Ricardo Averbach- email@example.com
I am available to meet with students almost everyday. You can simply stop by or drop me an email
message just to make sure I will be available when you come. I love to meet with students and interact
informally, so please to visit me, even if it is just to say hello!
Make sure to know who the librarian is for the semester and get his/her contact information. You can
find his telephone number and email adadress in the Miami Directory.
The primary goal of playing in MUSO is to improve your orchestral skills. This means that by playing
as part of a strong team, your individual performance will become more accurate, with more attention
to sound quality, intonation, rhythm, dynamic amplitude, phrasing and blending into the texture of the
overall sound. You will also learn how your particular contribution relates to the other instruments -
enhancing your ability to play and think as part of a team. One of my priorities when working with
MUSO is to achieve incisiveness of sound combined with the ability to listen harmonically and connect
organically different sections of the music.
Develop high artistic standards for outstanding performances.
Beyond that you will learn to express emotion though your playing. MUSO plays the greatest repertoire
there is - it should be the learning experience of a lifetime. As with all human endeavor, learn to
recognize that perfection is impossible - and instead strive for emotional fulfillment and continual
improvement through diligent work.
Expectations for the students
- Be punctual for every rehearsal.
- Be prepared to play the music scheduled for each rehearsal.
- Be open to criticism, realizing it is the primary way we improve.
- Be totally committed to the music and the ensemble during our 4.5 hours a week of rehearsal.
- Be prepared to stop and start together during rehearsal
- Take responsibility for learning your part - if that requires extra help from your teacher or the
conductor, please be proactive and ask. Feel free to use the recordings posted on blackboard or in
the Amos Music Library to aid your learning as well.
- Bring your music, a pencil & eraser, your instrument and any required accessories (mutes, extra
reeds & strings, etc...) to every rehearsal
- Be professional, following good orchestral etiquette!
- Be positive and focused during rehearsal and laugh at the conductor's jokes, even if they are bad.
Email and communication
Students are expected to check their email messages everyday and also to check for announcements and
assignments that are given prior and after every rehearsal.
THE REHEARSAL SCHEDULE FOR THE WEEK IS SENT BY EMAIL, CANVAS
ANNOUNCEMENTS FOR THIS CLASS AND POSTED ON A BULLETIN BOARD IN THE
BASEMENT OF PRESSER HALL. THIS IS USUALLY DONE ON THE FRIDAY OF THE
PREVIOUS WEEK, WITH A FEW EXCEPTIONS.
Our orchestra environment should be totally free of prejudice; students should be free to experiment
with solos, make musical mistakes, express comments, ideas and ask questions without fear of being
ridiculed by others. Questions and comments need to be made in a positive manner. An environment
of camaraderie and respect are a must for success. At the same time it is important to understand some
fundamental differences of the orchestra work when compared to other types of classes such as lectures.
Orchestras have a certain protocol that allows them to function more efficiently. This doesn't mean
that students are not free to express their ideas, it just means that this should be done in a different way,
according to the standard protocol through which orchestras function. In this way, we function and
reflect the same type of attitude and work of professional orchestras.
Overstating the obvious
The Miami University Symphony Orchestra is an organization in constant search for the highest possible
level of artistic excellence. Musicians are expected to reflect that attitude in their demeanor. This is
particularly important in terms of attendance, punctuality, level of preparation and artistic and mature
behavior. It also includes taking care of the music and returning it on time.
- Every effort is made to have all music available before each new program or as soon as possible. It
is the responsibility of each musician to get his assigned parts. IF FOR ANY REASON A MEMBER
OF THE GROUP DOES NOT RECEIVE THE MUSIC (for example, the member was absent from the
rehearsal when the music was distributed, or there were not enough parts for everybody) HE/SHE HAS
TO FOLLOW UP WITH THE LIBRARIAN ABOUT GETTING A PART IMMEDIATELY. THIS IS
NOT AN EXCUSE FOR NOT HAVING THE MUSIC AT A LATER REHEARSAL, OR NOT BEING
ABLE TO PRACTICE DUE TO THE LACK OF MUSIC!
- The music each musician is assigned is considered checked out. Each musician is responsible for
returning the parts in good condition and not later than the specified time. The music should be kept in
its folder at all times.
