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Vanderbilt Orchestra and Wind Symphony Program

Vanderbilt Orchestra

Overview

At the Blair School of Music, a rotation system for instrumental ensembles provides students with a wide range of experiences within a single semester without an exorbitant amount of rehearsal time each week.

Orchestra, String Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra, and Opera/Oratorio Orchestra, as well as Wind Symphony, Concert Winds, Chamber Winds, and Contemporary Ensemble are rolled into one "instrumental ensemble" course that encompasses the same amount of contact hours per semester as one conventional ensemble.

Woodwind, brass, percussion, and string students all enroll in one course -- MUSE 1010: Instrumental Ensembles -- that is team-taught by the conductors, Robin Fountain and Thomas Verrier, and has a single syllabus and set of grading criteria. Participation in this course is outlined below.

Goals

The Instrumental Ensemble Program is designed to work toward four goals:

  • Development of students' skills as ensemble players -- concentration, listening, instantaneous adjustment, breathing, following the conductor's visual and verbal instructions, retention of information over the span of a rehearsal sequence
  • Development of students' professional habits and ethics -- preparation, promptness, mutual support
  • Development of students' knowledge of the orchestra repertoire and of a range of appropriate playing styles
  • Development of an ensemble whose performances invariably exhibit a very high level of competence and artistry

Ensembles

Below is a complete list of the ensembles encompassed in the rotation plan of MUSE 1010:

Orchestras

The Vanderbilt Orchestra focuses on the highest-quality performance of the great classical and romantic orchestra repertoire. Students become immersed in the stylistic demands of particular composers and periods, while honing their skills as ensemble players.

The Vanderbilt Chamber Orchestra is a highly select ensemble composed of the finest instrumentalists at Vanderbilt University. It prepares and performs a very demanding repertoire drawn eclectically from a wide range of periods and styles.

The Vanderbilt String Orchestra explores the rich treasury of compositions for strings alone, and allows a period for exclusive concentration on questions pertaining to string ensemble playing.

The Vanderbilt Opera/Oratorio Orchestra provides an opportunity for students to learn the important art of vocal accompaniment through collaboration with the Vocal Department in Vanderbilt opera and oratorio productions.

Wind ensembles

The Vanderbilt Wind Symphony is the premier wind performing group at Vanderbilt University and includes the most outstanding woodwind, brass, and percussion students in the School of Music. The group is dedicated to the performance of the finest wind repertoire, and its mission is to stimulate musical growth and provide advanced study opportunities for student musicians.

The Vanderbilt Concert Winds focuses not only on preparing concerts, but on the musical growth and development of each individual in the ensemble. This group provides a foundation in wind and percussion pedagogy, performance practice, and repertoire. Exploring traditional and contemporary works for winds, students are provided the opportunity to share in the rewards of the creative process as they broaden their musical experiences.

The Vanderbilt Chamber Winds is a select ensemble that is flexible in size, consisting of a variety of instruments. Exploring repertoire both traditional and contemporary, this ensemble is dedicated to raising the collective consciousness of player and audience to the importance and diversity of chamber music.

Additional groups

The Vanderbilt Contemporary Ensemble is a group of flexible size and instrumentation dedicated to the cultivation of the skills and experience necessary to perform the music of today with confidence and verve.

Wind/Percussion Coaching is to strengthen ensemble skills without the pressure of preparing a performance. Session topics include listening across the ensemble; building "inner pulse"; balancing and tuning techniques; elements of style and performance practice; concepts of phrasing with shape and nuance; successful approaches to sight reading; learning technique with a musical intent; and strategies for the successful rehearser. An alternate meeting time is arranged for marching band students.

