From the Orchestra Library

More Mahler Means More Marking

Posted in MOLA,Preparing Parts by kschnack on August 30, 2009

Like everyone else, our 2009-10 season will “officially” open soon, but in the case of the Dallas Symphony that event also coincides with the 20th anniversary of the opening of  our hall —  the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center.  The gala on September 12th kicks things off and then we will have the first classical programs with our music director.  (Of course, by then, we will have presented two specials and two of our pops series programs, adding up to 9 concerts with four guest artist groups, not counting the gala with two more guest artists.) On the second classical program the orchestra will give the world premiere of Christopher Theofanidis’ new cello concerto followed by Mahler Symphony No. 1.   This symphony has a less-complicated and confusing publishing history than the composer’s 5th (see post from July 12) and, therefore, is a more straight-forward music preparation project.  In a way.

By that, I mean an orchestra is safe to buy the most recent Kalmus printing of scores and parts (no need to rent anything), correct the errors, mark the parts, and it is good to go.  Although Mahler made profound changes in this work early on, eventually omitting the original Blumine second movement, and then continued revising it for more than another decade, there were only two publications of it in his lifetime.  The Kalmus edition that is available for sale these days is a reprint of the second and final version.  (The older Kalmus edition is NOT, and is quite different, so don’t get them mixed up!)

But don’t assume this is a short or easy marking project; you certainly can’t just buy the set, mark in some bowings and put it on the stands.  Remember what I said a few sentences ago about errors?  Lots of errors.  Between the various errata lists that MOLA librarians have created and other sources, there are between 750-1000 errors to fix in both the scores and parts.  We have been though our set in great detail two different times, so we have double and triple checked things, fixed all of those errors and any others we found along the way (because you always do find more).  We have used the set for a few performances and it is in good shape to use again.  This is a relief, because on top of everything else, having to correct Mahler 1 again would clearly have put us back a few months.

Although you will find a more expansive explanation of the why, how, and what orchestra librarians do about errata  in an article written for a few years ago (, I want to reiterate that there are errors in everything.  No publisher gets everything right every time.  It is sometimes hard to believe how many errors or omissions have been reprinted over the last three hundred years or so, but editors, publishers (and librarians) continue undaunted to try and accomplish the impossible — making perfect parts!  We will never succeed 100% (whenever a new edition of a standard work comes out, there are a whole new batch of errors to contend with), but every time we fix a set of parts we feel like we have lived to fight another day.

Probably the most sought-after resource created by MOLA librarians is our catalogue of errata lists.  Hundreds of lists have been compiled for major and minor works, through patient, painstaking perseverance by those who have done this detailed work.  It’s a huge project to sit down to compare scores, parts and resource materials, studying every single note, articulation, dynamic, tempo marking, musical instruction, key, key change, measure number, rehearsal letter, page number, movement number, accidental, and on and on, correcting materials and compiling the errata in a format that others can then use to correct their own sets.  This gift of musical expertise, time, research, and work cannot be overstated.   Every single player and conductor in a professional orchestra has at some time or another benefited from what is truly a labor of love for the art form by the librarians who have taken it upon themselves to prepare the materials to this degree.

At the DSO library, we don’t have the luxury to proofread materials from scratch very often (although we do it when we can and have taken on some rather overwhelming projects such as de Falla’s complete La Vida Breve, for one example), but we regularly use the lists others have created and then add to them in collaboration.  We also don’t just go through the list and automatically insert everything on it.  We carefully review each item for ourselves, making sure we agree with the suggested change while checking the parts and scores.   To be sure, most of the corrections are correct, and, while many of them wouldn’t stop a rehearsal if they weren’t inserted, they save a ton of rehearsal time.  And there are many that would stop the rehearsal — something we librarians try to avoid at any cost.

We all owe the former librarians of The Philadelphia Orchestra, Clint Nieweg and Nancy Bradburd, both now retired, for their trail-blazing in this area, and for the thousands — tens of thousands — of errors they have catalogued in the symphonic repertoire over the last 25 years.  As co-founders of MOLA, they were always looking at the big picture and towards the future (an interesting irony considering that this process is as tedious and detailed as anything one could imagine).  Their editions and teaching show a dedication to this process as yet unparalleled in our profession that they continue to this day.

