How big is the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra?
HRO is the biggest orchestra on campus—it has over 100 members!
What is the time commitment?
HRO rehearses every Monday evening from 7:00 to 9:30pm and every Friday afternoon from 3:00 to 5:30pm throughout the academic year (excluding finals periods) in preparation for four concerts. Musicians are expected to be in the hall by 6:45 and tuned and ready to play by 6:55. Members are also expected to attend a 3-day retreat in the beginning of each year and HRO’s international tours, which occur once every two years. Although HRO is a sizable time commitment, plenty of our members still manage to be very active with numerous other organizations on campus: members of HRO write for the Crimson, compete on the ballroom dance team, lead public service organizations, and participate in hundreds of other groups as well. Many even participate in other orchestras and musical organizations on campus.
Where does HRO rehearse and perform?
HRO is fortunate to be able to perform all four of our annual concerts in the beautiful and historic Sanders Theatre in Memorial Hall. Most of our rehearsals are in Sanders Theatre as well, although we occasionally rehearse in Lowell Lecture Hall and Paine Concert Hall.
Does HRO tour?
Yes indeed! HRO has had a long-standing tradition of touring. Most recently HRO toured Mexico performing in cities such as León and Mexico City! Looking ahead, we will be touring South Korea in March 2024. Over the past six decades, the ensemble has successfully toured Argentina, Canada, the former Soviet Union, East Asia, Central Europe, Italy, and beyond. The most recent trips have been to Mexico (2022), Argentina (2017), and East Asia (2015). Generally, tours occur once every two years either in March over spring recess or in June following commencement exercises.
What does HRO play?
Pretty much everything in the symphonic repertoire. You can check out this year's program on our Events page. Highlights from the past two seasons (Fall 2021 through Spring 2023) include Mahler’s 5th and 7th Symphonies, Verdi’s Requiem, Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, Debussy’s La Mer, Strauss’s Don Juan, Beethoven’s “Emperor" Piano Concerto, and co-commissioned works from modern composers Hannah Lash and Matthew Aucoin.
How hard is it to get in?
This is a difficult question... a lot depends on what instrument you play and how many other applicants there are for each section. Every year we accept a large number of new members to the orchestra. That said, don't be intimidated about auditioning! Our auditions are actually pretty low-key, and you’ll never know unless you try... we want everyone who has considered playing for HRO to audition with us! This year, we accepted around 40 new members.
How do I audition?
Auditions are held once a year, a few days before classes begin in the fall. Details will be posted on our website near the end of the summer, so keep an eye out! You can also always e-mail us for more information. Auditions are 6 minutes long (although you should prepare at least 10 minutes of music) and you should prepare two contrasting works from your instrument's standard repertoire. Our conductor, Maestro Federico Cortese, holds all the auditions and likes to hear different elements of playing, so it's usually best to choose pieces with fast, technical spots as well as slow, lyrical sections. And relax: no scales or sight-reading.
Do I have to re-audition every year?
Yes, all members are required to re-audition at the start of each school year.
Are there opportunities to play chamber music?
Yes! Chamber music is a huge part of HRO – it is easy to form small groups within our wonderful community. Our groups are often hired to perform at club events, dances, and more! We also love reaching out to the broader community and sharing our love for music by going to elementary schools and senior centers. These outings not only foster relationships with the outside community, but also amongst ourselves! Chamber sightreading nights are another highlight, giving any HRO member the opportunity to play with peers in a casual and fun environment.
Is there more to HRO than just music-making?
Definitely! HRO is much more than just an orchestra, and there are lots of things that go on besides music. Our social committee regularly organizes events for orchestra members: parties after every concert, weekly community dinners, and other events like sightreading nights and board socials. We also have a "sibfam" program within the orchestra to help new and returning members alike get to know each other. There is also a weekend retreat at the beginning of the year for all members of HRO, where we work on repertoire for the coming year, play chamber music, play sports and games, and party!
What makes HRO different from other orchestras at Harvard?
First, HRO is Harvard’s largest symphony orchestra and the oldest continuously-running symphony orchestra in the country, so we have the ability to play much larger and more complex pieces than any other orchestra on campus, such as Mahler’s and Bruckner's symphonies. HRO also has a very active student board, which offers particularly involved students the chance to lead one of the largest and highest-budget student-run organizations at Harvard. This also translates to enhanced opportunities for all HRO members such as: more (and higher budget) social events, an alumni mentorship program, community outreach events, an annual trip to Italy for a select group of HRO strings, and biennial international tours for all HRO members! Lastly, HRO is a Harvard class that can be taken pass/fail (Music 10) or for a letter grade (Music 107) and benefits from having a professional conductor, our Musical Director Federico Cortese.
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