Why does music matter?

“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.”

— Victor Hugo

Having the capacity to transcend words or images, music is a visceral expression of the human soul and spirit.  The sharing of great music helps to cultivate an understanding of our selves and our communities while honoring tradition.  The Musicians of The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra believe that the SPCO’s legacy of classical music and its powerful ability to inspire is at risk of being lost.

What makes The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra unique?

Versatility and flexibility:  The SPCO presents a wide range of contrasting repertoire, offering diverse programs comprised of both larger chamber orchestra works and smaller ensembles.  Because of its size, the Orchestra has the ability to perform in many different venues ranging from concert halls to churches.  Here at home in the Twin Cities, the SPCO plays in ten different locations and offers an intimate concert experience in which the audience feels a close connection to the musicians on stage.

How is the listening experience of a chamber orchestra different from a symphony orchestra?

Chamber orchestras are smaller in size and scope, and thus have fewer players than a symphony orchestra.  In an ensemble like the SPCO, the music is more transparent, and one can hear individual musicians more clearly.  As a result, the highest level of individual contributions from each musician is essential.  Every performer has an important role that can be discerned by the attentive listener. The Musicians of the SPCO have a great sense of responsibility for, and commitment to, the excellence of their performances.

Who are the Musicians of the SPCO?

The Musicians of the SPCO hail from across the globe—the United States, Europe, and Asia.  They began perfecting their playing skills at a very young age, some starting as early as preschool.  Many have studied at the world’s most distinguished music institutions, such as The Juilliard School, Curtis Institute of Music, and Eastman School of Music.  The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, with its international reputation as an elite orchestra that cultivates the most intimate type of connection with its audience members, has been the ultimate destination for its highly acclaimed members.

How does one become a member of the SPCO?

The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra has one of the most rigorous audition processes of any orchestra in the world.  The winnowing process is both intense and competitive, and we often have to hold two or three auditions before we find the right person for the position.  Candidates must demonstrate unassailable technique on their instruments and many other artistic qualities that defy definition.  SPCO musicians choose their colleagues through a multi-round process culminating in a trial period where the top candidate(s) must perform with the orchestra for a number of weeks.  This is a player’s opportunity to prove he/she has the subtle skills necessary to be compatible with, and hopefully enhance, the SPCO sound.  During this time period, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra requires all candidates to perform a solo recital—extremely unusual in the orchestra business.  The Musicians look for that rare artist possessing extraordinary expression and exceptional sensitivity to style and color. They seek to find the most unique qualities in an elite musician – an orchestral instrumentalist with the fine-tuning of a chamber musician.

What is it like to be a professional classical musician?

Being a professional musician is very similar to being a top athlete. It involves diligent practicing and taking care of one’s physical and mental health—all daily priorities. While rehearsals can be a complete joy, the process can also be painstakingly tedious, frustrating, exasperating, and tense. These are realities musicians must embrace in their elusive quest for perfection.  Of course, the closer one gets to perfection, the further that goal extends!  Being a professional classical musician requires in-the-moment concentration and focus.  It is a total experience — ephemeral, visceral, sensual, and sometimes incomprehensible and inexplicable.

What kind of music does the SPCO play?

The SPCO prides itself on offering musical selections from a wide variety of styles and time periods.  It presents an extraordinary array of music from the pre-Baroque, Baroque, Classical, Romantic, 20th Century, and Contemporary periods.  The SPCO performs symphonies, overtures, orchestral suites, operas, cantatas, divertimenti, and concerti for solo instruments, in addition to various configurations of un-conducted chamber music.

What does it take to become a professional musician?

Practice, practice, practice!  Then, practice some more.  To become a professional musician, one dedicates several years to seeking critique and feedback from the most discerning mentors with specialties in orchestral playing, being a chamber musician, and performing as a soloist.  Only with this kind of dedication can a musician gain valuable insight and expertise.

What do musicians enjoy most about their musical lives?

While each musician has his/her own answer to this question, most would agree that studying and performing the music of creative geniuses such as Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven is an incredible honor and privilege.  To be able to share this rich experience on stage with other like-minded and spirited artists can be both thrilling and life changing.  An SPCO performance is an offering to enrich peoples’ lives—the ultimate goal.  The members of the orchestra share a sense of meaning and purpose, knowing they are actively preserving the history of this immeasurably rich art form.