For some photos of and information about the Meyerson:



Posted in Uncategorized by kschnack on August 25, 2009

Holy Cow.

I thought I had adequately prepared myself for the start of the new season.  You’d think after all these years it wouldn’t come as such a shock to the system. I had a nice vacation, good time away, slowed down and saw some of the world outside the library, hiked in the mountains, visited family and friends, ate too much, of course was terribly moderate with the wine and chocolate intake, read in the middle of the day, did crossword puzzles, shopped, bought more shoes I didn’t need, played in the garden and worked in the yard, watched too many movies and shows that had been TiVo’d over the past year, wrote this blog, and sometimes did nothing at all. Even took naps in the afternoon.  And the morning!

So, when I came back to the  library I was rested and ready to go.  Everyone who works in the library — full or part-time — had done an amazing amount of music prep over the summer in order for us to be ready to get folders out for the “fall” (it’s still so bloody hot here one must use that word rather tongue-in-cheek at the moment).  We are just like every other orchestra library out there — we want to have as much music finished and ready so when y’awl come back you have lots of parts available for practice.  We have a pretty good idea of what most people will want to look at right from the start, so we prioritize as best we can getting more difficult repertoire out first.

Of course, little things can derail that plan, like programming not finalized early enough, music not arriving on time or coming with parts in terrible shape…..and then there’s the chronological deadline of the actual rehearsals, which sometimes change, or an added special with less traditional artists or rep and little advance notice.

But we did have quite a bit ready yesterday by the time the orchestra showed up for its first afternoon rehearsal and evening concert — some 65 pieces of music covering a mix of 8 programs.  Half of those programs were 2-in-1 with numerous guest artists (pops and gala) as well as orchestra-only segments.  We were also ready for the first 3 classics programs which are plenty daunting, as well as a pre-season rehearsal with the music director on repertoire coming up in the first six weeks.

If you’d been in the library at about 11:30 that morning, though, you wouldn’t have thought we’d make it.  Despite the push to start this process early (we’ve been working on some of the classics programs since April), rental orders placed back in May and June, long steady hours of marking, correcting and organizing sets of parts and scores, and coming in a few extra days and weekends to make the deadline — we were still producing parts, running order sheets, stuffing folders and putting them out right up to about an hour before the rehearsal.  We slammed out another 4 sets of folders in record time (in addition to the 3 already out), and then ate lunch.  Yikes.

When everyone started showing up they were friendly and mostly patient, and seemed satisfied with the amount of music available to them.  There were a few questions about when some other parts for later programs would be ready, but nothing serious.  All-in-all, it was an impressive showing that hardly anyone would actually notice except us, but that’s good enough for me.  I am very proud of the library’s efforts and achievement, once again anticipating what the players need and delivering not only well-prepared parts but also excellent service to the entire organization.

Gold star for us!

The Orchestra Library Dressed Down

Posted in Uncategorized by kschnack on August 24, 2009

By now you’ve seen bits and pieces of our little library at the Dallas Symphony, including the photo just posted on Polyphonic’s home page (I thank them for that highlight).  As you can plainly see, even though our hall is grand and stunning both architecturally and acoustically, our library is anything but.  It’s just a room that’s too small and full, but, despite that, is a place of hard work and productive output.  It’s also the musical information center of the organization. Over the years we’ve managed to design and develop a functioning work space and traffic flow, with most of the equipment we need, and using the available areas as efficiently as possible.  Nevertheless, it is time for a redo!

I think many people (certainly those outside the business) are confused by what an orchestra library is, as opposed to what they might call a “real” book library, or a research library, or even a music library at a university.  So I like to equate the physical aspects of our workplace with the job we do by way of comparison.  Take the US Library of Congress, for example — it has a beautiful public foyer above ground, and what seems like miles of rolling shelves underground where the librarians live:

Library of Congress Foyer

Library of Congress Foyer

LOC Rolling Shelves

LOC Rolling Shelves

The LOC is part museum, part archive, part research library, part concert space, to be very basic about it.  Not meaning any disrespect to the largest library in the world by making such a simplistic example; these pictures are really only the tiniest tip of a gigantic iceberg.  At the MOLA conference in May we were given a tour down to the really interesting part of the library, where the music collections are housed.  It’s unbelievable and truly incredible to see manuscripts and first editions of works we’ve been performing all of our lives, as well as the collections of such artists as Copland, Irving Berlin and Heifetz.  But, alas, I have gone off topic.  Back to the orchestra library as a workplace.