Grading

Grading is designed to encourage students toward the above-outlined goals. Good grades are not given, but are earned through careful adherence to the following ensemble policies:

  • Students are expected to attend every rehearsal of every piece for which they have an assigned part.
  • Students are expected be in the rehearsal space a minimum of five minutes prior to the scheduled rehearsal start time of any piece to which they have been assigned.
  • Students are expected to concentrate during rehearsals and to support each other's playing.
  • Students are expected to become familiar -- recordings are on reserve in the library -- with all assigned material before the first rehearsal of that work.
  • Students are expected to be fully prepared (correct pitch, rhythm, tempo, bowing, breathing, good tone) for each work by the assessment date indicated for that work in bold type on the schedule. From that date onward, students may be asked to play alone or in small groups during rehearsal to determine preparedness. Students requiring individual assistance to assure preparedness should sign up for a scheduled coaching time prior to the assessment date. Students are also encouraged to seek preparation assistance from their instrumental teachers and/or fellow students. Seeking such assistance does not violate the VU Honor Code in any way.
  • Sectional rehearsals outside of class time may be determined necessary by section leaders. In such cases, it is the responsibility of the section leader to establish a time at which all members are available, and to book a suitable room. It is the responsibility of the section members to attend.
  • Students are expected to honor the Ensemble Dress Code at all performances.
  • Should the instructor feel that a particular student is inadequately prepared, or failing to adhere to other ensemble policies, the student will be informed immediately via email, and asked to explain why his or her grade should not be negatively impacted. The student will be given a time period within which to demonstrate full preparedness or policy compliance, for partial restoration of grade level.
  • Each student will participate in four ensemble segments during the course of the semester, with a grade for each segment assessed by the conductor of that segment. The student's final grade will be an average of these four grades. No M grades can be given for this class.

Schedule

There are three (3) concert rotations per semester, and each rotation is four weeks in length.

The scheduled block of time for the course (3:10-5:20 p.m. Monday/Wednesday/Friday) is divided into two (2) rehearsal periods, during which two distinct ensembles can rehearse simultaneously (utilizing both the IRH and Turner). Rehearsal periods are as follows:

  • Period 1 = 2:20-3:50 p.m.
  • Period 2 = 4:10-4:55 p.m.

During each rotation cycle, there are up to four (4) different ensembles rehearsing (see rotation schedule). Every student participates in four (4) of the ensembles per semester. Participation in each ensemble entails a set of services:
Maximum of 12 regular rehearsals plus dress rehearsal(s) and performance(s).

A student will perform in two different ensembles (making it necessary to attend both Period 1 and 2) during one (and only one) rotation period each semester.

Student placements are assigned by the conductors.

Fall semester

Rotation 1

Period 1 (3:20-3:50 p.m.)
Wind Symphony

Period 2 (4:10-4:55 p.m.)
Orchestra
Chamber Winds

Rotation 2

Period 1 (3:20-3:50 p.m.)
Wind Symphony (enlarged)
String Orchestra

Period 2 (4:10-4:55 p.m.)
Chamber Orchestra
Wind/Percussion Coaching

Rotation 3

Period 1 (3:20-3:50 p.m.)
Orchestra
Concert Winds

Period 2 (4:10-4:55 p.m.)
Contemporary Ensemble
Opera/Oratorio Orchestra

Spring semester

Rotation 1

Period 1 (3:20-3:50 p.m.)
Orchestra
Chamber Winds

Period 2 (4:10-4:55 p.m.)
Wind Symphony

Rotation 2

Period 1 (3:20-3:50 p.m.)
Orchestra
Concert Winds

Period 2 (4:10-4:55 p.m.)
Wind Symphony (enlarged)
String Orchestra

Rotation 3

Period 1 (3:20-3:50 p.m.)
Orchestra (enlarged winds)

Period 2 (4:10-4:55 p.m.)
Concert Winds
Contemporary Ensemble

Ensemble dress code

Men

Black tuxedo, white tux shirt with wing collar and quarter-inch pleats, standard-size black bow tie, black studs with gold rims, black socks, black shoes.

Women

Conservative, ankle-length black dress or black skirt (no slits) and black blouse with long sleeves, black hose, closed-toe black shoes.