you must, you may audition at any time during the school year by contacting Mr. Swanson to set up a hearing time.  If you cannot make any of the audition times during Orientation, but would like to participate in fall term, also please contact Mr. Swanson to schedule a separate hearing time.

During the hearing Mr. Swanson will listen to you perform for only about two minutes (one minute of something slow to demonstrate your musicality, tone and phrasing, and one minute of something fast and technically challenging; the selections may be from the same work).  Often, but not always, he will have you do a bit of sight-reading to assist in determining seating, and often he'll "coach" you for a minute or two to determine how responsive you are to interpretive or technical suggestions. But most importantly, he's there to answer your questions about the orchestra experience, other musical opportunities such as chamber music and new music and how one can register for private lessons at the College.  Mr. Swanson's goal is to find out what you'd like to get out of your classical music experience at Amherst, and to help determine how to make that happen.

If you have any questions at all about the audition process, either as a prospective, admitted, or current student, please do not hesitate to contact the Music Director at  He'll be more than happy to answer any questions (or alleviate any anxieties :) you might have.

What kind of time commitment does the ASO require?

The orchestra rehearses Tuesday & Thursday evenings from 7-930pm with a 15-minute "candy" break :)  Dress rehearsals for weekend concerts usually take place during the afternoon of the day of the concert to review material so it is fresh in our minds and in order to have a collective warm-up; the Music Department is a busy place so it's usually difficult to schedule a dress rehearsal the evening before the concert  The Music Director & Assistant Director make every effort to accommodate any scheduling conflicts you may have with evening examinations or other pressing obligations such as job interviews, review sessions, etc. but as much advance notice of an absence as possible is required in order to assist in efficient rehearsal planning. We try not to waste anyone's precious time if possible!  While the ASO is a big time commitment, it requires no more time than that required at most university orchestras; we feel the time is spent efficiently and the standards are high so the time is well spent.  And of course it is a splendid way to "keep playing" and to participate in the terribly exciting process of re-creating and interpreting some of the greatest masterpieces the world has ever produced.

Is the ASO competitive? 

Because our orchestra performs very challenging conservatory-level works, players must demonstrate a certain degree of competence and the capacity to handle the repertoire. Whenever a musician is very motivated to join the ASO but might initially be overwhelmed with the amount of material covered and/or might need additional technical training through lessons with an adjunct instructor on their instrument, the Music Director will suggest gradual integration into the group; this could mean assignment to just one of the works on an upcoming program, and over time adding more and more repertoire to a player's plate.  For those not immediately accepted into the orchestra, there are other options that can be discussed with the Music Director, including private lessons, smaller ensembles and chamber music.  

Are there auditions for seating?

Wherever possible we try to rotate sufficiently qualified members. Factors to be considered in assigning principal seats include, among others: previous leadership experience, collegiality, talent, ability and achievement, expressed interest in particular repertoire, whether the musician is majoring in music, seniority, conscientiousness in attending rehearsals and notifying the Assitant Director of anticipated rehearsal conflicts, as well as a particular musician's appropriateness (tone color, musicality, technical demands) for particular repertoire.