We do have some rolling shelves both in the orchestra library and downstairs in our choral library (pictures of that to come another day), but you can see it’s not very many.  This photo was taken in the pre-summer madness when we had all those different programs to get out in six weeks.  So there is stuff everywhere. (We have to do our Spring Cleaning at the end of the summer.  I’ll post an After Photo at some point!)  The rolling shelves are behind the counter, which is in the center of the library and is the focal point of our work — preparing parts and stuffing folders:

DSO Work Counter in front of Rolling Shelves

DSO Work Counter in front of Rolling Shelves

Although you can’t see them here, we have some shelves of study scores and resource materials such as The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, and the like.  What you can see below is a section of stationary shelves with boxes of catalogued music:

DSO Library music boxes

DSO Library music boxes

Not looking much like a public book library or fancy research library. Here is a photo of the entry to another very special and grand library, the National Library of Finland, which I had the good fortune to visit this spring:

National Library of Finland (Hubby Brad LR corner)

National Library of Finland (Hubby Brad LR corner)

It is the oldest and largest scholarly library in the country.  I was excited to be given a private tour of the non-public areas there as well, and met the team that is engraving a critical edition of the complete works of Sibelius.  Of course, as such, it is a working research library where specialists are even editing orchestral music, but they are not preparing parts and scores for a specific performance ensemble’s live concert or recording.

That’s where we orchestra librarians come in, after the editors, engravers and publishers are finished.  Then we add our bowings and articulations, cuts and inserts if necessary for the program, fix page turns and errors if the editors and publishers missed them, and organize the music for the concert.  Most of our time is not spent in the stacks, and, although we catalogue and maintain a collection of music, often including recordings, it’s all for the purpose of the orchestra’s peformances.

Our libraries are a place for study to be sure — but usually in the context of active preparation of specific music.  We may not have listening stations but we listen to a great deal of music — mostly our own orchestra over the stage monitor or related recordings.  We do research — but generally about the music considered for programming or occasionally about a piece for which someone outside the organization has requested help or information.  We are not a lending library — but we do sometimes rent or loan specific materials to other orchestras, just as they do for us.  It’s often not quiet in the orchestra library (in fact, we can be rather noisy), people don’t whisper when they come in to ask for music, and during intermissions of rehearsals and concerts it’s like Grand Central Station.  Sometimes there is a great deal of hurrying and scurrying around, phones ringing, copiers churning out parts, and general hustle and bustle.

One of my goals with this blog is to show the reality of what we do — the unvarnished truth (well, as much as I can without getting in trouble!) about what goes on hinter der scene, even if it’s not pretty.  Or neat.  Or perfect.  Many of my librarian colleagues are far more neat than I, that’s for sure, and it’s easy to imagine they achieve a closer approximation to perfection on a daily basis than I do.  We have differences in the size of our orchestra’s budgets, number of programs, concerts, weeks, librarians and conductors, but our jobs — regardless of the organization — carry similar responsibilities, rewards and challenges I suspect.  We’d recognize the work anywhere in the world.   There aren’t really that many of us, so it’s good to know The Others are out there dealing with the same issues, stumbling across the same questions, and available to collaborate and help if needed to find the answers.

That’s why I’m willing and unashamed to post photos of our library with music and supplies and boxes and other stuff sitting around.  Things move fast around here.  I bet we aren’t the only ones dealing with that either.

Yea! No Rant Today

Posted in Uncategorized by kschnack on August 20, 2009

I’m sure it didn’t have a thing to do with my rant about Real Parts here 10 days ago, but I guess the universe decided that today some things would be made right in our little library land.  We received 4 — FOUR — sets of charts from various sources for these first specials and pops second halves (that’s 2 small trunks, 2 large trunks, 2 medium size boxes, and 1 large box) and they were all Real Parts, actually Really Nice Parts, marked legibly, organized into great folders for each stand/instrument, clear order sheets, scores included, beautifully prepared and in order. Fantastic.

