Welcome, Class of 2024!

Dear Musicians of the Great Class of 2024:

First, let me send my heartfelt wishes for yours and your families’ continuing health in this difficult time. At Princeton we’re striving to meet the stiff challenge of the moment, with new means of communicating and teaching, and finding a sense of community, even at a distance. We’re proceeding, with great hope, that we will be fully back in business in the Fall, but if the challenge continues, we will continue to step forward to meet it.

Warm congratulations on your acceptance to Princeton! It’s a great achievement, and I’m sure your family and friends are proud of you. Some of you I’ve met, some not, but this letter gives me the chance to address all the orchestral instrumentalists who got this far, and invite you to the final step — saying “Yes!” to Old Nassau.

There is much to tell of the extraordinarily rich musical culture at Princeton with so many opportunities. For all musicians, whatever their stripe, I can in good faith say plainly that, in my opinion, we offer an unmatched quality of undergraduate musical experience.

We are in year three in our magnificent teaching and rehearsal facility in the Lewis Arts Complex. The Effron Music Building has brought us 20 new practice rooms, 6 teaching studios, rooms for percussion, jazz and electronic media, and a state-of-the-art large ensemble rehearsal room and recording studio which can easily accommodate a large orchestra and chorus. Here’s a little about each facet.

  • For you as orchestral instrumentalists, the Princeton University Orchestra, 100+ strong, plays at a high level, takes international tours biennially, and has an enthusiastic local audience following. There are two other orchestras at Princeton besides PUO: Sinfonia, and the Princeton Camerata. Feel free to explore our this site (and our YouTube page, which will have several more recent performances posted over the next couple months) for audio, video, and repertory lists for PUO going back to the late 1980’s. As I mentioned above, PUO tours every other year — next year’s plans are Greece, Serbia, and Bulgaria.
  • Running parallel to the Orchestra is a large chamber music program. You can enroll in it as a course (offered every term) and be coached by members of our superb instrumental performance faculty. There is also an unconducted chamber orchestra offered as course. There are two very active student-run chamber music societies. Everything from string quartets, piano ensembles, percussion quartets, brass quintets, clarinet quartets, etc.
  • We have a large variety of performance-oriented courses in addition to chamber music. Among these is a course exclusively for orchestra members that has both an academic component — learning more about PUO’s current repertory — and also takes into account the time spent in rehearsal. The two experiences are mutually reinforcing in ways that students report finding very meaningful. Music majors and students in the Performance Program may take their studio lessons as a course for both their junior and senior years.
  • Our instrumental faculty all have the highest credentials: many play in top international ensembles, including the New York Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, the New Jersey Symphony, numerous other top chamber and new music groups, and in Broadway pits. They have been hand-picked for their ability to relate to talented students in a rigorous academic environment.
  • The Certificate Program in Music Performance, started in 1991, was the first such program offered in a liberal arts setting, and makes it possible for talented students, no matter what their eventual career aspirations, to continue to grow as performers. Our graduates occupy seats in major international organizations (the Metropolitan Opera and San Francisco Symphony among them). They also are doctors, teachers, architects, attorneys, and economists. You do not have to be a music major to be in the Performance Program. 
  • A unique program we offer is the possibility of a junior year semester as a full-time student at the Royal College of Music in London, with the possibility of completing a Masters in one calendar year after graduating from Princeton. The program is four months in a great conservatory, in the world’s greatest music town, immersed in music.
  • The Donna Wang Friedman ’80 Master Class series features visits from major artists, including Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center clarinetist David Shifrin and oboist Stephen Taylor; trumpeter Chris Gekker, Concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra David Kim, Principal Horn of the Met Joe Anderer, Principal Viola of the New York Philharmonic Cynthia Phelps, Principal Cello of the New York Philharmonic Carter Brey, pianist Jeremy Denk and Principal Clarinet of the New York Philharmonic Anthony McGill.
  • We also offer Early Music Princeton, which explores Renaissance and Early Baroque performance opportunities on period instruments. Less traditional ensembles include a Chamber Percussion Ensemble, a Steel Drum Band, and an African Music Ensemble, among others, all of which offer expert instruction.
  • Finally, let me just say a word about the Music Department as a whole. Our working philosophy is that academics and performance are not separate, walled-off compartments. Rather, they work together closely to provide experiences combining intellectual discipline and musical intuition that open new avenues of growth in musical understanding. I believe we are the leader in this holistic approach.

I will be more than happy to put you in touch with any of our instrumental faculty, and also can arrange for you to talk with current Princeton students.

Fumika Mizuno ’21, violinist and concerto competition winner:  fmizuno@princeton.edu

Leland Ko ’20, cellist and concerto competition winner: lpko@princeton.edu

Claire Schmeller ’23, violinist and Orchestra Treasurer: cs54@princeton.edu

Yang Song ’20, clarinetist and Orchestra Co-President (emeritus): yangsong@princeton.edu

I will have Zoom Open House hours at which you can come and ask me anything you want. My hours are Tuesday April 14th, 1–3pm, and Thursday April 16th, 1–3pm. The addresses for the meetings will be posted Monday on both this website and the Music Department website. Looking forward to seeing you!

With all best wishes,
Michael Pratt
Music Director