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Help! What does an orchestra librarian do?
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (2 votes) 
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fiddlrgrrl
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November 15, 2012 - 4:21 am
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Please bear with me here, I want to do this thing right:

I belong to a ~50 member all-volunteer community orchestra that has been going for 51 years.  We do 2 concerts/year, 6 weekly practices before each.  The group process is very informal, which causes some problems.  So I recently suggested that they designate a Librarian to assist the Director, and I have volunteered to do it. Now I'm asking you all for suggestions how to develop this function.

THE PROBLEM:  What we do now:  The director selects and obtains the music, (high school library, or borrowed from other orchestras, etc.) and a couple of us sort it into folders (Violin I-1, Violin II-3, etc.) for each player a week or two before the first practice.  Most players pick their folders out of the box at the first practice.  (Some even put their folders back in the box each week, obviously not taking it home to practice.)  After the concert everyone puts their folders back in the box and one of us has to sort it all out later and the director returns it to wherever.  Now, after our last concert, some folders are missing, some pieces of (borrowed!) music are missing, we don't know if someone returned their music and kept the folder, and we don't know who had which folder.

SOME QUESTIONS: 

     -- How do orchestras account for what individual pieces of music each musician has, and confirm that he/she returned each piece?

     -- Would it be wrong to lightly pencil each person's name on each piece before distribution?

     -- Is the way we label our folders the way other orchestras do it?

     -- If the Director distributes additional music during the season, how would this best be accounted for?

     -- When and how is music usually made available to orchestra members? 

     -- I hope to make it easy for people to come to the first practice having at least played through it, and if possible, having listened to a recording.  Is this a normal expectation? 

     -- I find some recordings on You Tube, and of course various CDs. Are there other sources? (For example, I never found any performance of \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\"Song And Dance In Old American Style.\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\")

     -- I'm thinking of making \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\"the box\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\" unavailable so people have to keep the music in their possession until they return it.  I'd like to ask the Director to say that we are expected to work on our parts between practices.  Is this too confrontational? 

     -- How far ahead do most orchestras plan their programs and have the music available to the musicians?  I'd like to see us know what we're \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\"probably\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\" playing 2 seasons ahead.  Unrealistic?

     -- Are there other aspects to managing our music I have not thought to ask about?

Thanks for any observations/suggestions anyone wants to share.

Fiddlrgrrl

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
November 15, 2012 - 7:39 am
Member Since: September 26, 2010
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fiddlrgrrl said

So I recently suggested that they designate a Librarian to assist the Director, and I have volunteered to do it. Now I'm asking you all for suggestions how to develop this function.

Good for you. I'm sure he needs the help.

SOME QUESTIONS: 

     -- How do orchestras account for what individual pieces of music each musician has, and confirm that he/she returned each piece?

     -- Would it be wrong to lightly pencil each person's name on each piece before distribution?

Not only is it not wrong but it is very necessary. There is still no guarantee that someone does not take a different part and never return it.

What I'm about to suggest is done in all orchestras though it might be illegal is costly and requires time and effort:

Photocopy practice parts for those who want them. Don't allow anyone to take the originals home. Whatever markings they make in their own parts they can transfer to the originals but you may need to have an erasing party sometime after the performances to get the music back to their original condition. Not always necessary but could be required. Usually having bowed parts (if it is done properly by a competent concert master or conductor) is an advantage.

     -- Is the way we label our folders the way other orchestras do it?

Label the folders for the strings Vln 1 I, Vln 1 II, Vln 1 III..... Vln 2 I, II, III, IV etc.
The only thing is that if people change seating you may have a difficult time keeping up with who did what and played where. Maybe take some pictures at every rehearsal.

     -- If the Director distributes additional music during the season, how would this best be accounted for?

Same way. Put the originals in the folders and only allow the players to bring home copies. If copies are out of the question, have someone scan the parts in. You may be able to get a volunteer from each section to scan their parts in. That would mean only one set of parts per volunteer and would obviously be much less work. The scans can be made available online.

     -- When and how is music usually made available to orchestra members?

If your orchestra has 6 weeks of rehearsal you don't need to worry too much about this but the sooner you get the parts ready the better for those who need to work on them. Usually parts are not available that quickly because the conductor and concert master need to mark them and they must be planned in advance as well.

If you get practice parts to members too early they probably won't take a look anyway knowing that there is plenty of time left. Two weeks before is probably perfect.

     -- I hope to make it easy for people to come to the first practice having at least played through it, and if possible, having listened to a recording.  Is this a normal expectation? 

