Two orchestra roles you may not have heard of…
By Ashley Stockwell
The Maestro picks the music and leads the orchestra. The musicians play their instruments. But there is more that goes into presenting concerts than what you see on stage. The orchestra librarian and the concertmaster are at work behind the scenes to make performances possible.
A 30-year Muncie Symphony Orchestra member, David Blakley has spent 12 years as librarian in addition to his role as principal second violin. Being librarian, he explains, consists of four parts: budgeting with the personnel manager, procuring the music, working with the concertmaster to coordinate the bowings and mailing out the music.
“It’s all kind of tied together,” said Blakley. “What’s the music going to cost? Are there rental pieces? Do we own the pieces already? How much is that going to cost the orchestra next year if we have to rent? I have to pass on those things to personnel manager Jennifer Johnson, for example, information on how many instruments are in the score and she decides how many people need to be hired.”
Gathering the music can present its own challenges. The MSO shares a music library with the Ball State University, but some pieces are harder to track down than others.
“Sometimes I have to find some really obscure things, like the theme for Summer Place that we played for Festival on the Green 2014,” said Blakley. “Everybody knows it, they think it’s Percy Faith, but it’s not. And so it was presented to me as ‘Find this piece by Percy Faith.’ Percy Faith made the famous version of it but he did not write it. Matt Steiner wrote it and I had to research that. So, through a series of connections – and thank heavens now we have the Internet – I was able to find that Percy Faith left his library to… I think it was Baylor University. I contacted the librarian there and he put me in touch with the librarian of the Percy Faith Orchestra, who is renting us the part right from Percy Faith’s library.”
Once the detective work is done and the music is in his hands, Blakley passes it off to concertmaster Mary Kothman, who has been concertmaster since 2002.
“I coordinate the way in which the string section moves their bows across the strings”, said Kothman. “Sometimes we intentionally do the same bowings, other times we intentionally do different bowings, so I always get the music at least two months before a concert and mark all the parts. Then I give them to the librarian David Blakley and he marks all the other parts and gets them out.
The concertmaster also acts as a second-in-command to the Maestro, helping warm up the orchestra before concerts and acting as a representative of the orchestra if there is ever anything that needs to be discussed musically.
After bowings are complete, Blakley sends the music to the MSO musicians across Indiana. Musicians rehearse on their own and join together for several rehearsals before presenting the music in concert. These preparations are a long process, but for Blakley the pleasure of playing makes it all worth it.
“The release of my stress is that I’m also the principal second violin in the orchestra and once the librarian part is over I get to play,” said Blakley.