See, it can be done.  And usually is done.  And has always been the expected protocol for pops artists.  I mean, you never had/have to worry if the charts would be right or in order for the likes of Mel Torme, Tony Bennett, or Marvin Hamlisch.   As illogical as it may be, I immediately have greater respect for these artists, and the people they hire, as true professionals than the ones who have no clue or don’t care to do the work.  I know that’s not necessarily fair and that I shouldn’t be making a judgment.  But there is an artistic standard for what is acceptable to put on stage in front of the players, just as there is an artistic standard expected from the orchestra itself.  (And many of the orchestra contracts have legibility language that allows the players to refuse to perform from inadequate materials.) Professionally-prepared parts, in fact, are a critical piece of what allows the orchestra to reach their highest level of performance.

So, I am happy to report that 4 out of 5 of these pops artists/groups for the first three weeks of concerts “get it” and did the right thing.

I tried to “teach” the other group, as is usual in this situation.  (I know, it’s very Karen-y.  I am what I am.)  We have many times sat down with a road manager, conductor or even the artist, and explained how the parts should look and be prepared beforehand, organized in folders that can then be sent around to the other orchestras.  It’s such a simple concept that pays off for them in a big way.  The ones that want to have a good experience with the orchestras listen intently and say they will work to improve their materials.  I noticed last season that when we had a pops artist back who had performed with us a few years before (and we had sent them on their merry way with a lesson and a set of extra folders organized with their charts), they sent us their music in advance all nicely ready in those same folders.  Mission accomplished.  One artist at a time.

It’s not like we don’t let them know what is expected in advance, and have the usual questionnaires and contracts to address what their responsibilities are.  Most of the time they try to do what is required.  But if artists are not hired through the normal channels, using the procedures that are in place for just such reasons, and with written contracts addressing these issues, this kind of thing is one of the first to be glossed over. The librarian is then often told to “make it work” regardless of how late the parts arrive, how poor the materials are, or even if we have to create the charts ourselves over several late nights.  It’s not always understood by those who have never done it how inefficient and expensive such last-minute crisis preparation can be.  And it’s what we’ve been doing the past two weeks for one half of one concert for one group.  It’s taking more time than dealing with all four of those other programs put together.  (They are going to get a bill logging an hourly rate for the time we have put in.)

So, players and conductors, I want you to know we really do try to make sure the parts and scores are what you need – even with the pops – so you can sit down and read the show with ease.  On behalf of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, I want to heartily thank those who were responsible for making my day today (and I’ll thank you individually since you probably are not among the readers here).  To all “The Larry’s,” Wendy, and Chris — you know who you are — I could just hug you to pieces.  Thanks!

All in a Day’s Work

Posted in Uncategorized by kschnack on August 20, 2009

There was quite a bit of administrative-y work to do today, because so many programs are being finalized in a flurry before the start of the season.  So, here was my day, as best I can remember it at this point:

  • Listened to voice messages and returned any calls needing information ASAP
  • Checked e-mail, skimming through all and answered any that were quick and/or urgent
  • Read news articles and posts about relevant industry items, including MOLA Forum
  • Sorted through all programs for first two specials and first two pops, checking rep, instrumentation, progress on music arrival, prep, and readiness for both orchestral halves and guest artist segments
  • Requested fee quotes for rental pieces on upcoming pops programs just approved
  • Identified copyright/licensing/rights issues about February program with dancers
  • Corresponded with artist rep and librarian for materials of artist going on world tour which must be coordinated between orchestras, also addressed rental fees, requested scores for conductor
  • Contacted publisher about licensing question for copyrighted work and special usage
  • Answered mgt about rights question for city’s use of Copland excerpt on project
  • Briefly discussed with Assistant Artistic Administrator ongoing long-term OPAS data entry project of performance history, she is now starting on files pre-1975
  • Talked to guest artist’s conductor/arranger about shipment of music, concert order sheets, instrumentation, while simultaneously bowing parts for another concert
  • LUNCH!
  • Updated program data in OPAS* for first pops program with added work and encore
  • Made order sheet for first pops program 1st half, stuffed wind** folders and put out
  • Checked through 1st classics folders one last time and put out winds
  • Made string parts for pops special and bound, bowed and numbered them
  • Helped players who came to pick up music
  • Alerted various players about instrumentation questions
  • Checked Christmas commissioning agreement for specs of parts and scores plus deadline for arrival of materials – worked out changes with Ops
  • Requested perusal recording from publisher for artistic administration
  • Generally compared three different Alexander Nevsky vocal score publications DSO owns for legibility, rehearsal systems, Russian translation and transliteration, determined how many more we will purchase that can fit into the budget and which of the old ones we can use
  • Cleaned out and answered (some!) e-mails in the queue from vacation
  • Filed e-mails, program updates, etc.
  • More stuff that I can’t remember
  • Brought home stack of string parts for commission and did bowings tonight