     -- I find some recordings on You Tube, and of course various CDs. Are there other sources? (For example, I never found any performance of \\\\\\\"Song And Dance In Old American Style.\\\\\\\")

You'll find a lot of recordings available here: http://imslp.org/
There are plenty of sources for CD's both hard and soft which you could purchase and have available to listen at a designated location. Maybe a music library....
This is a tough problem because most of your players will probably have the electronic copy of the works but legally cannot spread it. That of course is up to your own discretion. Just be careful with this one.

     -- I'm thinking of making \\\\\\\"the box\\\\\\\" unavailable so people have to keep the music in their possession until they return it. 

I guess my idea is the opposite but yours could work too. I doubt it but at least the players would be personally responsible if that could help. Provided they are responsibly both physically and financially.

I'd like to ask the Director to say that we are expected to work on our parts between practices.  Is this too confrontational?

Of course the conductor should say that. People who don't want to learn their parts have no business playing in the orchestra and if the conductor is tough he will win more respect from the players. The players will be happier too if the result is better and actually need to be pushed (motivated). ;-)

     -- How far ahead do most orchestras plan their programs and have the music available to the musicians?  I'd like to see us know what we're \\\\\\\"probably\\\\\\\" playing 2 seasons ahead.  Unrealistic?

I don't know about amateur orchestras but professional orchestras plan years in advance to be able to book the best up and coming soloists and conductors. The last orchestra I was in "Malmo Symfoniorkester" had only a few unbooked weeks the first years reserved for new special projects and soloists and even had some artists booked 5 years in advance.

     -- Are there other aspects to managing our music I have not thought to ask about?

Thanks for any observations/suggestions anyone wants to share.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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cdennyb
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November 15, 2012 - 12:20 pm
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wow, I had no idea it was such a complicated thing...

thanks for all that insight to the inner workings of a musical presentation...cheers

"If you practice with your hands you must practice all day. Practice with your mind and you can accomplish the same amount in minutes." Nathan Milstein

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fiddlrgrrl
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November 15, 2012 - 12:33 pm
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Fiddlerman, thank you so much!  I already scan and print practice copies for my own use.  We should ask if others already do that too -- we might have a "scanning committee."  Funny, I have thought that distributing only copies of the music would be the way to go, but figured that might get me tarred and feathered here to suggest it...

As for those i had judged as "not practicing between rehearsals," it simply had not occurred to me that they may have made their own practice copies for home.  Shame on me.

So if all professional orchestras provide practice copies, what is the purpose in distributing originals at all?  Why not just keep them safely unmarked and unworn?  Some of the music we get is yellowed and brittle.

I don't know that I'd want to make .pdf files available online, but it would not be difficult to email them to individual members, and I could print copies for the few members who are unable to do that.

Very helpful!  Eager to see if there are more comments from others.  Thanks for this great forum.

Fiddlrgrrl

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fiddlrgrrl
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November 15, 2012 - 12:38 pm
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Also meant to say -- I was reading a blog maintained by the librarian of the Dallas Symphony.  Wow.  In my little amateur small town world, I had no idea how extensive their job is in a professional orchestra. 

Fiddlrgrrl

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
November 15, 2012 - 8:20 pm
Member Since: September 26, 2010
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One of my best friends was the librarian for the Houston Symphony Orchestra.

So if all professional orchestras provide practice copies, what is the purpose in distributing originals at all?  Why not just keep them safely unmarked and unworn?  Some of the music we get is yellowed and brittle.

It's not allowed (Must buy originals and perform with originals) and you would have just as much trouble with people forgetting their parts and such. Original parts are usually easier to read too.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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fiddlrgrrl
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November 15, 2012 - 10:54 pm
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Ah, glad I asked that!

Fiddlrgrrl

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Crazymotive
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November 15, 2012 - 10:55 pm
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I play in a community orchestra.  The librarian is the person I contact if I a missing any music for our weekly rehearsal or concert repertoire. We pay an annual music fee and our music is given tio us in bound folders which we can take home for practice. We can also mark the sheets as needed.  Any additional music its the job of the librarian to acquire and distribute to those who need it.  Most of the music we play are not arrangements, its the original music as written by the original composer and thats how we play it. . Although a lot of the music can be simply downloaded via ismlp we are not allowed to download it and put it on our stands. We must obtain it through the librarian and pay the proper fees or else return it after each performance.  I pay the fees so I can take home and practice:)   

 

Professional orchestras it's far more complex and I wouldn't want the job :) .  In any event our conductor promised last night he has no plans on making the orchestra go professional.  For now I'm kinda glad. cheers

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jcbass
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November 16, 2012 - 12:34 am
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Hi fiddlergirl,

The librarian of the Dallas Symphony has a lot of experience and writes a good blog.  She was a professional violinist before she became a librarian for the Dallas Symphonydevil-violin.  She was also the president of the Major Orchestra Librarians' Association (MOLA) and she is currently the vice president of the Dallas Local of the Musicians' Union.  MOLA has a nice website where you can learn a lot.