- Parts are due at the end of the last performance at which the music is used. The librarian specifies how
the music should be returned and you are responsible for following the librarian's instructions and not
assume something else.
- String players who are sharing music because they perform on the same stand should be particularly
sensitive to the above. If you are performing with the music of your stand partner, you need to return the
music on time and avoid stress to the librarian of having to look for you to retrieve the music.
- Lost or not returned music will be charged a replacement fee per part. If the parts are originals
and owned by MUSO or even if they are photocopies we will determine the price according to the
replacement cost, shipping, etc. The cost of lost rental parts will depend on each specific company's
rental fee, which can be very expensive and more than $100 per part. Therefore it is very important to
take good care of the music. In addition to the replacement cost, returning music late might have an
impact on the student's grade.
This is not a standard class. This is an ensemble.
Grading is based on three items:
- Level of preparation for rehearsals and concerts
Short cut: The easy way to understand the grading policies is just attend all rehearsals, always come
prepared and have a positive attitude. If you do this, everybody will be very happy and you will earn an
Grading policies for attendance are given on the bottom of this document. If a person has no attendance
problems, the grading is as follows:
A = excellent level of preparation and attitude
A- = almost excellent level of preparation and attitude
B = good (but not excellent) level of preparation and/or attitude
B- = slightly less than competence in the items above
C = satisfactory contribution to the group, but more preparation for rehearsal was definitely possible and
desirable and/or demonstration of some negative attitude as defined below.
C- = the member is about to enter on probation due to problems with attendance, level of preparation or
D = the member is on probation due to problems with attendance, attitude or poor preparation for
rehearsals. Continuation in the group is compromised. At the first neglect of one of the items above
(attendance, level of preparation or attitude) the member will be dismissed from the group and fail the
F = failing grade
Note: probation means that the next mistake the person makes (missing a rehearsal, coming unprepared
or displaying negative attitude) will imply in a failing grade.
Details: For those who need more specific information, here are details about the grading items
(attendance criteria is given on the bottom of this document)
Level of preparation:
The quality of our rehearsals depends on the preparation level of the students for all rehearsals. The
rehearsal is not where the student learns to play his/her part - this is done outside of the rehearsals.
During rehearsals, we work on ensemble issues: synchronization of playing, balance, equalization of
articulations, clarity, interpretation, etc.
We are all here because we love to make music and to perform. Orchestra members have the privilege
of playing the best music ever written. Together we can create something unique, much bigger than the
sum of the parts. We want to have the best possible orchestra experience, and to achieve that you need to
come prepared for rehearsals.
While a wonderful opportunity, our day-to-day work is not pure fun, but a result of much work and
effort. To play an instrument well and artistically is something very unique and very difficult. Let's
cherish our moments together, value the work and effort of everyone and give our repertoire the time
and energy it deserves.
Different from individually learning your instrument, orchestra is a combined effort of several people.
Nobody is perfect, and we need to value our differences instead of resisting the fact that other people
might have different ideas and act differently from the way we might expect them to do. This applies
to the relationship with your colleagues in the orchestra, and with your director, who comes from a
different country and might seem weird at times (though he loves you all).
To have a positive attitude that reflects on a superior grade means, among other things:
BE RESPONSIBLE: Be on time and work hard while at rehearsal. Please do not be discourteous to
those who have the respect to be prompt and focused. Stop when the conductor asks you to stop and start
playing when you are supposed to, paying attention to the indication of the place to start. Do not make
extraneous noises during the rehearsal - they are very bothersome (example: playing pizzicato when the
conductor is giving instructions).
LISTEN: When the music has stopped, please be silent and listen to the next instructions, even if you
think they are not for you. The conductor will make all effort to be brief in his comments. Pay attention
to instructions (for example, from where to start the next section. It is very disturbing for the orchestra to
have to stop because someone started in the wrong place).
MARK THE MUSIC: The score is nothing but a blueprint; it will come alive for you only if you
understand it. Have your pencil and eraser ready in rehearsal at all times. Mark sections you know you
need to work on. Mark changes made to the piece in rehearsal. Make any markings that will help you
play the piece better (where to breath, which part of the bow to use, which fingers to use, etc.) Don't
forget to bring accessories, such as mutes. Take good care of the music and return it on time. Here is a guide on how to mark your parts.
