Frequently Asked Questions

HRO is the biggest orchestra on campus—it has over 90 members!

HRO rehearses every Monday and Thursday evening, from 7:00 to 9:30pm 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. We also typically have one Saturday retreat per concert cycle. 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. Being a member of HRO does, however, mean that it would be extremely difficult to be a part of another high-commitment group, such as a varsity sports team or a cappella group.

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.

Yes, indeed! HRO has had a long-standing tradition of touring. Over the past four decades, the ensemble has embarked upon successful tours of Korea, Mexico, Canada, the former Soviet Union, East Asia, Central Europe, Italy, and various other locations here in the US. Our most recent trips have been to the Middle East in 2013, and Cuba in the summer of 2011. Generally, tours occur once every four years, usually in June following commencement exercises.

Pretty much everything in the symphonic repertoire. You can check out this year's program on our Concerts page. Highlights from recent seasons have included Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, Stravinsky's Firebird Suite, Mahler's Symphony No. 4, Brahms' Symphony No. 3, Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1, and lots more! We sometimes invite guest soloists as well; in the past, we've have had the privilege of collaborating with such renowned musicians as pianist Robert Levin, cellist Yo-Yo Ma and violinist Lynn Chang. HRO also holds the annual James Yannatos Concerto Competition, which is open to all undergraduate musicians and gives the winner the chance to perform with the HRO. We also generally play 1 or 2 modern pieces every year; members of HRO often comment how grateful they are for the exposure to these modern works that they would not have otherwise gotten to know.

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 and we always name alternates.

DO NOT be intimidated about auditioning! Our auditions are actually pretty low-key (seriously! see the next question), 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 30 new members!

Auditions are held once a year during Freshman Week, a few days before classes begin in the fall. Details will be posted on the home page of our website near the end of the summer, and you can always e-mail us (hro@hcs.harvard.edu) for more information. You can sign up for auditions online on the "Audition" page. Auditions are 5-10 minutes long and you can play anything you'd like. Our conductor, Maestro Federico Cortese, holds all the auditions and likes to hear different elements of playing, so it's usually best to choose a piece or pieces with fast, technical spots as well as slow, lyrical sections. You may play one piece or more than one. And relax: no scales or sight-reading.

Yes! Chamber music is a huge part of HRO – many HRO members are enrolled in Music 187r, a credit-bearing course designed to give HRO members an opportunity to play and perform chamber music. Chamber groups receive an hour-long coaching every week from members of the Boston Trio and also rehearse separately on their own, all in preparation for the performance of a work in its entirety at the end of the semester. Students may form their own groups and select their own repertoire or be assigned a group by the coaches. All are welcome to participate – your audition for HRO will count as your audition for the course, so it's very easy to get involved! And beyond Music 187r, plenty of HRO members are ready and willing to sight-read chamber music at any time, just for the fun of it.

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, outings to nearby restaurants and concerts, and special trips like ice skating. We also have a "family" 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!

The social committee is just one part of our larger Board of Directors, which helps to keep the orchestra running smoothly. HRO is a large group and is completely student-run, so there are plenty of ways to get involved – we produce our own programs, subscription brochures, and posters, we do our own publicity, and even plan our own tours among many other things. There are over 20 members of the orchestra who are part of the Board. Musicians in HRO usually say that the more involved in the orchestra you are, the more you get out of and appreciate the experience. If you're interested in learning more about any of these positions, email hro@hcs.harvard.edu and we'll put you in touch with the appropriate person.

There are many musical opportunities at Harvard, so this is an important question to address. First, HRO is the biggest and oldest orchestra on campus – as Harvard's biggest symphony orchestra (the oldest symphony orchestra in the country, in fact!), the repertoire is often different from that of the other orchestras' on campus. We are well-suited for playing Beethoven and Mahler symphonies but rarely play Mozart, Bach, and Vivaldi. Our large size also means that there are always more students to meet, with a wide variety of interests and concentrations. Lastly, we have a professional conductor, while most other groups on campus have student conductors. The Bach Society Orchestra, a slightly smaller and student-conducted group, has a nice comparison of the different orchestras at Harvard here.

If you have ANY questions, don’t hesitate to contact us via email at hro@hcs.harvard.edu.