How to Move Up To a Higher Musical Ensemble (or earn a higher chair)

Most music programs are divided into multiple performing groups based on skill. There’s nothing wrong with being in the bottom ensemble (trust me, I’ve been there), moving up to a higher ensemble can be a great motivator. I can’t guarantee that if you follow these steps, that you’ll get a higher chair, but you will become a better musician. 

  1. Remember: everything you do is an audition
  • You wanna show your directors that you’re dedicated to the program
  • Practice in the band/orchestra/choir room. This can be scary but it’s an easy way to be a leader and a good role model to other members. Not to mention, your directors will probably overhear and be impressed that you’re working hard.
  • Speaking of the directors, ask them questions, go to them for help, show them that you’re interested in being better
  • Always raise your hand in class, even if you don’t know the answer. Just guess.
  • Volunteer as much as you can. Again, it shows you’re dedicated.
  • Audition for other things! Extra things like jazz band/choir, musicals, etc. not only make you a better player, but it’ll make your directors take notice.
  • SHOW UP ON TIME! ALWAYS HAVE YOUR SUPPLIES! This is so easy, if you don’t do it, you’re screwing yourself over.
  • Help others with their music. Directors want people in their top ensembles to be leaders.

2. Learn everything you can about the ensemble.

  • Talk to the people in that ensemble. What skills do they think are required to participate? What do they recommend you practice? What do they think it’s like?
  • Talk to your director. They can probably give you a clear picture on what it takes to move up.
  • Go to your goal ensembles’ rehearsals and take notes a few times. Just observing can really give you a feel for the level of musicianship present.
  • Find out what music the ensemble is playing. Obtain a copy if you can. If you can read it down the page, great! If not, what do you need to work on? Rhythms? Key signature? Start there.

3. Work like a machine.

  • Practice consistently. Practicing six days a week is a realistic yet challenging goal. Even if you’re super busy, practicing for fifteen minutes is better than nothing. 
  • Perfect your scales!!! I cannot stress the importance of this. Maybe not so much for vocalists (honestly I don’t know what y’all do lol), but for instrumentalists, it is absolutely CRUCIAL and part of your audition.
  • Learn the music in your current ensemble like the back of your hand. This goes along with the first part. If the directors know your responsible, and know that they won’t have to practice the music for you, they’ll be more likely to trust you with difficult music.
  • Start learning the audition music if you have it, if not start working on etudes. You should not only be practicing your ensemble music. Especially if you play something like tuba lmao. It’s probably not challenging enough for your and you need to expand your abilities
  • Take lessons if possible!! Nothing helps you advance faster than private instruction


quotes from the music department

*Repeatedly sings part of the music in scat*

“Ben swore to Jesus that if he didn’t help me at the concert he’d do thirty push-ups in front of the entire band, and I’m just as excited for this as you guys are.”

“If it were easy, football players would be doing this”

“We were 4.75 points off of the next band, and I’ll make certain this number will haunt you until next season.”

“Tomorrow’s gonna be a rough week.”

“I’ll just get a golf cart to follow the band in the parade. Maybe one day I’ll play a halftime show in a golf cart, all by myself.”

“No, Danny, you’re not starting a group chat for jazz.”

“Someone made me a 22&½-inch stick to measure steps. Don’t make me use it.”

“Trumpets, raise your right hand, and move it over to the person next to you. You’ll be fingering the notes on their trumpet.” *leans over to woodwinds* “this is gonna be really funny”

“We don’t have Thursday night rehearsal this week, so live the lives you have outside of band. So basically, catch up on homework.”

“Here it is– wait no, that’s 32 pages, that’s not right.”

“Before we step off on Saturday, you need to focus and say the following prayer”

“All the freshmen are on break, none of them are here!” *section leader raises hand* “Adeline’s here” “She’s the only one ADELINE WHY DONT YOU TAKE BREAKS IN THE STANDS”

“I hope this is loud enough, because this is as loud as its gonna get” *glares at the saxophone that forgot the speaker* “He forgot the speaker, my own flesh and blood.”

“As usual, the bassist knows the articulation and rhythms to the saxophone parts better than the saxophones do.”

*beatboxes to metronome*

“I want you to go home, do homework, practice, do more homework, have a milkshake, and practice some more.”

“If you want to annoy the heck out of a musician, play a cadence but leave out the last chord and wait like 20 minutes”

“this passage is called ‘Glendy Burk.’ I went to high school with her, actually.”

“you aren’t feeling well? Drugs?”

“while I was in the middle of complimenting you, you made a mistake”

“that saxophone line was jazzy as hell”

“you just have to play angrier”

“what’s the point if they’re all accented?”

“you squeaked in tune”

“can you take that d?”

“you can play my final pitch”

“imagine brass knuckles, but on a tambourine”

“I had to blow on my tongue”

“Bethany, you’re my number one!”

“the entire band is pianissimo, so play really loud. mezzo piano.”

“go through the head”

“BAD tambourine!!!”

“112 is the American tempo”

“the audience started clapping during the caesura. I didn’t know whether to continue on or leave the stage.”

“Matthew, while you were gone, Ed and I determined that you’re a freeloader”

“you came in early” “I don’t remember”

“did you just compare terrible bass parts to a terrorist attack?”

“Christ, Elizabeth, you’re such a violinist”

“All of our violas are at another rehearsal today, so we’ll begin today’s rehearsal with a prayer as that is the only thing that can save us.”