STUDY: Make sure you do not make the same mistakes repeatedly. After we have worked on a piece
several times, you will know where your individual problems lie. Don't make the group suffer for them.
Contact your section leader, or listen to a recording. Complete all assignments given (for example, listen
to the pieces on Blackboard following with your music and try to understand performance practices
and stylistic matters- thoughtful theft is often as good as invention, and more reliable than divine
THINK: Orchestra performance can be one of the most exalting of human experiences, but it is also one
of the most demanding and complex. Don't learn music mechanically. Find the best way to practice,
focus on the most difficult passages, and always try to make music with emotion, even if you are
practicing a scale.
TAKE INITIATIVES: if you are having difficulties learning the music, speak with the conductor. Take
your solos to your teacher. If you play a tricky passage in octaves or unison with another player, get
together separately outside of the rehearsal.
COMMUNICATE: Several problems can be avoided simply by good communication. If you don't play
well in a rehearsal because you didn't practice enough (maybe you were sick or had a midterm), let the
conductor know. He is a reasonable guy and can understand your concerns. If you have ideas on how
to make the group better, or positive criticism to the conductor, by all means communicate, rather than
becoming frustrated or miserable. And don't forget to laugh out loud at the conductor's jokes!
IMPORTANT: NO CELL PHONES, TEXTING OR OTHER DEVICES ARE ALLOWED DURING
OUR REHEARSALS. EVEN IF YOU NEED TO CHECK THE TIME, THERE IS A LARGE CLOCK
IN THE BACK OF THE ROOM. Texting will likely affect the final grade - for example, you might
earn a B instead of an A due to texting during a rehearsal. It is very important for our orchestra to get
used to a professional demeanor.
EXCEPTION: in case of extreme circumstances (ex: your mother is in the hospital) you may request
permission to have your cell phone on. However, you need to request it in advance, before the rehearsal
starts. It is not acceptable to be caught texting and then explain that you had an emergency. Our
rehearsal lasts for 90 minutes and I will try to include a short break between pieces in the middle of the
rehearsal for relaxation, restroom trips, etc. You should wait for the break (if the rehearsal has one) or
for the end of the rehearsal to use cell phones and other devices.
DO NOT MISS REHEARSALS. Normally, there are no excused absences from rehearsals or
Unexcused absences from rehearsals may reduce the final grade one letter grade per absence (A to B, B
to C, etc.)
Absences from a dress rehearsal or performance will likely result in a failing grade.
Students arriving after the time scheduled for the rehearsal will be considered tardy (regular rehearsals
start at 2:15 PM and at that time the student needs to be seated in place holding the instrument and ready
to play in order not to be considered tardy). 2 tardies equal 1 absence (1 tardy in a dress rehearsal equals
1 absence if the tardy is up to 10 minutes and does not compromise the performance of any composition.
Therefore, a tardy in a dress rehearsal can imply in a more serious penalty than the equivalent to
one absence). Leaving a rehearsal before the end is equivalent to 1 tardy. Miami University changed
drastically the schedule of all classes this semester to allow more time for the students to move between
classes. Therefore, we will be stricter with punctuality than in previous semesters.
Excuses for serious illness (with a doctor's note) and family emergencies will be considered on an
individual basis between the student and the conductor. In any case of excused absence, it is the
student's responsibility to try to find a substitute to play the part (wind and percussion players), or to
communicate and give the marked music to the stand partner (string players). Since all string players
have a copy of the music, stand partners should have their parts available (even if it is not completely
marked as the part used in rehearsals) in case the stand partner misses a particular rehearsal.
Members are asked to schedule auditions, competitions, interviews and special professional
opportunities so as not to conflict with rehearsals. In case this is not possible, requests for excused
absences are to be submitted to the conductor via e-mail at least two weeks prior to the absence's date.
Absences should be communicated in advance by e-mail or phone message to the conductor. Absences
or latenesses that are not communicated or explained are automatically considered unexcused,
affecting the final grade. Absences do not justify the quality of the playing and should not compromise
the performance. It is the responsibility of the musician to learn what was rehearsed, to get any
communications given to the ensemble, and to make up for the music rehearsed.
