How do I audition for the Princeton University Orchestra?

Auditioning for the Princeton University Orchestra is a simple process:

  • Download your excerpt. The cover sheet in the for the excerpts identifies them and provides a link to a recommended YouTube video as a sample.
  • Details for signing up for an audition can be found on the Auditions page.
  • Bring the excerpt and a brief work of your choice to the audition. We recommend picking a work that’s different in character to your excerpt.
  • The auditions are ten minutes. Plan on playing about 8 minutes, as it always takes a little time to set up.
  • Come to the audition a little early so you can fill out the information sheet.

Good luck!

What kind of time commitment does the Orchestra entail?

The orchestra averages three full rehearsals a week (Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays 4:30-6:30), with occasional sectional rehearsals outside the regular schedule, usually on Saturday mornings. Concert weeks (4 weeks out of the year) a rehearsal is added (Tuesday). Each concert is performed twice, and there are no rehearsals the week after concerts. Of course, there is individual practice time, as well.

So the rehearsal time commitment is considerably less than that of an athletic team. How competitive is membership the Orchestra?

You have to demonstrate that you will be able to handle, to a reasonable degree, the repertory that the Orchestra is playing. If the repertory is beyond a student’s technical level, then it’s really unfair to ask her/him to try to play music that might be frustrating to both that individual and the group, as well. The Orchestra’s repertory has always included some quite challenging works, such as Mahler symphonies, Strauss tone poems, Stravinsky ballets, etc.

The number of wind, brass and percussion openings are determined by the Orchestra’s repertory — larger pieces require more players, though not necessarily for each concert. The usual string complement is 32 violins, 10 – 14 each of violas and cellos, and 8 – 10 basses.

If I don’t get in, are there other playing opportunities at Princeton?

Yes! The Princeton Sinfonia is a full-size orchestra that has a reduced performance schedule. It is conducted by Ruth Ochs, a professional conductor long associated with the Music Department. There are also several student-run chamber orchestra on campus that you can audition for, such as Princeton Camerata.

For wind, brass, and percussion players, the Princeton University Wind Ensemble is yet another option. Like the Orchestra, the Wind Ensemble rehearses twice a week and performs in Richardson Auditorium. Wind Ensemble rehearsals do not conflict with Orchestra rehearsals so that it is possible for musicians to join both groups. For more information, see the Wind Ensemble bulletin board on the main floor of the Woolworth Music Center or visit the Wind Ensemble’s website.

When is the next chance to audition?

There are auditions held each year at the beginning of Fall semester. Rarely, an additional set of open auditions may be held in January, provided that space is available in the Orchestra.

How do seatings work in the Orchestra?

A new seating is done for each concert. Seatings are rotated, up to a point, (i.e., not all may be ready, in the conductor’s judgment, to play the more difficult parts), but every effort is made to distribute the parts as equitably as possible, within what will best serve the music and the Orchestra as a whole.

Every member has the opportunity to play an informal audition for the conductor before each new seating goes up. So if you don’t like your seat/part, either because you blew your audition, or didn’t feel you got a fair hearing, you’ve got three more shots through the year to show your stuff- or progress- outside of rehearsal. This is NOT a “challenge” system; it’s simply an opportunity to be re-heard. You can also use this opportunity to get more experience auditioning; if auditions terrify you, sometimes just doing more of them can desensitize the situation for you.