This week we welcome new students onto our placement scheme. It gives students not only the opportunity to gain audition experience (an experience about as enjoyable as having teeth pulled minus anaesthetic), but also to play alongside section members, and to gain experience of working at the pace of a professional orchestra.
Here is my humble advice for anyone on a placement scheme:
1. Know your music
This is not just about putting the dots in the right places, its about understanding the overall geography of a work, and grasping the stylistic quirks of the piece.
I find it helpful to listen to recordings of orchestral repertoire. I sit down with my viola part, mark the bits that are exposed, or really tricky, then I know how to organise my practice. Sometimes, if its available, it's nice to be able to look at the score. The Petrucci Library is a great resource for this, and Boosey & Hawkes also have a great online score selection.
2. Work with the metronome
When you work with the metronome you realise some passages are not as difficult as you thought they were, and also that that bit you thought looked really easy on the page actually does warrant a little bit of time spent on it.
However, working with a metronome, especially as a string player, is helpful as you have to play in time with a whole section. Someone rushing, or dragging, spoils the effect of the ensemble.
3. Keep your eyes open
One eye on the music, one on the section principal, one on the leader of the orchestra and one on the conductor - I know the maths doesn't quite work out there, but you get my point.
You have to be hyper aware within a section; strictly speaking, you shouldn't have to be told if the bow stroke is on or off the string, and you shouldn't have to be told what part of the bow you are playing in. Obviously, there are exceptions to this, and if you miss something, hopefully your desk partner will have picked up on it, but you need to be very awake!
4. Enjoy the music
As a friend recently put it, all good musicians want is to make good music with other good people. So just enjoy it - you've worked hard to gain your place on the scheme, so enjoy the experience. While you want to make a good impression, you don't have to go out of your way to 'impress'. People are impressed by people who come in, do the job, and do it well.
So, know your stuff, be yourself, and enjoy the music. That's pretty much all there is to it. Ask your desk partner questions, don't be scared to say you don't understand something, or to ask for advice on something. If you put the work in, we want you to get as much out of the experience as possible. We look forward to meeting you!