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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.
-- 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.
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.
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.
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 Symphony. 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 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 out. 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 anything 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.
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.
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.
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?