Absences or latenesses from a rehearsal or performance happening in a time other than our regular
rehearsal time are also unexcused. If a student has such an issue due to a class or even an exam, this has
to be discussed far in advance, so we can together find an adequate solution. Leaving those issues for
the last moment and coming with the excuse "there is nothing I could do" will affect the standing of the
student in the ensemble. Furthermore, if on a certain occasion a student was excused from the orchestra
rehearsal or event, this doesn't mean that the student is automatically excused if the same conflict or
issue happens again. Each circumstance needs to be addressed separately.
If a student is late for a rehearsal, and there is a valid reason for that, he/she should send an e-mail to
the conductor, before or immediately after the lateness occur. If not, the lateness will be considered
Finally, whenever we have a rehearsal in Hall Auditorium you should take into account the difficulties
of parking, and allow yourself enough time to arrive there and be ready to play in the specified time.
SPECIAL CASES CONCERNING SPECIFIC INSTRUMENTS (PIANO, HARP, PERCUSSION, ETC.)
Certain instrumentalists are not required to come to every rehearsal due to the nature of the program and
of their instruments. For example: piano, harp, and certain percussion instruments.
The program for each upcoming rehearsal is made in advance. It is the responsibility of these
instrumentalists to follow their rehearsal attendance requirement in the posted weekly schedule. In case
of doubts, the musician should confirm the attendance in advance with the conductor and not wait for
someone to call them.
ANY MUSICIAN WHO IS NOT PRESENT AT REHEARSALS FOR ANY REASON IS
- MAKING UP FOR THE MUSIC REHEARSED;
- GETTING ALL INFORMATION THAT IS GIVEN TO THE OTHER MEMBERS, LIKE
CHANGES IN REHEARSAL TIMES, LOCATIONS, PROGRAM, INTERPRETATION OF THE
MUSIC REHEARSED, ETC.
MOST OF THE MESSAGES WILL BE SENT BY E-MAIL.
ORCHESTRA MEMBERS ARE REQUIRED TO CHECK THEIR E-MAILS BEFORE AND AFTER
EVERY REHEARSAL AS WELL AS ANNOUNCEMENTS ON CANVAS FOR THIS COURSE, SO
THAT THEY ARE AWARE OF ALL COMMUNICATIONS. IT IS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF
ALL THE ORCHESTRA MEMBERS TO MAKE SURE THAT THEY ARE INCLUDED ON
THE NIIHKA ROSTER.
Women: Long black skirt, Long-sleeve black blouse, Black/off-black hose, Black shoes
*If a one-piece dress is worn, it must conform the above requirements
Men: Black tuxedo, White shirt, Black (or elegant) bow tie, Black shoes and socks
NOTES TO ALL SECTIONS
- Today orchestra playing is approached like chamber music. Therefore, the most
important skill you should develop is the ability to listen and respond accordingly. While
this might seem obvious, in practice this is not so easy. Frequently a student would be
surprised to understand and hear what is being played by all the other instruments.
- Based on the above, students are more accountable for playing together than they
think. Synchronization of playing is better achieved by listening than by following
visually the gestures of the conductor!
- Harmonic listening. Orchestra instruments usually play one note at a time (exception:
multiple stops on the string instruments). When many instruments are playing the
same notes in octaves, this produces a very powerful effect. But frequently the overall
combination of notes and sounds produces harmonies that have a musical meaning and
convey emotions. One of the greatest possible achievements for an orchestra happens
when musicians are able to hear and respond accordingly to the overall harmonic sound.
There resides one of the greatest secrets of artistic expression.
- Rehearsals are much more effective when musicians respond quickly to the conductor's
instructions, stopping immediately when he stops to conduct and finding quickly and
starting immediately when the new starting point is determined.
- Orchestra tuning in the beginning of the rehearsal is very important. Tune efficiently
- When looking at an orchestra part for the first time, make sure that you understand
everything that is written on the page, all the terminology written in a foreign language
and all the details written by the composer. If you don't understand something ask the
section leader or the conductor.
- Never come unprepared for a rehearsal. A rehearsal is not a place for you to exercise
sight-reading. You need to come prepared not only with your passages, but with a
complete understanding of the piece you are performing: how it goes, meter changes,
changes in key signatures, tempo changes and much more.
