Which Schools listed have the strongest Orchestras (Flute Perf Major)

<p>We are planning college visits and S's private teachers suggests attending orchestral rehearsals along with sample lessons / campus visits. We can not visit all the schools and need advice as to which of the below schools orchestras are stronger or weaker. We are not assuming that S would be placed in the Orchestra as a freshman. S plays flute and has had lessons (at summer programs) with teachers at 1/2 the schools listed. Thanks for any advice that can be provided as we attempt to get the list down to schools that will be applied to.
In no particular order:</p>

Boston U
U of Michigan
U of Illinois
U of Alabama
James Madison U
McGill U
Loyola U

<p>I wont rank but the stronger orchestras in that group are at McGill, Oberlin, Eastman and NEC. Michigan has a great orchestra as well and historically one of the best flute programs in the country. Another good option would be James Madison.</p>

<p>Eastman has 2 orchestras for undergrads - one for freshman and sophomores, a second for juniors and seniors. In addition, they have a chamber orchestra for grad students. Eastman also has 2 fabulous wind ensembles. Students rotate through different groups depending on the needs of each concert cycle. I know each orchestra performs about 4 times each semester. This means that your daughter will have the opportunity at Eastman to play very high level orchestral music freshman year.</p>

<p>Don't pass up a look at CIM, where the phenomenal Joshua Smith is the head of the flute departement- he and Mary Kay Fink both hold chairs in the Cleveland Orchestra.
The department is limited to 8 students, which assures that each student gets a lot of attention, but also makes admission very highly selective. The school has 2 symphony orchestras- each student plays in one every year- which play about two dozen concerts each year and in wind ensembles. Each orchestra plays at least one concert in Severance Hall every year.
CIM</a> | College Studies</p>

<p>Patientpoppa, sorry for not answering your question, but I would like to mention that when we were looking at programs with my D, it was very confusing to compare all the different orchestras. For example, when we visited Oberlin, they were rehearsing a first run of Tchaikovsky 4. It was fantastic. Then, later on, we heard it being done in a high school honor orchestra. So had most of the Oberlin students played it before? What level students were they? (There are around 12 clarinets in the studio, but only 2 clarinets playing.) On another occasion, we heard U. Michigan Symphony. They were doing a first run, sounding not as polished as Oberlin, but performing a newly composed piece, very modern, with a complicated rhythm. They were sight reading. It appeared that everyone was keeping up. Even though Oberlin sounded fantastic, I was extremely impressed with Michigan.</p>

<p>So when you do go out to compare schools, find out how many orchestras or wind ensembles each one has. Find out what level of student is playing in each. Some schools, like Oberlin, will not have grad students. You will need to know where they are in their mastery of the pieces. Are you hearing a first run-through, or a dress rehearsal? What areas of concern are being pointed out by the conductor? What seems to be the general attitude of the students? We visited one place where students in the back row were texting during long rests. At another (famous) school, the conductor cracked a joke and no one laughed or even smiled. Maybe that was the hundredth time he used that joke. But it sure made everyone seem very uptight.</p>

<p>Make sure to find out what performance opportunities there are for freshmen. Take lots of notes, and record your impressions and observations right away. Have your son ask himself: Can I picture myself here?</p>

<p>I suggest taking some time to evaluate this, if it is a major factor for your student. There certainly are a LOT of factors to consider with Flute, a very competitive instrument. Realize also that conditions change, studios change. Each year will be slightly different - music is not static.
One direct comment I will make is to be very clear on opportunities for undergrads, if there are also grad students.
You could add some schools to your list, btw.</p>

<p>I must say that I think there's a certain amount of confusion of overall level with orchestra quality -- while CIM and Eastman are both stronger schools in most ways than Boston University, the BU orchestra pretty reliably sounds better than the orchestras at the other two named schools. The strongest student orchestra on that list, I believe, is NEC's.</p>

<p>fiddlefrog, in your opinion, what is it about the BU orchestra that makes them sound so good? And do you have any sort of guideline that you give your students as to what to listen for when they are visiting college or conservatory ensembles?</p>

<p>If BU's orchestra is like its opera department it's going to be stuffed with postgraduate students, which will impact the sound!</p>

<p>The quality of any orchestra depends on a number of things, besides having conductors who strive to bring out the best in the group, it also depends on the kids in the orchestra as well</p>

<p>-If the orchestra contains non music majors, if it is mixed, it may not sound as well as an orchestra composed of majors (and obviously, this depends, which is why I say may not will). It depends on the program and who they get in the orchestra, some schools have a lot of non majors in their orchestra programs (or don't offer a major per se) and sound good..and there are programs filled with music majors who don't sound as good as you might expect</p>

<p>-The attitude of the kids in the orchestra matters, too. One of the knocks on some of the high level programs (this from critics, I might add) is that the kids, while really accomplished musicians, seem to forget playing in an orchestra is a team effort, and come off sounding like a bunch of soloists playing at the same time. Not saying this is prevalent, just saying ti could affect the sound.</p>

<p>-The mix of students, if the orchestra has a lot of grad students and post grad students, it is going to sound better more then likely then if it is more UG oriented...on the other hand, I have heard 'lower' level orchestras within a program play better then the 'upper' ones, maybe because the kids in the lower level orchestra were more fired up or something...likewise, if the orchestra has a lot of new members, may take time to build up (or a new conductor, for that matter)</p>

<p>-How much emphasis the program puts on the orchestra program, and how much they emphasize it to the students</p>

<p>If I had to hazard a guess about NEC or Juilliard, both of which have fantastic orchestra programs, it is because the school emphasizes the orchestral aspects of study and have great conductors there, plus of course having a fantastic pool of students to pick from.</p>

<p>Thank you for all the responses to this thread and the PM's received. It certainly has been helpful and enlightening. We went through with our initial fall visit plan and it was worth all the mileage. Visited Oberlin, CIM, Eastman, Crane, Hartt and CMU. Quite a task to coordinate it all. More to go in the spring.</p>

<p>Patientpoppa, you should be able to listen to the orchestras of the different schools from excerpts on their websites. Crane School of Music has a quick link to "Streaming Webcasts" that will broadcast the ensembles on the night of the performance. It was a delight to listen to son's first college concert even though we couldn't be there in person.</p>

<p>CLRN8MOM, the BU orchestra sounds good because of a dedicated conductor. He's not a popular fellow, and neither does he deserve to be, but the orchestra sounds great when he leads it, and not great when others are leading -- not so much because the principal conductor is so great as because the others are ill-suited to the task. As to why they sound better than many peer organizations, I think it's about institutional culture. </p>

<p>What to listen for? There are two factors here. If your main concern is not the orchestra, try to disregard some percentage of what you hear and focus on discerning the capabilities of the people playing your instrument. If you are very concerned with quality of orchestra, listen for everything you would when assessing a professional group: is the ensemble tight? Is the intonation stable? Is the balance good? Are they making sense of the piece, can you understand what you hear? Are there glaring technical problems? Do the players in the back of the string sections look engaged, and do they appear to play well? Of course, it's impossible to gauge all that reliably on one hearing. There are too many factors to get a firm impression. That's why you have to listen for a huge number of specific things, and hope you get a good idea of what's going on.</p>