Concert Orchestra Seating Explanation

Seating Arrangements, Part and Section Assignments, and

Rotations for Concert Orchestra  

 Seating arrangements, part and section assignments, and rotations for Concert Orchestra are based on a balance of myriad factors including the following considerations:

  • Spring audition results into the orchestra and accompanying judges’ comments
  • Spring sectional audition results (violins only)
  • Other conductors’ feedback from the students’ playing experience/ability in the previous year in another WYSO orchestra
  • Sectional coaches’ feedback from the previous year and throughout the current orchestral year
  • Demonstration of comfort and ability within certain ranges (high-, low-, mid-range of current playing capacity) on the instrument
  • Conductor’s weekly observations during rehearsals
  • Demonstration of ensemble skills (note: some of which are different than solo-playing ability) during sectionals and weekly rehearsals
  • Students’ weekly preparation for rehearsals and sectionals
  • Students’ interactions with one another
  • Conductor’s own need to become familiar with students (names, faces, and ensemble-playing ability) over the course of the year

From time to time within a concert cycle, I may change seating within the string sections based on the above considerations.  Within a cycle, sometimes, I may not make changes from my first seating chart, depending on the balance of different factors from above.  From cycle to cycle, however, rotations typically will occur.  (In the brass, woodwind, and percussion sections of Concert Orchestra, Philharmonia, and Youth Orchestra, the students already often rotate parts and are often based on range ability.)

When deciding the principal players within a section for any given piece (woodwinds and brass) or concert cycle (all sections), I look at a number of different factors, including all of the factors mentioned in the bulleted points above.  Some additional factors include weekly attendance and prompt arrival before the start of rehearsal and at the return from break, preparation of the music in all aspects of our current orchestral repertoire, readiness and ability to lead the section in a positive manner (especially in terms of musicianship, counting [or rhythmic strength] and entrances, bowings, ensemble playing, individual personality, and demonstration of the music through visual cues).

Throughout the year, I likely will rotate string section leaders to designate appropriate leaders as principal players in the front of the section and also to spread out leadership roles within/throughout the sections.  Seating in the sections is not based on “strongest in the front to weakest in the back,” which is one of the most common misconceptions about seating arrangements in a youth orchestra.  Oftentimes, a conductor/director will spread out strong players throughout the section to give the section its overall strength and allow projection of sound from the back, front, and within.  For this reason, different student pairings may be considered within and for different concert cycles.

Finally, the role of concertmaster is an orchestral tradition of which part of this position is to serve as a representative for the entire orchestra. (Thus, the concert tradition of the conductor shaking the hand of the concertmaster [as the orchestra’s representative] signifies the recognition and appreciation of all of the players of the performing ensemble.)  In Concert Orchestra, as in other orchestras, the role of concertmaster also must set a good example of timeliness (he/she must be ready to start the rehearsal on-time with tuning and starting the group) in addition to demonstrating strength in the areas listed above.

Christine Eckel
Concert Orchestra Conductor

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