Orchestra music is so powerful and moving, especially when you see it performed in person. However, most people do not know very much about orchestras, their organization, and their history. Knowing a few major facts about orchestras can make watching your next performance even more spellbinding.
1. The members are salaried.
An orchestra is not just a collection of volunteer musicians or people who pay for a little extra money on the side. Orchestra members, at least in most cities, are full-time salaried employees. As such, playing in the orchestra is a dream of many musicians — especially those who are classically trained. Positions in the orchestra are coveted, and there are a lot of applicants when a position opens up.
2. Applicants audition blindly.
When an orchestra holds auditions, the interviewees do not get to see the person who is playing the instrument. They only listen to them play from behind a curtain or partition. They take notes on each performance, and hire the person whose performance they like best. This practice started as a way to eliminate gender bias, but it's also really helpful to ensure orchestra members are hired based on their merits and not on nepotism.
3. Modern orchestras often slow down the music.
Years ago, composers wrote most orchestra pieces to be played very quickly. Today, many professional musicians cannot keep up with such tempos, and the tempo also tends to be a little overwhelming to modern audiences. So orchestras slow the pieces down. You'll probably never hear, for example, Beethoven's 5th Symphony performed as it was composted because the tempo was very, very quick!
4. Percussionists play multiple instruments.
Most orchestra members play a single instrument but not the percussionists. They are expected to master each percussion instrument in the orchestra, and they often switch between instruments midway through a piece. As such, playing percussion is said to be one of the hardest jobs in the orchestra.
5. The word "philharmonic" means "music loving."
You will see some orchestras advertised as philharmonic orchestras. Others leave this word out of their name. The word "philharmonic" does not have any real significance. It's just a word that means "music loving" and that some orchestras have decided to add to their official names.
Now that you know more about orchestras, your next performance should be that much more enjoyable. Remember that the musicians on stage are truly some of the best — and they have worked hard to earn their jobs! Go to a classic orchestral music concert near you to enjoy the art fully.