- Mark your parts. A separate section in our website is dedicated to the issue of how to
- The more we go into 20th century music the more the percussion section becomes
- Percussion players should arrive early - probably before anyone else and have their
stations ready. This is due to the mechanics of the orchestra and the set up.
- You need to know which instruments you are supposed to play once you receive the
music. If you don't know, you have to ask me or Prof. Albin. For example, once the
percussion students received a part called "campana grave" and the percussion students
returned the part to the librarian because they thought it was not a percussion instrument.
Another example: sometimes you won't know if the composer asks for suspended or
crash cymbals. If you can't figure it out, ask me.
- When you play a mallet instrument, you need to have different kinds of mallets handy.
If the sound doesn't match what is needed for the orchestra as a whole and the conductor
asks you for a different sound, you need to change the mallets immediately by having
them handy, and not go to your mallet case to look for a different mallet, making the
whole orchestra wait.
- A fact of life - and I am not proud of it: conductors don't pay much attention to
the percussion section. Usually percussion players are so good that they take care of
everything concerning their parts by themselves. Conductors spend rehearsal time
working with string bowings, articulations, intonation of the winds, etc. They consider
that the percussion players usually take care of everything by themselves.
- All string players are important within the section and our goal is to achieve a
homogeneous sound not only within each group of instruments, but also within all
strings. While there are several musicians playing the same parts, all the players are
important and contribute to the overall sound of the orchestra. The strings are the only
homogeneous group within the orchestra and should be treated like a choir. String
instruments are particularly expressive and it is wonderful when homogeneity of sound,
articulation and musical thought are achieved.
- The back stands are far away from the conductor, and therefore should make a special
effort to remain integrated with the rest of the section. It is very amateur and immature
when section players do not fully participate in the rehearsal, always starting after the
first stands and playing tentatively. There is a common understanding among string
players that they should "look to the front" (the first stands) and "listen to the back" (the
- During rehearsals, the visual contact among string players is particularly important.
They should develop the skill to follow the bowings and articulations of the first stand,
pay attention to bow speed, part of the bow, beginnings and ends of phrases. This applies
not only within each section. There should be a homogeneity within all the strings,
having in mind that the bigger the instrument, the less bow is necessary and the more
articulation is needed in order to achieve this homogeneity among the strings.
- After dominating the basic orchestra performing skills, it is possible to move towards
more sophisticated techniques that can improve the quality of the sound: shifting
simultaneously, equalizing the amplitude of the vibrato, beginning and ending musical
phrases with stationary bowings or with bows in motion, etc.
- String players need to be sensitive when they are accompanying solos of woodwind
instruments. No matter the dynamics written, woodwinds should be able to soar above
the strings when they are performing solos. A string pianissimo is usually much more
compelling than a huge forte.
- Be fanatic about the use of vibrato and about playing simultaneously whenever you
have pizzicato notes. When several people are playing the same part it is easy to take a
relaxed attitude and let the other players take responsibility for the section.
- Divisi. Each player should always know which divisa to play and take responsibility
for his/her part.
- Harmonics. If you have harmonics make sure to know in advance how to play them.
- Always bring mutes to rehearsal.
- Page turns. Solutions need to be given to impractical page turns. Musicians could
make extra copies of pages and place them in a way that allows them not to loose the
continuity of the music. Another alternative is simply to learn from memory a few
measures so the page turn cannot be perceived.
WOODWINDS AND BRASS SECTIONS
- Normally, each of those instruments has three clearly differentiated registers and very
characteristic timbres. Therefore, it is much more difficult to achieve a homogeneity of
sound. On the other hand, this is also the strength of those sections, allowing composers
to explore the infinite possibilities of the combination of sounds and timbres.
- Orchestra playing is different from solo playing. Less experienced musicians need to
understand that when they play in an orchestra, they need to project more their sound
in order to be heard. Dynamic markings are less related with volume of sound than
character of the musical phrase. A woodwind solo on a dynamic piano needs to be
projected in order to soar above an entire symphony orchestra.
- The sound of each woodwind or brass instrument should conform to the sound of the
other instruments. Frequently there are dialogues or imitations of themes that go from one
instrument to another. The players need to listen to each other and try to find a logical
way to phrase and articulate such passages, so that it makes sense for the theme to go
from one instrument to the other. Each player should find his own voice and approach to
the music, while maintaining a uniform style with the other woodwinds.
