how we form

If you play an orchestral instrument, feel able to learn and perform the usual orchestral repertoire, and have a strong desire to do so, you are welcome, appreciated, and encouraged to join the Salish Sea Philharmonia Orchestra (SSPO). We want to make joining and participating a fun, fulfilling, and joyful experience for you and everyone.


Most community orchestras find that certain sections could always benefit from more players (usually the strings), and other sections would have too many if everyone participated that would like to. We don’t know what will happen in our case. But we would like to meet this challenge with creativity and imagination. We encourage the orchestra to self-organize as much as possible, in part to avoid imposing stressful audition requirements if they are not necessary, while also offering guiderails to help with difficult decisions.


We want the SSPO to create itself in a collaborative process in the most elegant and respectful way possible. To achieve this we anticipate the formation process to unfold in three acts, as follows:


Act I

Come One, Come All!

(Now thru Fall 2021?)

From now until our first concert season starts (possibly Spring of 2022, but this depends mostly on the course of the Covid-19 pandemic) we welcome anyone who is potentially interested in joining the orchestra to let us know. Act II begins only after we have enough people signed on to assemble a viable group. The climax of Act I will be a series of reading rehearsals in which one and all are invited to come together and read some glorious repertoire together. We hope these reading sessions will be a chaos of enthusiasm and sheer joy. At these reading rehearsals we will ask the musicians attending to let us know their level of interest in being a part of the permanent orchestra that will shortly begin rehearsals for the first public concert.

Act II

The Orchestra Assembles

(Winter 2022?)

We will ask everyone who expresses a strong interest in joining the orchestra on a permanent basis to sign an agreement that explicitly lays out the expectations for the players, such as attendance policies, etc. At the first formal rehearsal we can only seat players who have signed the agreement, which includes a commitment to be in the orchestra through the first concert or first season.


In some sections, it is likely that more musicians will want to play than there are available seats, especially in the woodwinds and brass. In the winds (short for woodwinds, brass, and percussion), we can only seat one player per part. If, for example, 6 trumpet players want to join but there are only three trumpet spots, then we have a dilemma. Each section gets to resolve that dilemma as it sees fit, as follows:

  1. Some players may back out to make room for the others;

  2. The section may decide to rotate, so that all players have a chance;

  3. The section may decide to audition to determine who takes the available slots.

  4. Or any combination of the above.

If any given section cannot resolve this dilemma internally, then as a last resort everyone interested in playing in the section will need to audition. 


The same process applies to who plays which part within a section; for example, who plays first flute or english horn, or who sits in the first and second violin sections. Again, if any given section has trouble working these issues out internally, auditions will be necessary. In Act II, auditions are held with the music director who makes the final decision. In Act III, a committee (which includes the music director) forms to serve that function.


It is hoped that by the second or third rehearsal of the first concert cycle all the drama of Act II has played itself out and a stable orchestra has been established that can then throw its energies fully into making a great first concert.




(2022 and beyond)

As the orchestra gains experience over the course of the first concert cycle, and then the next, we will all learn a great deal about the specific challenges and opportunities that confront us. It is hoped that issues of membership and personnel that arise during this period usually find an organic and collaborative way to sort themselves out. Players who discover they are unable to meet the demands of the repertoire, for example, may decide to discontinue with the orchestra; players of notable ability may naturally rise to positions of leadership within their sections, much to the acclaim of their fellows, and so on. This process will not be forced or gamed but allowed to develop naturally, while everyone shows deep respect for everyone else in this sometimes uncomfortable growth process.


Specific policies will develop to deal with circumstances that do not easily resolve themselves, including a permanent audition committee, grievance policies, and other procedures developed in tandem with the needs that express themselves as the orchestra gradually finds a more permanent form.


Act III never ends, but we know we have achieved its aims when the orchestra enjoys a stable membership from concert to concert and concerns around seating and membership recede in prominence to become just the regular workings of a healthy and thriving organism.