The Orchestra

Photo Credit: Kevin Brooks

Who Are We?

We are a group of musicians from all age groups and playing abilities, who love to learn, share, and perform music in front of an audience.

Based in Comox Valley, the Strathcona Symphony Orchestra (SSO) attracts people from the local catchment area to Campbell River. 

Some SSO concerts have featured guest musicians, singers, and conductors from across Vancouver Island, Powell River, and Greater Vancouver.

The orchestra offers opportunities for string, brass, woodwinds, and percussion players to enjoy the love of playing music together.

Photo Credit: Kevin Brooks

What Do We Do?

We offer musicians, from intermediate to professional levels, to play classical and contemporary works with a conductor.  Our goal is to perform three times a year for concerts in Comox Valley and Campbell River locations.

The SSO’s musical range includes presenting classical works, such as Antonin Dvořák’s New World Symphony, to contemporary pieces like Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera.

The orchestra offers members the chance to take a break from everyday routines and play ensemble work and perhaps a second instrument or different parts, such as a flute player trying the 1st violin score or the 2nd oboe part.

Photo Credit: Kevin Brooks

How Does the SSO Membership Work?

Participants should be at an intermediate playing level and can expect to have an informal audition for placement purposes.

The SSO conductor sometimes offers musicians the ability to audition for solo work or participate in smaller ensembles.

Photo Credit: Kevin Brooks

Musicians may move from one part to another.

Most traditional orchestras have an auditioned musician assigned to one part, such as 1st violin.  The player will remain with this section until instructed by the conductor to change or if they leave the orchestra.

The SSO Music Director encourages players to try different parts.  For example, a 1st violinist might be offered to play 2nd violin for a performance and then switch back to 1st violin for the next piece or concert.  The opportunity to play different plays offers musicians a more well-rounded experience as an orchestra member and allows them to try more challenging music.

Photo Credit: Kevin Brooks

Musicians might play a part not originally written for their instrument.

Some musicians may fill in for missing sections: a trombonist, for example, may play a part originally written for a bassoon if the orchestra lacks a bassoonist; a keyboardist may cover a harp part in the absence of a harpist; a flutist might cover an oboe part in the absence of an oboist (all of which have happened during the SSO’s history).  In this way, musicians can experience a broader and more enriching range of challenges, while contributing to the music’s texture and fullness, and building their musicianship, ensemble, and practical skills. This can help strengthen the group as a whole while paving the way for even more invigorating challenges down the road.

Photo Credit: Kevin Brooks

We have section leaders, not principal players.  

What’s the difference?  Our section leaders are asked to oversee the needs of the group as a whole, while also being mindful of the needs and interests of the individuals within their group.  Section leaders are asked to keep notes of rehearsal changes and ensure everyone in their section is aware of the updates.  At the same time, section members are encouraged to reach out to their section leaders if they feel uncertain about details or need help.  Sometimes, the level of difficulty of a particular piece is beyond the current skill level of an individual. 

Photo Credit: Kevin Brooks

A section leader can offer ideas on how to simplify the passage, allowing the musician to continue to participate and contribute to the overall sound of the orchestra.  The difference between the role of principal and section leader also becomes apparent when it’s time to play solos.  Whereas principal players generally play most, if not all, solos, section leaders offer solos to different musicians at different times—which provides broader opportunities for more musicians more frequently than with a conventional approach.  

Similarly, more tedious parts may be shared by different musicians at different times.  The hope is that the overall experience is more rewarding, and conducive to the growth of each section as well as the individuals within it, than with a traditional hierarchical approach.

Photo Credit: Kevin Brooks

Section leaders may not be the oldest musician there.

A younger player may have more experience with their instrument than their fellow section members.  Leadership offered to younger musicians can give an opportunity for younger players to build skills invaluable for their later careers, whether in the field of music or otherwise.  At the same time, the musicians they lead can give encouragement and support to their section leader as they learn to manage and fulfill their responsibilities.

Photo Credit: Kevin Brooks

Musicians may take turns serving as section leaders.

Different musicians may serve as section leaders from season to season, or even from concert to concert.  This can ease the pressure off one person while affording different people the opportunity to experience and practice leadership.  We’ve even had different concert masters within the same season.  It doesn’t happen in every section—not everyone wants the responsibility of leadership—but adjustments are made as the conductor sees fit. 

It’s not just a matter of what’s best for each individual, but what’s best for the group as a whole, as well as the parts functioning within, as they interact, interconnect, and complement one another.  It’s a great opportunity for us to practice considering interests beyond our own. In this way, we gain greater appreciation for how each person and section affects (and is affected by), influences (and is influenced by), and depends upon, each other. Our whole is greater than the sum of our parts. We strengthen and encourage one another. 

Photo Credit: Kevin Brooks

What instruments do we play?

Strings (violin, viola, cello, double bass); winds (flute, piccolo, oboe, clarinet, bass clarinet, bassoon); brass (trumpet, French horn, euphonium, trombone, tuba); percussion (timpani, bass drum, cymbals, glockenspiel, xylophone, and a host of hand-held percussion instruments).

Photo Credit: Kevin Brooks

What music do we perform?

From classics (Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and 20th Century) to contemporary works; from famous classical composers to new and upcoming ones; from symphonies to pop, movie soundtracks and musicals; from grand orchestral works to string ensembles and smaller repertoire selections. 

We play a broad range of styles and genres to appeal to a wide range of music lovers.

Photo Credit: Kevin Brooks

Why it matters

Music brings people together. Music bridges gaps in understanding and opens opportunities and doors that might otherwise go unnoticed or overlooked.

Playing music together helps us connect with people we might never have met otherwise. Working on a challenging repertoire together helps us grow, and learn, and gives us the opportunity to experience the thrill of finding out what may be possible when we dare to try. Being part of something that is bigger than just one person helps us discover what may be possible when we are not alone.

We are better together.