*OPAS is our repertoire database, from which all programming worksheets, concert order sheets, schedules, repertoire reports and ASCAP/BMI reporting are generated.

**When using the word “winds” in terms of the orchestra parts, librarians mean everything but strings, inclusive of winds, brass, percussion, harp, keyboard, and other (in Score Order!).

G’night.  I’m pooped!

All We Need is Time (and a bottle)

Posted in Organizational Effectiveness by kschnack on August 18, 2009

Not time “in” a bottle……….time AND a bottle!

In one week the orchestra will be back into rehearsals and concerts, jump-starting the 2009-10 season with two specials, two pops programs, one gala, and then the classics openers.  We were feeling pretty smug and ahead-of-the-game a couple of months ago and throughout the summer about the start of the new season as we prepared parts for the music director’s first concerts.  The commission was on its way.  The music was all ordered.  Lots of bowings, measure numbers, and corrections were done.  Excerpts were already being worked on for Romeo and Juliet.

But then reality intervened and now it’s a scramble to get everything ready in time for the players’ first day back, when they will need their parts for numerous programs (they are already showing up).  That’s what smugness will get you.  I had to laugh at Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary definitions and etymology – please note the reference to Low German and Middle Low German.  Straight from my ancestors to you here.  Guess I deserved it.  See below:

  • Main Entry: smug
  • Pronunciation: \ˈsməg\
  • Function: adjective
  • Inflected Form(s): smug·ger; smug·gest
  • Etymology: probably modification of Low German smuck neat, from Middle Low German, from smucken to dress; akin to Old English smoc smock
  • Date: 1551

1 : trim or smart in dress : spruce
2 : scrupulously clean, neat, or correct : tidy
3 : highly self-satisfied

smug·ly adverb smug·ness noun

(Since everyone who knows me well knows that I did not inherit the “neat and tidy” from my family, we have to go with definition No. 3.)

Anyway, as we discovered upon our tag-team returns from vacation, there were quite a few of those ever-lovin’ curve balls all over the library (see previous post “The Curve Ball”).  The commission was late. Not enough parts sent.  Score had to be created and sent to conductor.  Artists’ charts for specials coming pdf and too late instead of real parts (see last week’s rant on “Real Parts”).  Pops programs decided/approved late.  Couldn’t order rentals early enough so players will not get those pieces as soon as they should.  Program change on gala.  Two days of pre-season classics rehearsals means ALL repertoire for those performances must be completely ready earlier than planned.  Some pops arrangements need licenses for usage.  20th anniversary of Meyerson this month and everyone wants help with archival materials.  And as I mentioned at the top — we are doing excerpts from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet. Out of order.  From different suites.  Every librarian knows what that means.

Plus, I really REALLY want to clean the library for a fresh start.  Okay.  More like NEED to.

Time – just give us more time!!

Barring that, I’ll take the bottle.

DSO Library Karen's Area Definitely Needs A Fire Hose

DSO Library Karen's Area Definitely Needs Help. (Hey, maybe I should use that shovel!*)

* Shovel from the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center Ground Breaking more than 20 years ago.  Nobody knew what to do with it so I took it “for the archives.”  I find it very useful for many things.  And I will leave you today with your imagination working on that thought!

OPS: The Orchestra’s Engine

Posted in DSO Colleagues,Organizational Effectiveness by kschnack on August 10, 2009

I would like to introduce you to the fine folks at the Dallas Symphony Operations Department (minus the librarians, stage crew, and personnel managers who are considered an extended part of the department).  Here is a picture of 4/5’s of them:

DSO Ops Team:  Margaret Moore, Victor Marshall, Mark Melson, Amy Wagliardo (not pictured, Mary Lynch)

DSO Ops Team (from left): Margaret Moore, Victor Marshall, Mark Melson, Amy Wagliardo (not pictured, Mary Lynch)

Don’t they look like a great group of people?