“We don’t have a spare bass bow to use while Ed’s is being rehaired, so you two are just gonna have to share. Yeah. Sorry about that.”

“Ah, yes, but what baroque style are we talkin’ here”

“It was at that point she handed the first chair violin a viola part. He proceeded to hand it back to her.”

“I went home and cradled that music. I never get original bass parts.”

“She turned the page in her score and forgot to continue conducting. Honestly, I would’ve been less surprised had she thrown her baton into the cello section”

“There are two basses in pit this year, so we’re an actual section, so he can’t just shove us in the corner this year HIGH FIVE”

“Does she really know how to buy a bow? She should make it a field trip so you get the right one.” *swings hands in air super wide* “it has to AGREE and BLEND with the instrument DO YOU SEE”

“When the orchestra director doesn’t know what to do she just asks the second chair. If he’s gone, she waits until a day he attends rehearsal to ask him.”

“Don’t be afraid to play out. Except during rests. Then you should be very afraid.”

“is it ok if I start to cry a little right now?”

“I had anaemia as a kid, and my schoolteacher’s name sounded like ‘anaemia’, so naturally, I hated her”

“she took the pen out of my hand and said, ‘no, Richard, use pencil.’ I was so mad”

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that there are fewer bassists today and higher rates of suicide, gang violence, school shootings…”

“channel your inner Whitney Houston”

“play quietly, like you’re about to wake a baby. except you’re the baby, because you didn’t practice”

“I have another metronome app now. I collect them.”

“if someone calls my bass a cello one more time I’m gonna lose it”

“at the gig, a drunk guy came up to me, pointed to my harp, and called it a sideways piano”

“I want the space between these notes to be so big you can fit a little drawing of a house, a sun, a tree, and little dog in there.”

“90º angle notes”

“I want the sixteenth notes so sharp they could kill a man”

“turn the soundbox on”

“do you have a fancy phone? the answer is yes, yes you do.”

“I listened to the narration a few times before realising it was in German”

“I’ve got, like, four copies of that piece. the conductor keeps forgetting that I already have it and makes me a new copy.”

“soon I’ll have AIDS. Hearing aids, I mean. I’m old, is what I’m saying”

“more birdlike, turn on roundabout faster”

“kissing from the left is different from kissing from the right. not that I would know. asking for a friend.”

I want a sitcom like The Office/Parks & Rec following classical musicians so that every episode, someone says something relatable then says "Can I get an Amen Cadence" and then it pans to someone at the piano, who plays a plagal cadence and no one questions this.
Your Average Choir Practice
  • “Stagger breathe! Stagger breathe! Stagger breathe!”
  • “You can’t breathe there!”
  • “You can make eight measures without breathing!”
  • “Blend! Blend!”
  • “Just the tenors!”
  • “Now, WITHOUT the sopranos”
  • “Why don’t you have a pencil?”
  • “Did you take a breath???”
  • “This is serious!”
  • “You can sing with a sore throat! You shouldn’t be singing from your throat anyway!”
  • “cresCENDO!
  • "I can’t hear the altos!”
  • “I can’t hear the tenors!”
  • “I can’t hear the bass!”
  • “The sopranos can be a bit softer!”
  • “Why do you keep taking a breath there?”
  • “I’m going to call this concert off if you don’t get it together!”
  • “A little less vibrato from the sopranos!”
  • *claps rhythm loudly and purposefully*
  • “You can’t eat during choir practice!!!”
  • “Why isn’t your music in order?”
  • “From the top!”
  • “From the top, but this time I won’t interrupt you!”
  • “From the top, but this time I PROMISE I won’t interrupt you!”
  • “Did you write in your music that you can’t take a breath there?" 
  • "No, I don’t have another copy of the music!”
  • “How did you lose your music already?”
  • “You’re not on Broadway! Don’t sing like you are!”
  • “Vowels!”
  • “Consonants!”
  • “Vowels!”
  • “Consonants!”
  • “More feeling! Pay attention to the words you’re singing!”
  • “You can’t write in your music with pen!!!”
  • “Why do you keep breathing? You don’t need to breathe in order to sing! What’s wrong with you?”
Listen up langblr

i’m aboutta knock ur heckin socks off

There are these two choral/symphony albums

Calling All Dawns and The Drop that Contained the Sea

both by Christopher Tin (The composer of Baba Yetu)

Every song is in a different language

All the text is sourced from classical texts/poetry/proverbs from those cultures

Calling All Dawns features songs in

  • Swahili
  • Japanese
  • Chinese
  • Portuguese
  • French
  • Latin
  • Irish
  • Polish
  • Hebrew
  • Persian/Farsi
  • Sanskrit
  • Maori

And The Drop that Contained the Sea features songs in

  • Proto-Indo European
  • Turkish
  • Bulgarian
  • Xhosa
  • Mongolian
  • Portuguese
  • Sanskrit
  • Ancient Greek
  • Old Norse
  • Lango

All of these songs are so beautiful you’ll want to cry. All of them. (Although my favorites are Baba Yetu, Se é Pra Vir Que Venha, Sukla-Krsne, Iza Ngomso, and Waloyo Yamoni)


Somebody on youtube took the time to add captions and English translations, along with notes on the source materials to a video by the Angel City Chorale of the full performance of both albums. Also from the comments you can skip to certain songs. You can find those videos here and here

ur heckin welcome my dudes