How Do I Audition for the Amherst Symphony Orchestra?

Just sign up for a twenty-minute hearing during Orientation period (typically the last week of August/the week immediately prior to Labor Day) on the sign-up sheet in the lobby of the music department.  Any Five College--Amherst, Smith, Mount Holyoke, Hampshire, University of Massachusetts--student is eligible to audition, although students from institutions other than Amherst are strongly advised to join their own college orchestra wherever possible (Hampshire students do not have their own orchestra, so they of course are encouraged to audition). 

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.  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.

During the hearing Mr. Swanson will listen to you perform for only about two minutes and will have you do a bit of sight-reading to assist in determining seating.  But even more 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.

For the hearing please prepare one minute of something fast and technically challenging, and something slower and more lyrical, to demonstrate tone quality, phrasing and overall musicality.  The two selections can be from different movements of the same work if you desire.

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 Symphony Orchestra Entail?

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 Director & Personnel 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 one week advance notice of an absence is required in order to assist in efficient rehearsal planning so that no one's time is wasted.  Symphony orchestra is a big time commitment, but no more than that required at most university orchestras.  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. Wherever possible, the music director will suggest gradual integration into the group if more technical preparation is required by a new member; this could mean assignment to one of the works on a two or three work program so that the new member does not feel overwhelmed.  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, seniority, conscientiousness in attending rehearsals and notifying the personnel manager of anticipated rehearsal conflicts, as well as a particular musician's appropriateness (tone color, musicality, technical demands) for particular repertoire.