Orchestra seat assignment—question


Laura said: Apr 13, 2010
Suzuki Association Member
358 posts

I am curious, how are orchestra seats assigned for violins? Obviously the strongest player/leader will be the concertmaster. And I’ve heard that of two players sharing a stand, the stronger player will be on the outside. But beyond that, what are the considerations?

If 20 violinists are in the orchestra, will the 10 best always be Violin I, with the rest being Violin II? Is the principal second violinist the 11th best, or the 3rd or 4th best such as to provide a strong lead for Violin II?

I’ve always wondered this. I recently watched a symphony orchestra and the question surfaced again in my mind.

Jennifer Visick said: Apr 13, 2010
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
998 posts

Depends on the orchestra. If they’re a professional group, it’s likely that all the string players are relatively close to one another in “level” of performance. Some orchestras have rotating seating. Others are fixed.

If it’s a community or youth ensemble, the smart director or coach will mix the more advanced players with the less advanced, either side by side or sandwich the less advanced players in the middle of the section.

I hear (or hope) the abominable practice of certain youth orchestras of having players compete directly against one another in order to “move up” a spot midway through the orchestra’s “season” is slowly dying out.

Obviously the lead player has to lead. But the players in the back actually have a harder job than the ones in the front—connecting with the section leader, and the director, is much harder when you’re in the back and have no one “supporting” your sound from behind.

Diane said: Apr 14, 2010
Diane AllenViolin
245 posts

I have been concertmaster of a community orchestra for over 12 years. As far as seating is concerned—we’ve tried it all and are still searching! Being that I’m involved with a community orchestra it gets complicated because everyone there is volunteering, therefore contributing. That said—many find that their opinions should be considered along with their violin playing! (Just so you don’t worry—you must know that I’m fortunate to be leader of many wonderful, caring and generous people! Most of whom are a delight to work with!)

Now to seating. For years we paired a strong player on the outside with a weaker player on the inside. From the front to the back of the section the overall quality would diminish. The last couple of years we put a super strong player on the outside 4th stand to carry the back of the section. This had a nice effect. However, I just haven’t found that our violins have developed a “section sound”. Our conductor had the 1st and 2nd violins placed on stage antiphonally across the stage from each other. In an effort to establish a section sound I requested this year to have the firsts and seconds sit on the same side of the stage! I never thought the conductor would do it—but he did! Then I went back to putting all the strong players in front of the sections to create a solid string sound—hoping it would carry those in the back. So far it’s been a rewarding year and we continue to grow and sound better as a group. Who knows what next year will bring!

Videos of student violin recitals and violin tutorials.

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