From the Orchestra Library

I Don’t Think These are in the Excerpt Books

Posted in The Business,The Music,Uncategorized by kschnack on June 3, 2010
Tags: ,

I must have written this memo to the orchestra while I was lost in a flash sideways or something, because weren’t we just doing Mahler???

Dear Orchestra,

This is to let you know that the Video Games Live people no longer send the orchestra’s music in advance, but instead bring everything the first day of rehearsal.

Therefore, they have provided a link from which you can see and/or download practice copies of all of the parts. [Link, user name and password edited out for blog.]

Please note that the “O” in the password is a capital “O” – NOT A ZERO.

Attached is the concert set list for our performances. The numbers in parentheses relate to the numbered selections on the download file. So, if you want to practice “Diablo III-Wrathgate Zero” you go to #37 on the list of selections and click on “Diablo III.”

The instrumentation, in addition to strings, is also attached.

Let me know if you have any questions,


PS. Although I probably won’t know the answers to your questions, as I have no idea what those titles mean, except for Frogger and Mario.


Schoenberg and Bugs Bunny

Posted in The Business,The Music,Uncategorized by kschnack on April 25, 2010
Tags: ,

Sometimes daily life in the orchestra library is an exercise in absurdity and irony. As such, it can become great fodder for storytelling. And it also serves to provide endless material for merrymaking so that when the going gets tough we librarians have something to laugh about.

I remember how thrilled I was after graduating from college and getting my first orchestra job, and playing Mahler Symphony No. 1 the opening week. Even the pops concerts in the beginning were exciting, performing with all those “stars.” As time went on, of course, the reality of the job set in and one could be a bit disillusioned by the amount of “non-serious” repertoire that was programmed. I know that many of my colleagues experienced the same adjustment from their expectations of what playing  in a professional orchestra would be like. All those years of study and practice, perfecting every technique so we could execute the most technically demanding classical symphonic, opera and ballet repertoire, to play back-up for a pops show? Yep.

These days I am older and more realistic (and hopefully a little wiser), and I understand better how challenging it is for the artistic leadership to develop creative and appealing programming while maintaining and raising the quality and level of excellence, and……making payroll. So, I admit there are worthwhile pops programs that are not only audience-friendly but artistically satisfying for the players. Of course, some US orchestras “don’t do pops” — or at least if they do it’s called something else — and many players yearn for their dream job in which they wouldn’t have to do those kinds of concerts. But let’s not forget that composers have long crossed back and forth between the so-called serious and popular music in their compositions. For example, Erich Korngold, and, yes, even Schoenberg, had to earn a living after they escaped Europe to Hollywood during the war. Did Schoenberg go tonal to please? Korngold wrote some pretty progressive music for films that, with merely a change in title, could have ended up on the concert stage as “serious” with no one the wiser.*

So, it is with great pleasure that I recount for you the following short incident that took place during a recent rehearsal:

We were well into rehearsals for a week of subscription concerts and the strings had just finished a rigorous work-out on Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht. As we finished the stage move to the Brahms symphony set-up I had to make an announcement regarding an upcoming pops program, for which the music had been promised but was delayed by the show’s creator. I got up in front of the orchestra and said “I am very sorry to let you know that the Bugs Bunny music  is late and won’t be here until Friday.”

From somewhere in the cello section I hear: “OH NOOOOOOOOOO!!!”

At which point we all lost it.

Because “Bugs Bunny on Broadway” is a pre-packaged concert that is performed in sync with the film clips of the cartoons, often to some of the most famous classical music ever written (you know, “Kill the Wabbit” set to Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries”), I like to think Mr. Schoenberg would have found the absurdity, irony, and humor in the situation.

*John Mauceri gave a very enlightening talk examining this subject at a MOLA conference in LA a few years ago. An edited version appears on page 4 of this issue of Marcato and I encourage you to read it:

The First of September

Posted in Uncategorized by kschnack on September 1, 2009

I guess I am going to have to face facts.

