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Becoming an Orchestral Musician


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Table of Contents

page Preface by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies vii Prologue 1 Foreword 3 Acknowledgements 7 1 Introduction to the Orchestral Profession 13 What Are the Chances of Success? 2 The Formative Years 19 Persistence, Music Competitions, Is Your Teacher Right for You? Quality of Instrument, How Dear Can They Be? Stolen Instruments, Wrong Notes, Learn the Score, Goals, Play Music With and For People, Music School, You Are Not Doing Enough Practice! Warming Up, Injuries, Music College...,... Or University? Are You Sure You Want to Do This? The Right Personality, After College 3 Performing Philosophies 43 A Musical Vision, The Je Ne Sais Quoi, The Journey, Singers in the Coffee Queue, Learn to Conduct, The Composer's Condensed Universe, Style, The Bar, CD Culture, How Many Takes Does It Take? Study or Mimic, Soul Music 4 Auditions 52 When Should You Start Applying? Students, CV Versus Resume, The Audition Loophole - Back Door, The Audition, The Panel, How Long Will I Be in There? What Are We Looking For in an Audition? Orchestral Excerpts, What Do You Do with the Bars' Rest? Sight-Reading, The Truth About Sight-Reading in the Profession, Audition Nerves, The Warm-Up Room, Rumours, Auditions for Extra Work, Subsidiary Instruments, Pre-Audition, Post-Audition, Rejection Letter, At What Point Should I Quit? 5 Ensemble 85 All Orchestras Are Different, Know Your Role, Accompanying, Blending, Vibrato, Note-Endings, Articulation, Rhythm, Rubato, Dynamics, ppp-fff, Back-Desk Soloists, Finally 6 Nerves 112 Why Do You Get Nervous? Practice, Nerve Targets, Split It Up, Visualization, Don't Worry..., The Public, The Performing Circle, Red-Light Nerves, Re-takes, Nerves: the 'Virus', Diet, Drugs, Alcohol, Lucky Charms, Controlling Your Nerves Before the Performance, Controlling Your Nerves During the Performance, Still Nervous? Should You Give Up? Towel in the Bidet 7 Counting 133 Look Out, The Domino Factor, Counting Strategies, What Do You Do? Sounds Wrong? Sounds Right? Not Sure? Asking for Help, Still Lost, Emergency Mode, Count Upwards, Complex Music Shouldn't Mean Complicated Counting, You Are Not Alone, Lost Souls 8 Conductors 143 The Player's Wish: A Clear Up-Beat, Do You Know Exactly When You Are About to Play? Upsetting the Apple Cart, What Difference Do Conductors Make? Bad Conductors, Why We Need Them, Where Did They Come From? Conductors' Traits, How to Cook a Conductor, The Baton Makes No Sound, There Are Wonderful Conductors, Too, When to Play, a Possible Answer 9 Intonation 156 Science Lesson, Hearing, Natural Harmonics, Harmonic Mixtures, Maths Lesson, Singing Lesson, Making Cents, History Lesson, Pythagorean Tuning, Meantone Tuning, Well-Tempered Tuning, Equal Temperament Tuning, Orchestral Temperament, Warning! Practical Experiment, Wolves and Ghosts, Second Maths Lesson, The Oboe's A, Tuning Up Orchestras, Which is Best: Sharp or Flat? Tuning Tips, Still Out of Tune? How Much Work? 10 The Mechanics of the Orchestra 185 Behind the Scenes, How Much Does an Orchestra Cost to Run? Do Any Orchestras Make a Profit? The Duty Sheet, We Don't Work Very Hard! Maintenance, 'Cello Strings, Oboe Reeds, Bumping, Breathing and Bowing, Transposing Instruments, How to Transpose, The Clarinet Problem, The Union, Rotation in the Ranks, Working Your Way Up the Ranks, What Are We Worth? 11 Surviving in the Orchestral Profession 205 Being Booked, The Fixer, A Fixer's Top Tips, The Route to Work, All Those Notes to Learn, Networking and Common Mistakes, Keeping in Shape, Waiting in the Green Room, Tours, Holidays, Survival Tips 12 Alternative Careers 220 Chamber Music, Strike Up the Band, Original Instruments, Management or Administration, Music Critic Epilogue 230 Index 233

About the Author

Richard Davis is principal flute of the BBC Philharmonic, and also Senior Lecturer and an orchestral coach in the Royal Northern College of Music. He was the youngest section principal ever to be appointed. He has played in virtually all the major orchestras in Britain in his time, and he is active as a conductor, too. A number of composers have written flute works specially for him, including Sir Peter Maxwell Davies with his Temenos with Mermaids and Angels. After twenty years' playing as principal, he has decided that he would like to pass on his knowledge and experience of the profession to a new generation of performers, together with many secrets he has learnt in his career in performing. Blurd