Well, they are.

I’ll tell you a little bit more about each of them in a moment (and the black clothes), but first I just want to say that I have been a very lucky person to work with this group for many years.  They are smart, knowledgeable, fun, helpful, resourceful, creative, experienced, marvelous people who do an amazing amount for the orchestra and get little public credit.  I am grateful for them, I tell you for sure.  And I thank them for their daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly commitment to the DSO and for being such great colleagues and friends.  The library (and orchestra) could not have any kind of success without their truly tireless work.  And I appreciate that they put up with me, because I’m not a Quiet One.

As you now know.

First up, on the left, is Margaret Moore.  She is the Associate Artistic Administrator so deals with artist contracts, visas, travel arrangements, and payments; transports artists as needed to and from airports, hotels and the hall; generates classical programming worksheets, rehearsal orders, and other such info; handles all correspondence, scheduling and arrangements for the Music Director; processes commissioning agreements; communicates with artists about their requirements and distributes that info to the rest of us; works concert duty on classical concerts, and a whole bunch of other things I am leaving out.  Margaret is a professional organist, and she is one of the most excellent souls you will ever meet.  She is usually pretty unflappable, so when Margaret finally reaches the end of her rope, you know that the situation has truly gone too far.

Next to Margaret  in the photo, is Victor Marshall.  He has just retired after 28 years as the DSO’s Artistic Administrator, and now is the Artistic Advisor.  He knows everyone in the business, many of the great artists of our time call him their friend, and he has helped program the classical series, negotiated and booked artists all these years, handled their “care and feeding” and is extraordinarily knowledgeable about all things related to the classical music industry, particularly recordings.  He has a background in radio, an announcer’s voice, and so has been “The Voice of the Dallas Symphony” for promotions, PR, and radio spots since I’ve been here.  It’s him we hear every night just before a concert telling us to turn our phones off.  He will continue to work on our recordings (both historical and new projects) and advise about programming.  Victor always wears black, which is why everyone in the photo is wearing black, because they were at his retirement party and decided to pay proper tribute. Oh, and he knows every local dive, greasy spoon, and TexMex restaurant in the greater DFW metroplex, as well as the history of nearly every building!

Next to Victor, second from the right, is Mark Melson, Vice President of Artistic Operations.  Mark has been with the orchestra for almost 25 years, and head of operations since 1988.  In that position he, of course, oversees all aspects of the orchestra’s production including programming, tours, guest artists and conductors, budgets, hiring, and scheduling; he negotiates musician and stage hand contracts, and he is our boss.  Doesn’t he have a fun job?  Mark absolutely loves this art form that we strive to present at its best, and he is especially proud of the Dallas Symphony, listening to all the concerts and reveling in their success.  He knows alot about great singers, and is always sharing his recordings of performances he has found. He is a proud grandfather of two, sings in his church choir, and has this weird thing in his brain that causes him to express groaner puns without missing a beat.  Even in large groups.  He is not shy about it.  I am keeping a catalogue of some of the better ones.

The person on the far right of the picture is Amy Wagliardo, Director of Operations.  She is the newest and youngest member of the department, although she has been with us 5 years now, and when she joined us it was like she had always been there.  She has a Bachelors in Music Education, Masters in Arts Admin and an MBA, lots of financial background experience, and a mighty quick mind, so the department is in good hands with all her skills.  She does the orchestra schedule, is the liaison to the players, librarians, personnel managers and stage crew for any operational issues, manages the production details and orchestra logistics, communicates to Marketing for all program-related information, to Finance for the departmental and series budgets which she formulates, puts together the nuts and bolts of run-outs and tours, and on and on.  She has the largest computer monitor in the department, for which we tease her endlessly, but honestly, she absolutely needs and deserves it as she is always working on about ten things at once.  Amy is incredibly funny and fun to be around, she’s a great amateur photographer and has her own blog ( where she posts many of those photos.