Summer is over.

I have been trying through every means possible to pretend that it isn’t, and sometimes that’s pretty easy when you step outside in Dallas in the middle of an August day.  I also practice mind games, saying things to myself like:  “The season hasn’t officially started yet” or “We still have Labor Day!” or “The music director isn’t here yet” or any number of an increasingly pathetic and shrinking supply of excuses for why it’s not yet time to be back in the concert season full swing.

Because, when the orchestra is on vacation…….there are fewer work hours and no nights and weekends.  (Well, except all those parts brought home.   Yeah, there is that.)

But it’s just brain whine.  To be honest, I really love my musician hours.  The mix of some days, some nights, weekends and even some holidays is all I have really ever known on any kind of regular professional basis, because it’s a given as a musician.    I certainly would not prefer having to do a M-F, 9-6 or 8-5 or (heaven forbid) 7-4 schedule.  I’m not good at having the same hours all the time or strict structure.  OMG.  You who know me are laughing now about that understatement!

And let’s face it, NONE of us in the orchestral industry would have jobs without the players playing concerts. It’s that simple.

The other thing is that the moment the great music starts again, I am renewed and inspired.  Because it’s in my blood like everyone on stage, and it gives my life a daily richness that I feel lucky to have.

There are actually quite a few things to celebrate here as we hit the First of September, 2009.  I use that day to mark the start of a new season because that’s when our orchestra’s contract says it does.  And, for the first time since I came to work at the Dallas Symphony in the fall of 1990, the two full-time library positions have been added to the collective bargaining agreement.  Yep, after this summer’s negotiations, we are now recognized musicians and members of the orchestra.  We are so excited and happy, as it has been a very long, and, at times, frustrating wait.  But that is behind us now — we feel like we finally belong and are grateful for this recognition from our playing colleagues in the orchestra, as well as the acknowledgment from our administration.  We appreciate all the work that went into making it happen.

Another reason to celebrate, as mentioned in previous posts, is the 20th anniversary of the opening of our concert hall, the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center.  It is a magnificent building and concert hall, and a pretty great place to go to work.  The DSO is the primary tenant even though the hall is owned and run by the City of Dallas, and so we rehearse on stage every day, the library is only feet from backstage, the players have great locker space and a wonderful lounge, and the concert hall is absolutely stunning.  Not to mention the sound.  Can I mention the sound? It’s incredible.  I suppose there are times when I wish the music director’s office wasn’t right across the hall from the library 😉 but even that has its advantages.

The Meyerson is the cornerstone of a long-planned Dallas Arts District that is finally coming to fruition.  In October, the new Dallas Center for the Performing Arts Winspear Opera House will open with gala performances by The Dallas Opera.  The striking hall is right next door to us, and other pieces of the Arts District puzzle are also being completed near the Meyerson with a new theater center and additional performance spaces.  So it’s a fantastic time in the city’s arts history to be working here and see the city’s long-held vision come together (

Which segues right in to my other reason for celebration — I personally start my 20th season at the Dallas Symphony today.  Wow, it hardly seems possible.  I guess I am half-way through my career here if I make it to retirement (okay, okay, a little more than half-way………sheesh) and one never knows what the next day will bring.  But it is something of a personal milestone, so I am marking it by mentioning it and, if all goes well, I’ll have a party this time next year!

I walked outside a minute ago, and, even down here in Texas, the air has changed.  The edge is off, it dipped into the 60’s last night, and although it will still reach 90 degrees today, it’s different.  You can tell that fall is on its way.  These next weeks will be some of the most beautiful of the year in this part of the world.

So it’s soon Indian Summer.  And with that word “summer” I can still procrastinate just a little bit!


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!

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.

The Call To The Stage

Posted in Uncategorized by kschnack on July 30, 2009

Nothing good ever comes of a conductor calling a librarian to the stage.