John Clare in Daily Telegraph: recommended, in 'Any Questions?' Sir Edward Downes: 'Thanks so much for your marvellous book...You should be very proud of it - and [Joan and I] both feel it ought to be a "set book" at Music Colleges for all prospective orchestral players.' Classical Music: '...[his] practical guide invites systematic reading from cover to cover...Experienced players will nod in agreement with something on every page...newcomers will be profoundly grateful for page after page of advice just not obtainable from normal conservatoire training...the many tips on relationships with colleagues often overlooked by full-time performers...Beautifully laid out on good-quality opaque paper...Davis's book is an unbeatable-value master-class.' Classic FM, The Magazine (four stars): '...[his] invaluable... book. It certainly fills a gap in the market: no one previously has thought to spell out what it takes to become (and survive) as an orchestral musician. Davis, principal flute of the BBC Philharmonic and a senior lecturer at the Royal Northern College of Music, is better qualified than most to tackle the subject. He has a pragmatic, detached view of the business...This should be required reading for all music students.' Maggie Cotton, percussionist with City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra for forty years: 'Richard Davis's most excellent book...a gem of unvarnished, thoughtful advice...it should be required that every music teacher in the land should have a copy, digest it thoroughly and pass on the messages to their young...[it] is worth its weight in gold.' Musician (Musicians' Union Magazine): 'Essential reading.' (December 2005) Glasgow Herald: '...it will undoubtedly prove helpful to anyone considering a career in music...for any concert goer who has ever wondered how the orchestra onstage functions...it also offers an illuminating glimpse into [its] workings and dynamics...' Pan, Journal of the British Flute Society: 'Almost everything you've always wanted to know, but didn't dare ask, is tackled: counting, nerves, trials, politeness, high finance, Pythagorean tuning...it's all in there...I must express nothing but admiration for the genial style and content of [his] book.' Education: '...a unique insight into the world of professional performers...I would strongly recommend this book to everyone studying or teaching music at a more advanced level, and...essential reading for anyone associated with children who aspire to be professional musicans.' Clarinet & Saxophone Society Magazine (editor's choice): 'No aspiring musician can afford to be without this comprehensive guide to entering the music profession...It [should be] kept within easy reach on the bookshelf at home and in the music and career libraries of all schools and colleges...All the practical advice and information is as essential... as a map and guide book is to the discerning traveller.' Jennifer Cluff, principal flute of Vancouver Island Symphony Orchestra, in reply to a college first-year student's question on her website, 'What is the best advice for becoming a professional soloist or symphonic flautist...[and] on the process of auditioning/joining a symphony and/or becoming a professional soloist?' she wrote: 'See Becoming an Orchestral Musician...this is a phenomenal book! Read it cover to cover!!...[it]is the best book ever written on the subject... and I have read hundreds. I loved it and read it cover to cover in one day.' Reviewer (Chris Downing) on Amazon.co.uk (five stars), from UK: 'I love these books that relate careers as they really are rather than how a journalist or a professional writer sees them from the outside. This book covers all aspects of being a working musician and can be related to any instruments easily...reading this book will help you avoid the pitfalls, enjoy the successes and understand what you'll need to be doing every day to earn a crust.' Rachel Brown, distinguished flautist, lecturer and author, London: 'Just finished reading your wonderful book. It only arrived two days ago. I've read it from cover to cover as I couldn't put it down. It's so eloquent and so readable. Time after time I heard a voice in my head saying "Yes! Exactly!" Now I'm completely behind with the work I should have been doing but I feel like working...I'm sure the book will be an inspiration to so many.' Reviewer on Amazon.co.uk (five stars), from Moscow: '[It] transported me from the audience, my normal vantage point, to behind the scenes of an orchestra...I read this book from cover to cover in one day, never losing interest -- and I'm not a musician! Strongly recommended for any serious music fan, and an absolute must for any music student (and his or her parents).' Winds: '...it will have balanced suggestions for any query you might have about the music business...[it] should be in every school library and on the bookshelf of every music teacher and professional player.' All Flutes Plus bookshop: Congratulations on an excellent book. We are certainly very pleased to recommend it as a "must have" to all aspiring young professional musicians and their parents. A much needed publication, I'm sure it will be deservedly successful.' Jo Buckland, freelance graduate violinist: 'I have never read such an inspiring book...an eye-opener...[at] Dartington this summer, I wasn't the only one talking about it -- so many others were saying how inspiring it was...I just wish I'd known about it at college...[where] it should be on the reading list.'Perfect Fifths, Resources and Reviews for Violin, Viola and 'Cello Players: '...a lovely, well written, informative book...this all-encompassing guide...' Leo Eroed, Linz, Austria, orchestral bassoonist: '...a fantastic book that covers nearly [everything you need] to know about the business...I was inspired to find a publication of this quality...' Gerloff Music Studio, California (five stars): '...[it] gives great insight not just into what it takes to become a good ensemble player, but what it takes to be a great musician. I love this book...highly recommended.'

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