I was a librarian for a major orchestra for a couple years (we had two full time and one part time librarians) until I moved back home to Florida.  I am currently a librarian for a part time orchestra.  After I began working for the part time orchestra I found out how different the library work is between the two types of orchestras.

In the full time orchestra (Houston Symphony) the library is in the concert hall and the musicians come in every day dazed to get their music and study the scores.  The library work is almost all about the music, including some programming suggestions.  The musicians usually stay in their same position for their whole career and the parts are all numbered so everyone knows who has what. 

In the part time orchestra I contact every musician, to make sure they are still at the same address, then I put all the music in envelopes and mail them outplace-3596.  The parts are marked with a number on the top left corner, for example: 1/8, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8/8 for the first violins if you have eight parts.  The same for all the string sections, then the rest of the orchestra (winds, brass, percussion, keyboard, etc.) is marked as one section, in the order that they are listed in the score, for example: 1/13, 2, 3, 4, 5,...with the last (usually percussion) being 13/13.  This way of marking, and it is in pencil, makes it easy to put the music back in order, and it helps you know whether or not your are missing anythingcrossedfingers when the concert over.  With the part time orchestra, I make a list of who is playing what position and then I know who has which parts.  Orchestras mark their folders the way you have marked yours.

When you borrow parts you want to return them in the same condition that you received them in.  If you write people's names on the parts you should erase them before you return the borrowed parts.  You should erase all the extra markings that were added by your musicians.  If the string parts on loan have bowings in them, the orchestra that loaned them to you might not appreciate them being changed.  You can make copies for your musicians to use or make a copy of each of the five principal string parts before your musicians get the originals so you can put the bowings back in the parts when you are done with them.  If the piece was written before 1923 it should be public domain and you can legally perform from copies but they are not as easy to read. On that point, notice how the paper that is used on professional parts is not as shiny and white as it is on copies so the stage lights don't glare off the parts and make pencil markings and sometimes the notes disappear when in a performance. semiquaver-1214

The music is usually available to professional musicians three weeks before the first rehearsal.  If you could have all the bowings in the parts and matching the principal part before the first rehearsal you would be amazed at how much better the orchestra sounds (but that takes a ton of time).

Musicians often own parts to the major works (and the most enthusiastic musicians seem to own everything) so don't judge them on whether or not they take your music out.  It is not the librarian's job to tell musicians to study even after all the hours of work you put into preparing their parts.  As painful as it is, I would avoid that one.   If the music is your responsibility, you can ask that the musicians to take or keep their parts with them at all times and not trade parts unless they inform you.

Have fun!bass-1222cheerleaderbananaparty

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Picklefish
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November 16, 2012 - 1:22 am
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Librarian conjures up memories of little old ladies who yell at you if you get too loud. I mean how hard is it to follow a numbering system and stack books?

Modern librarians have college degrees in Library science among other things and work for a variety of corporations, govts and civic organizations. Its amazing what all these hardworking people do daily. And now with the internet and digital storage, not to mention the task of digitizing everything for preservation, they have more to do than ever. Librarians are unsung heros of everyday.....

Just in case you didnt know how pervasive librarianism is in our society.

"Please play some wrong notes, so that we know that you are human" - said to Jascha Heifetz.

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Fiddlerman
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November 16, 2012 - 7:24 am
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jcbass said

Musicians often own parts to the major works (and the most enthusiastic musicians seem to own everything) so don't judge them on whether or not they take your music out.  It is not the librarian's job to tell musicians to study even after all the hours of work you put into preparing their parts.  As painful as it is, I would avoid that one.   If the music is your responsibility, you can ask that the musicians to take or keep their parts with them at all times and not trade parts unless they inform you.

Have fun!bass-1222cheerleaderbananaparty

I agree with jcbass on this one. It's not your job to tell the musicians to study the parts but your conductor can certainly put pressure on the players and the players will respect him or her for it.

Thanks for all your valuable input JC thumbs-up

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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fiddlrgrrl
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November 18, 2012 - 6:30 pm
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I so appreciate everyone's response here, and am eager to see any more thoughts.  I'm learning a lot about how complex and interesting this subject is.  One of you mentioned musicians pay an annual music fee -- would anyone care to share how much fees might be, what they cover, etc?  I estimated our last concert would have cost approx. $185.00 just to make 1 copy of each player's parts for them.  So I'm wondering about asking them to just make their own and return their originals between the 1st and 2nd practice.  Do players usually keep practice copies after they are done with them?

Fiddlrgrrl

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Fiddlerman
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November 19, 2012 - 10:41 pm
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Lot's of players like to keep the practice parts in case they do the piece again.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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