About the BUO

The Brown University Orchestra, founded in 1918, is recognized as one of the finest university orchestras in the United States. Led by music director Paul Phillips since 1989, its membership consists of approximately 105 student musicians from Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design. Joseph Kalichstein, Christopher O'Riley, Itzhak Perlman, Navah Perlman '92, Mstislav Rostropovich, Isaac Stern, Eugenia Zukerman, and Pinchas Zukerman are among the many renowned musicians who have appeared as soloists with the orchestra. Daniel Barenboim conducted the Brown Orchestra in 2006 during his residency with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. Composers-in-residence hosted by the Brown Orchestra include Samuel Adler, Peter Boyer, Lukas Foss, Steve Reich, Joseph Schwantner, Steven Stucky, and Michael Torke. The Brown Orchestra has performed in Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, and toured China during the 2007 New Year holiday, performing concerts in Beijing, Shanghai, Dalian, Suzhou, Changzhou, and Ningbo. Notable performances include Mahler's Symphonies Nos. 1, 4, 5, 6, and Das Lied von der Erde; Stravinsky's Firebird, Petrushka, Le Sacre du Printemps, and Symphony in Three Movements; and two concerti with the soloists for whom they were composed: William Bolcom's Violin Concerto in D with Sergiu Luca, and Christopher Rouse's Flute Concerto with Carol Wincenc. The Brown University Orchestra, a member of the League of American Orchestras, has won seven ASCAP Awards for Adventurous Programming, most recently in 2009. Its alumni include current and former members of the New World Symphony, YouTube Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, and Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Frequently Asked Questions
How many musicians are in the Brown University Orchestra?

The current membership of the Brown University Orchestra comprises approximately 32 violins, 14 violas, 13 cellos, 5 double basses, 5 flutes, 5 oboes, 5 clarinets, 5 bassoons, 7 horns, 5 trumpets, 4 trombones, 2 tubas, 2 harps, 1 keyboard, and 5 timpani/percussion.

Who are the members of the orchestra?

This year's orchestra is made up of 100 Brown undergraduates, 2 Brown graduate students, 6 RISD undergraduates, and 2 musicians from Providence College (1 professor and 1 student). Occasionally, Brown and RISD faculty and staff, and community members, are accepted into the orchestra, but relatively rarely. Generally about 70% of the Brown students in the orchestra pursue concentrations in the physical sciences, computer science, mathematics, or engineering, with the other 30% concentrating in the humanities. This year there are 12 music concentrators in the orchestra. No distinction is made between music and non-music concentrators in the orchestra.

I’m not a Brown student. Can I join the orchestra?

Possibly. Students from other colleges and universities, faculty and staff, and community members, including talented high school students, may audition for the Brown Orchestra with the understanding that priority for membership will be given to students from Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design.

What is the audition process?

Orchestra auditions are held each September during the first week of classes of the fall semester. The audition lasts approximately 10 minutes and begins with a three-minute excerpt of a work of your choice — a piece that displays your best playing (usually an etude or movement of a suite, partita, sonata, or concerto). You may bring a second contrasting piece, but it is not required. In addition, you will be asked to sightread and play scales. Any student who plays a secondary instrument, like piccolo, English horn, E flat clarinet, bass clarinet, etc., is encouraged to bring it to the audition, if possible.

Are returning members required to reaudition?

Yes. Each fall, all students interested in joining the orchestra are required to audition, including returning members. Only students who were abroad or away during the fall are required to audition at the start of the spring semester.

Does the orchestra provide instruments?

Yes. The Brown University Orchestra possesses an inventory of high-quality instruments available for use by orchestra members. These include 2 clarinets in A, clarinet in E flat, bass clarinet in B flat (all Buffet instruments), an English horn (Lorée), two bassoons (Fox, Polisi), a contrabassoon (Polisi), 2 trumpets in C (Yamaha), a bass trombone (Bach), a bass tuba (Miraphone), a harp (Lyon & Healy), and multiple double basses. The orchestra also possesses timpani and a large battery of percussion instruments, including marimba and vibraphone.

Is it possible to join the orchestra mid-year?

Yes, if openings exist. Contact Paul Phillips for more information at Paul_Phillips@brown.edu.

When do rehearsals take place?

Rehearsals are held in Alumnae Hall on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 7:15–9:45 PM.

How many concerts does the orchestra perform each year?

It varies. Generally the orchestra plays 8-10 concerts per year (4-5 programs, each performed twice). During years that include special events such as tours, recordings, children’s concerts, musicals, dance performances, or opera, the number of concerts can increase to as many as 18 or more.

Can I be a member of the orchestra without registering for the course (MUSC 0610-0611)?

Yes, but if you have credit available, you are encouraged to register for the course. The requirements for orchestra membership are the same whether you take it for credit or not.

Are there opportunities to play concertos with the orchestra?

Yes. The orchestra holds an annual Concerto Competition each fall, with a panel of professional musicians serving as judges. The competition is open to all members of the Brown University Orchestra as well as pianists, vocalists, and players of mainly non-orchestral instruments such as saxophone, guitar, or organ. Usually 2–3 winners are chosen each year, each of whom performs a complete concerto or solo work in two performances. There is no limit to the number of times that students may enter and win the competition.

What opportunities are there for student conductors and composers?

Qualified undergraduate students may serve as Assistant Conductor of the Brown University Orchestra. There are also extensive opportunities for students to conduct opera with Brown Opera Productions, operetta with Brown University Gilbert & Sullivan, musicals at Production Workshop, contemporary works with several new music ensembles, music for winds with Brown Wind Symphony, and choral music with Brown University Chorus. Past Assistant Conductors of the BUO have pursued graduate study at Juilliard, Curtis, and other leading conservatories, and currently hold positions with collegiate and professional orchestras, including the Nashville Symphony. The Brown University Orchestra has performed numerous works by undergraduate composers, who may submit works for performance consideration at any time. Readings of compositions and orchestral arrangements by undergraduate student composers take place annually.

Who can I contact with other questions?

Send an e-mail to Orchestra@brown.edu.