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20 February 2015
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Interview factsheet: 11 of 15 Sheelagh Nesbitt
Sheelagh Nesbitt
Job: Orchestral cellist
Name: Sheelagh Nesbitt, Age: 28, From: Belfast Quote  ‘Music is extremely competitive.’
Sheelagh Nesbitt
Key Skills
5 out of 5Communication 5 out of 5Improving learning and ability
1 out of 5IT 2 out of 5Problem solving
2 out of 5Application of number 5 out of 5Working with others

The lowdown

I spent two years freelancing from September 1999 until August 2001. This included work with several orchestras, including the Ulster Orchestra and other smaller ensembles. I also taught cello to individual pupils. In August 2001, I began full-time work with the RTE Concert Orchestra in Dublin. In September 2002 I moved to the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, also in Dublin.

What you need

Most orchestral musicians study at one of the specialist music colleges. The entry requirements for the Colleges are two A-levels and a high level of playing ability. No particular qualifications are needed to play in an orchestra - you have to do an audition and complete a trial period. If a musician’s playing is good enough and they fit in with their particular section of the orchestra, it does not matter what degrees they may or may not have.

My typical day

Orchestras do not normally start before 10am. Some orchestras have a regular work schedule while others work different hours every week. For example, the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland has a fairly regular work pattern. On rehearsal days the orchestra would sometimes work until 3.15pm, other times until 5pm. On performance days there would be a rehearsal until 1pm and the concert would be at 8pm. The orchestra usually has a concert on a Friday night and then has the weekend off, but not always!

The RTE Concert Orchestra on the other hand has no set pattern whatsoever! All orchestras are different. Some tour a lot, others don’t. It is important to remember that going on tour with a professional orchestra is NOT like going on holiday. You may go to exciting places but you won’t see many sights, if any. Most of your time will be spent either in the concert hall, the hotel or in the bus on the way to the next concert.

Dress code

In rehearsals you can wear whatever you like. Concert dress is smart black clothes for women and dinner jackets or tails for men.

Cash register £££££

The money’s not brilliant!

Why I love my job

I love playing the cello and it is wonderful to be paid for doing something that I enjoy.

Useful skills

Obviously the most important thing is to be good at playing your instrument. It is important to be able to play with other musicians in an orchestral section. Some people are excellent soloists but are unable to play in a group. They like to do their own thing. In an orchestra it’s important to play in the same style as the people in your section. Everyone should play the same way as the leader of the section and blend so that no individual musician is heard above the rest.

Cool perks

The amount of travel and the length of holidays vary considerably from orchestra to orchestra.

Spill the beans!

Music is extremely competitive. If you’re interested in a job in an orchestra, you must be determined and self-disciplined. Be prepared for knocks and set-backs.

Top advice

It is good to play in youth orchestras. The experience will help tremendously. You must be absolutely sure that it is what you want to do. Many people start out hoping to join an orchestra but give up along the way as the competition and the pressure are too much.

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