Really.  Nothing good at all.

Before you get all over me with the reasons why you think this tactic might be necessary – please hear me out.

There is rarely anything so important, or so simple, that it can be solved by the orchestra librarian’s mere appearance onstage during a rehearsal.  Most things that a conductor wants to change require the librarian to have physical control of the parts or score in question, and for some amount of time.  There is nothing we can actually DO at that exact moment unless the rehearsal is being stopped and time is being given to pull the parts and score to make revisions.  Believe me, if we could walk out there, wiggle our noses and magically fix something like Samantha in “Bewitched” nothing would make us happier.

The Call to the Stage is usually used to draw attention to something that is wrong or that a conductor wants changed in the  parts or score.  I’ll even go so far as to say it is often designed to draw attention, and leave it at that.  Whatever the motive, it’s probably an unconscious one on the part of the conductor, but the only thing calling a librarian to the stage accomplishes is creating the impression in front of 100 people that the librarian is at fault for something.  And they may be.  Or they may not be.  But a public airing of any issues doesn’t help anyone.  Think about it:

1)       The librarian gets called out, via the conductor’s emissary or over the stage monitor.

2)      The librarian comes to the stage, and the rehearsal is stopped.

3)      Some instruction is given to the librarian such as “We need to add the horns to the trumpet line at D” or “I want the strings to turn pages in a different spot” or “There is an error in the flute part” or, even, “the bowings in the second violins don’t match the firsts”……or 1000 other examples.

4)      The librarian says something like “Okay, I’ll take care of it at break or after rehearsal.”

5)      The librarian leaves the stage.

6)      The rehearsal resumes.

Nothing has happened now, except to waste everyone’s time and cause the orchestra to wonder why this wasn’t taken care of beforehand.  The problem or request still has to be fixed after the parts are available, and is usually done so immediately following the rehearsal, but it takes far longer to repair the damaged credibility.  That damage may be unintended, but it’s real.  Players always ask questions about such an incident and want to know what the deal was.

I guess you can tell this is one of my Big Pet Peeves.

Please understand that I am not talking about when a player is missing a part, for example.  In that instance, hopefully it’s the player themselves that comes to the library and we can solve the problem right then.  Because the library does sometimes make mistakes and from time-to-time a tuba part might end up in a timpani folder.  But sometimes the player has made the mistake and either left the part at home,  put it in a different folder, or it’s stuck between the pages of another part.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone out, looked through a folder, and found the part right there after being accused of misplacing it myself.  So, it’s best for all concerned if the player’s individual issue doesn’t become a time waster for the whole orchestra.  If it’s 10:01 in the morning, you’ve sat down to rehearse,  you haven’t figured out that your part is missing until  just that minute, and then yell out to the conductor you don’t have a part, yeah, I’m going to be a little peeved.

One clever player in the DSO this past spring texted me from onstage to let me know a part was missing for later in a pops rehearsal.  It was great!  We got the info in advance, we found the missing part, and all was well.  An excellent use of technology, I must say.  And then, of course, we went on to text about something entirely unrelated to help him pass the time while counting rests.  Low brass.

And, you know, if I happen to be playing that particular rehearsal and the conductor decides he or she wants something done – I don’t mind if the instruction is given right that minute even though I’ll need to do the work later.  That’s fine.  I’m right there, I know what the issue is from being in the rehearsal, and that makes sense.  No problem.

It’s not the same as being Called To The Stage.

I understand that all kinds of situations arise during rehearsals in which folks think there is a musical  emergency  or crisis, something that needs to be fixed right then, and that this can only be accomplished by bringing the librarian out in front of everyone to address it.  But I can’t think of a single situation in which that is truly necessary, and in which it wouldn’t be far better just to give us the instruction as soon as there is a break, and preferably privately – especially if we did screw up.  Human beings tend to want to deflect their own responsibility on to someone else if there’s a problem, and if we are called out in front of the whole orchestra it’s a perfect opportunity to insinuate the responsibility was ours, when maybe it’s something that we should have been instructed about in advance so we could do the work beforehand.  Or maybe we did make a mistake, so then it turns into a public humiliation.