Last but not least of the department (and not pictured) is Mary Lynch, the Operations/Pops Coordinator.  Mary handles all the details for the pops series’ conductors, artists, programming information, including contracts and riders, setting up travel arrangements and hotel accommodations for the entourages, communicating with road managers about logistics and repertoire, and is their liaison to the orchestra while on site for all rehearsals and concerts.  She also proofs Stagebill before publication.  In her role, she runs into some pretty interesting characters (where ego is never in short supply) and I’m always amazed and impressed with how she is able to remain patient and friendly no matter how they act!  Mary has a heart of gold, and when she has a little space in her schedule always offers to help us with bowings or measure numbers.  She is a singer (former member of the Dallas Symphony Chorus), very creative in arts and crafts, and an incredibly generous person.

So, that’s the core of our Operations Department, the people responsible for getting all the rehearsals and performances on stage.  I hope players in every orchestra can stop and think a bit about how much their ops teams do for them — can you imagine the huge number of details they handle in a day? I encourage everyone to go to their offices and hang out for a while, you would be amazed at all they cover (and, sorry to my guys for undoubtedly leaving out huge segments of what you do).  I think the Operations people have to be part manager, school teacher, therapist, travel agent, organizer, negotiator, listener, mediator, and Jack of All Trades.   There is no way any of our orchestras could function smoothly without these folks.

So thanks for everything you do, Ops!  I am proud to know and work with you, and be on “the team.”

Send REAL Parts, please!!

Posted in Organizational Effectiveness,Preparing Parts by kschnack on August 9, 2009

Okay, listen up, people who are in charge of sending guest artists’ charts (particularly pops) and self-published composers.  Yes, I know technology is very Handy Dandy for zinging electronic files around the world at the last minute, and I understand the temptation to avoid printing out parts and scores (in the proper size and on decent paper) and binding them (correctly) and physically sending a package to either a domestic or international location, or both.  It’s a pain.  Yes.  I know.

But it is NOT THE LIBRARIAN’S JOB of the orchestra to which you are supposed to be providing parts to do this.  It is YOUR job.  Yes.  It is.

It’s not that we can’t or won’t print out pdf parts; we do plenty of them, and make very nice parts indeed.  It’s perfectly fine for small projects, or even large ones if that’s what we’ve agreed to and planned for under the terms of your contract or commission.  We have many pieces throughout a season for which we have to produce parts and for which it is our job to do so.  But if you are being paid to compose a work, and the fee includes proofing, copying and preparation of parts and scores, then please honor your end of the deal.  And if you are the performer on a pops program and want to use your own arrangements, it is your responsibility to hire someone on your end to create and organize the materials in folders by instrument and send them ready to go on the stands.  Don’t tell me (at the last minute, after you’ve promised to send the parts by a certain day) that “we decided it would be easier for you if we sent pdf files, they are very simple, it shouldn’t be a problem, it’s what we do with all the orchestras, and it’s never been an issue with anyone before.”  Do NOT tell me that!

As you can plainly see, it is an issue.

We have an excellent Operations Department, and very clear commissioning agreements. I know that these things are spelled out in advance.  Somehow, though, in the flurry of activity that inevitably happens towards the end of a deadline period, some composers and performers find they’ve run out of time and so decide to fall back on the most expedient medium – for themselves.  And we’re so desperate to receive the parts by that time we have no other choice but to make them ourselves.

Look, there’s plenty of discussion amongst my librarian colleagues about where to draw this line, and some libraries are set up with wonderful equipment, enough people, and a budget to be the de facto publisher for whatever comes down the pike.  Some actually prefer it that way, so they can make the parts exactly the way they want. Because we, of all people, know how to make really good parts.  But it should never be assumed that the performance librarian will automatically produce entire sets of parts and scores for your piece or arrangements unless you’ve worked that out in advance.  For a fee.

And here’s why:  there isn’t always time for us to be the printers, publishers, AND librarians.  We have more than we can do just as librarians.

Going into part production unexpectedly throws a wrench into the entire work flow of the library and interrupts everything else we need to be doing.  There’s the time and labor.  Manipulating files to print. Paper.  Binding.  Toner.  Computer software and hardware capability.  Wear and tear on our equipment.  And on us.  All of this costs money.

Just imagine how much paper is wasted every time a particular artist performs with a different orchestra, sends pdf files of the charts, and another set gets made and marked. Then what happens?  The orchestra will never use those parts again unless the same artist comes back, and even then the program will probably be different. Not to mention all that time spent by both librarians and players to put in new markings, when a set from a previous performance could go on the stands, already prepared.  It’s just ridiculous.  And could have been avoided simply by doing the work far enough in advance.

