Where students sit in the SOA Orchestra performing ensembles is based upon the student’s ability to lead a section and follow instructions.
1. Leading a Section
Good orchestra section players listen, count, cue and consistently play the correct rhythms, notes and bowings at the correct times; good leaders learn to do all this before the section players do—which is why they are called leaders. If leaders do not learn their music faster than everyone else, their section will naturally question their authority and qualifications for sitting first. Among the most important musical skills that section leaders have is an excellent sense of ensemble and rhythm; the best leaders seem to know exactly when to play their part, even if—and especially if—they are the only person playing it correctly.
2. Following Instructions
Leaders must also be excellent followers, and especially quick to follow instructions. Leaders take instruction as well as they give instruction; they are expected to follow directions and pass directions along, conveying them in a positive way to the other members of the section. Leaders are the first to mark their parts when instructions are given, and they are good at following bowings and conducting gestures. The best leaders take positive ownership of their section, and they stay in front of the rehearsal by anticipating problems, often correcting bowings or other problems before the director can address them. Students who do not follow verbal or written instructions quickly or positively will be warned, and if problems persist, will be placed in the back of a section where they will do the least harm to the ensemble’s flow of information, leadership structure and overall morale.
Students will be reseated after each big concert. The rehearsal and performance grades that students earn will be averaged and used to determine the new seating order after that concert. Seating will initially be posted as tentative and will become final after discrepancies due to student illness, family emergency, or other excused factors are resolved. In Symphony, the students who are in Sinfonietta/Chamber 6 will sit on the outside of the stand, and students in Chamber 5 will sit on the inside. At the Senior Thesis Concerto Concert, seniors are moved forward and/or to the outside of the stand.
Seating Is Not A Sport
Good leaders do their best all the time and not just when their chair is at stake; students are expected to give their best effort on every test. They are encouraged to find happiness in their own musical performance and to make self-improvement goals based upon the technical and musical skills they wish to improve. Students are discouraged from making a competitive sport out of any seating auditions or creating personal goals based on chair placement. General questions about overall seating are welcome; the director will not answer questions about the comparable performance skills or leadership qualifications of other students.
Solos and Choice
Orchestral solos will be assigned to a section’s principal player. If the first chair student becomes injured, or cannot perform the solo for any reason, the director will determine which student is (or will be) most ready to play the solo in the concert. Students that do not want solos should not sit first chair; if the student with the highest leadership score does not wish to perform solos or lead the section, the director will reassign them to a seat in the middle of the section where the director believes that student’s skills are most needed.