Although it doesn’t happen much anymore, in the past 25 years I’ve been called to the stage for all kinds of reasons and I can only remember once when I could actually do anything to fix the situation right then.  I’ve gotten to the point where, if it’s anyone but the music director, I’ll go and stand at the edge of the stage and just wait quietly, watching the conductor while they determine whether or not they then want to stop the rehearsal.  I’ve noticed when I do this that once they see me – but backstage instead of coming onstage – they realize they can speak to me at the break and it will be fine.  Of course, if it’s the music director, I’ll walk right out to the podium and take the instruction on the spot.  I may have my pet peeves, but I’m not stupid.

Notre Dame Beheaded Saint

Notre Dame Facade Beheaded Saint Denis

Out With the Old, In With the New

Posted in Uncategorized by kschnack on July 22, 2009

Even though it’s Summertime, and the livin’ is s’posed to be easy……..well, the library machine never really stops.  We do, mercifully, get to take the bulk of our vacation time while the players are off, and that way individually each get a break.  But we pass the information, projects and deadlines back and forth between us like a baton (not the conducting kind, the relay kind) so that we won’t drop anything as we come and go in July and August.

By the time the orchestra left on tour at the end of June, the library had already gotten started on the repertoire for next season.  In the middle of prep for all those June/July programs, we couldn’t afford to let up on the big picture for 09-10.  As a matter of fact, we started gathering information for the new season already last November when budgeting began, so that programming could be finalized.  Many orchestras these days are definitely in a phase of “programming by budget” as opposed to “budgeting by program,” and the DSO is not immune to similar economic pressures.  So, as repertoire is tentatively planned, we get rental fee quotes and purchase prices, and, as programming is adjusted, we update those projected fees.

This process goes up through January or so, but by then most of the classics repertoire is set for the next season, as are the basic outlines for our three youth programs.  Pops and secondary concerts are another matter entirely – we don’t get the programs for them until much later.  As anyone who has ever done a budget knows, it’s pretty hard to gauge what will be spent when one doesn’t know which “product” will be offered.  But we rely on what the various series have cost in past years and our experience with the different conductors to come up with a fairly reliable budget.

Once that is done, sometime in the spring, we start to order the music that is available for purchase, including extra string parts and full scores we may need for existing sets.  This music begins to arrive by mid-May, and gives us a jump on organizing and planning music preparation before we place rental orders in early June.

As decisions are made about which editions and sets of standard rep we will be using, we organize it all in a project shelf by program, for easy accessibility in preparation.  It’s a great way to help us stay on track all season.

09-10 Classics Concert rep by program

09-10 Classics Concert rep by program

Doesn’t that look organized?

Of course, if you pull back on the photo and show the surrounding area, you get a little bit less-tidy image.  My excuse is that the library is small, there isn’t enough room to store everything, and when a pops trunk the size of a coffin arrives (I think that was the shipping container for the “Final Fantasy” show, yes, we do such things) you put it where you can.

Concert rep shelf in reality

Concert rep shelf in reality

Anyway, that gives you an idea of what goes on in the library “between seasons.”

There is one other thing that occasionally goes on – celebrating the end of another challenging year and our success in getting “the right music in the right place at the right time.”  Our friends and colleagues in another orchestra library sent us a little gift because we loaned them one of our tunes from a Christmas program.  You might be able to find that gift in this next photo, as it did sit on the counter for a while.   If you were to come to the library now, though, it would no longer be there.  We used it for said celebration (after work hours of course!) and greatly appreciated the thoughtful gesture.  It was a perfect way to mark a moment moving from one season to the next.

DSO Library work counter

DSO Library work counter

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