I realize the days are gone when composers just composed, copyists only copied, publishers published, and librarians did the library work for their performances.  Yes, technology has blurred the boundaries of not only what is possible, but also what is expected for all of us in the music preparation part of the industry.  And everyone wants to be the beneficiary of cost-savings that technology can provide.  So, it’s become a tactic for some to shove the work onto the next party because it’s easier and cheaper.

But I do not buy that this is “just the way it is now.”  No, it’s not.  Orchestras still have to play from paper for the most part, they will for the foreseeable future, and that paper has to be in the proper, legible format, professionally prepared, and then marked.  Somebody has to do all that stuff before the markings are put in.  The expectation should not be that somebody is the orchestra’s librarian.

There are many composers and performers out there who create and send excellent parts – most, actually try to do this the proper way so the orchestra won’t have problems with their music.  They are professional and respectful and they care enough to send the very best, as they know it reflects upon them as artists.  I appreciate and respect them as well for their professionalism and efforts to provide what the orchestra needs from them.

But the ones that are just trying to get around doing what they are supposed to do………not so much.

I guess I should spare you from reading any more ranting about REAL PARTS, so will sign off now.  But brace yourselves.  There will be a future post on CRAPPY PARTS! You can count on it.

E-Mails and Orders and Bowings, Oh My!

Posted in Uncategorized by kschnack on August 4, 2009

I went back to work in the library yesterday for the first time since we left on tour.

I think I’ll need another vacation to recover.

After 8 hours I had to go home and sip a little “weak tea” (as my predecessor’s wife used to say) and take to my bed early.  It completely wiped me out!  😉

This is no complaint either about my time away, which was a really good break, or about the amazing amount of things my colleagues accomplished while I was gone.  In fact, it was very impressive that they unpacked the tour trunks, unstuffed all those folders (75 pieces!!), got everything in order, cuts and inserts removed, scores/parts/programs either put away or shipped back to the publisher, set up new files for the 2009-10 season, loaded up the first classics folder with as much as they could, started initial preparation for the first two pops programs, ordered a bunch of music for said programs as soon as those were determined, left coherent notes, e-mails and messages about ongoing issues, and even kept the work counters organized.  All this after having spent the last three months or more already marking parts for the new season.  Way to go, folks!  (Just FYI, I am going to feature our merry little Band of Bibliothécaires in a posting so you can be properly introduced – and so I can properly thank them – as soon as they all send me their pictures!)

Nor is it a complaint about my patient co-workers throughout the organization, including numerous courteous orchestra members, who needed things and were waiting for the library to open back up.  They mostly left me alone yesterday and saved their requests for today.  I am really grateful for that.  The first day can be overwhelming, what with 500 e-mails (nope, not exaggerating), full voice mailbox, lots of invoices stacked up, and music, music, everywhere.  One has to start at the bottom and work up, to discover all the latest program additions, revisions, and where things are in the preparatory stage.

No, it’s not anything to do with anyone else – it’s just going in and feeling the responsibility of all those constant details and deadlines settle back down upon your shoulders at the start of the new season like a mantle (it doesn’t really ever go away completely, but one can pretend pretty well by physically leaving the library, cutting off access to e-mail correspondence for a while, and swimming in that river, DeNile).  I would describe it as a feeling of carrying something across the shoulders like a yoke with weights hanging from each side and 10 spinning plates atop it – and knowing you must balance and heave it all uphill for a year.  It gets a little lighter, then a little heavier, back and forth throughout the season, is challenging and rewarding at the same time, satisfying and even fun when things are well-balanced and working smoothly, the scenery is often breathtakingly beautiful,  sometimes you even get to walk downhill for a bit or sit and take a rest,  and many of the people you meet along the way are absolutely fascinating.  Most importantly, in my case, I don’t have to carry the load and move all the pieces alone.  I have fantastic work partners — we laugh and we push and pull each other along.

So as I get my chops back up to speed, I’ll work just as hard as the rest of the team did while they enjoy their well-deserved time away.  And maybe practice carrying things in new (and old), ever more more efficient ways.