- While trumpets in general function in an analogous way to the woodwinds, there are
differences among the other brass instruments. Due to its large tessitura, the four horns
function as a choir, and so do the 3 trombones and tuba. Intonation and quality of the
attacks among those instruments play a particularly major role.
- Woodwind and brass players need to acquire the awareness for simultaneous attacks,
and compensate the different types of embouchures of the various instruments. When
performing solos, they need to come ready after a thorough preparation. The solo
passages need to be researched, well thought and played with conviction. It is extremely
advisable (and necessary) for the students to take their solos and passages to their
- Come with a musical conception. Do not expect the conductor tell you how to play a
solo or a passage.
- Intonation. The phenomenon of resonance shows that there is a synergetic effect when
the orchestra plays in tune. The sound becomes richer and multiplies. Even after tuning
correctly each instrument in relation to the A given by the oboe, the musicians need to
be constantly aware of their intonation inside the texture, adjusting accordingly. Do not
overblow - you can achieve a much richer sound by playing in tune and using resonance
in your favor. Arrive early to rehearsals so you can warm up your instrument. Otherwise,
soon after the rehearsal starts you will be playing sharp.
- Develop the habit of finding yourself quickly within the score. Frequently you will
have several measures rest to count and the rehearsal will start in the middle of your rests.
Don't make the whole orchestra suffer and the rehearsal have to stop because you were
- Orchestra rehearsals can be frustrating if you don't have the right attitude. A number
of times you will be counting rests, waiting for your moment to play and right before
you start the conductor will stop the rehearsal to make a correction in another section. It
can get worse if this happens a number of times within the same rehearsal. This usually
doesn't happen in band playing, but it is the only way for the orchestra to improve.
- Be with the embouchure of the instrument close to your mouth. This will avoid you
being the reason for the orchestra not achieving simultaneous attacks. If you get lost, at
least don't be powerless. If the instrument is close to your mouth, the conductor might be
able to cue you in your next entrance.
ROLES OF THE SECTION LEADERS
- Principal players on every section are not necessarily the most advanced technically.
The role of the principals goes far beyond the performance of the music. They need to be
real leaders by serving as role models for the other players. A good principal cares about
the others and has the authority to dictate instructions in an authoritative but collegial
way. A good principal is also responsible for helping to achieve an environment of
camaraderie inside the section. He/she should help younger players and give suggestions
to the section about fingerings, how to perform difficult passages and how to distribute
the divisi. A good principal is the main person responsible for all issues concerning the
section. Furthermore, he should not only give impulse to the energy level of the section,
but also blend with the other players and not sound above everybody else.
- The starting point for a good section leader is to genuinely care about the orchestra
and his section. He/she needs to find a way to communicate his/her ideas to the section
without disturbing the rehearsal pacing. The string principal should not make changes
(bowings especially) and just assume that the rest of the section will correct accordingly.
It is necessary to establish the bowings early enough in the rehearsal process and not
change in the last moment.
- The string principal should act as a leader. If someone gets lost counting rests, they
need to be able to look at the principal to know when to come in. The leader cannot wait
until the last possible moment to raise the instrument.
- Section leaders in woodwind or brass sections have many points in common with the
string principals. In order for the section to achieve simultaneous attacks, section leaders
should be able to give visual (or breathing) cues to the rest of the section, rather than
rely exclusively on the conductor gesture. There is always the issue of the distance to
the conductor and the different construction and embouchure of the various instruments,
making the attacks happen in reality slightly earlier or later. A lot of the orchestra work is
ASPECTS NOT COVERED IN THIS POLICIES
It is possible that certain issues were not covered by these policies and procedures. In any case,
MEMBERS OF OUR ENSEMBLES ARE EXPECTED TO TAKE THE INITIATIVE TO DEAL
WITH ALL PERTINENT MATTERS. If there are doubts, talk to the Conductor or a member of the
board. Take a problem solving approach and AVOID BY ALL MEANS A PASSIVE ATTITUDE (i.e.
I was not informed that there was a rehearsal...,I was not given the music..., nobody told me that I was
supposed to come..., etc.)