Frequently Asked Questions
How big is the William & Mary Symphony Orchestra?
WMSO is a full-sized symphony orchestra of about 75-80 members.
What is the time commitment, and can you get credit for playing?
WMSO rehearses every Tuesday and Thursday from 4:00 to 6:00pm throughout the academic season and performs five concerts per year. Once you are accepted, you will be able to register for it as a one-credit class in the Music Department that also fulfills GER 6. We maintain a collegial but professional atmosphere during rehearsals, starting and ending them on time. Our music director emails a detailed rehearsal schedule for each upcoming week so that we know exactly what time a certain piece will be rehearsed.
In addition to the, the WMSO goes on tour once every calendar year in the spring.
Where does WMSO rehearse and perform?
WMSO performs its Fall, Winter and Spring concerts in the Phi Beta Kappa Auditorium. The annual Halloween Concert, a lighter and more interactive event, is in the Commonwealth Auditorium in Sadler Center, and the Family Weekend Concert, a prism-style concert shared with the choirs and band, in the William & Mary Hall (Kaplan Arena).
Does WMSO travel?
Yes! In 2001, WMSO went on its first international tour to Italy and Sicily. More recently, the WMSO has toured in Philadelphia and Baltimore, holding joint performances with Towson University and Swarthmore College and attending performances by the Philadelphia Orchestra and National Symphony. Plans for the 2014 Tour, scheduled to take place the weekend of March 27th, are currently underway! In addition to scheduled tours, we regularly attend professional orchestral concerts together and have been to major venues such as the Avery Fisher Hall and the Kennedy Center.
What does WMSO play?
You can see everything we've played in the past several seasons here. Our repertoire draws mainly from the 19th-20th century Western tradition but also expands to the present. In fact, we have commissioned a W&M student composer to write a piece for us in the fall of 2010. We often collaborate with professional guest artists to perform concerti. Our recent guests have included violinist Charles Castleman (Carmen Fantasy), violinist Pavel Ilyashov (Glazunov), and cellist Neal Cary (Elgar). Last but not least, WMSO hosts an annual concerto competition for undergraduates who study with our Applied Faculty, and the winner performs with WMSO in April.
How competitive is it to get in, and how are parts & seating assigned?
Much of it depends on what instrument you play. While every single member must re-audition each fall to remain in the group, it is rare that a returning member is not invited back. This is less of an issue for strings, but for winds and percussion, the number of openings can range from zero to a full section depending on the year. We just don't know until the sign-ups begin in August, so don't let this discourage you from auditioning or preparing over the summer to do so. Our music director often calls on alternate players to replace a regular member studying abroad or to add another player if a work calls for a larger instrumentation than usual. Typically, the alternates usually end up being accepted as regular members the following season, so an audition is a great way to be heard and added to the list of potential musicians for your section.
Our music director determines the rotation for each concert cycle including part assignments for winds & percussion and principals and seating order for strings. For brass & strings, seating remains almost constant during a particular semester, except that the two violin sections are often mixed between concerts even within the same semester.
How do I audition?
Auditions are held in late August in Ewell Recital Hall, starting a few days before the first week of classes. You can find out the specific dates and the requirements here. Sign-up sheets will become available on the orchestra's bulletin board on the 2nd floor of the music building (Ewell Hall) the weekend prior to the auditions. Time slots are first-come, first-serve.
Is there more to WMSO than just music-making?
Yes! While WMSO is led by a professional conductor, many of the operational aspects of the orchestra are executed by the all-student Orchestra Board, which handles anything from publicity, organizing social events to ticket sales and keeping archival records of the orchestra. It is a great way to have an impact on the orchestra's success and get a behind-the-scenes look into running an organization.