Musicians from the Omaha Symphony talk to Columbus High School band members Wednesday. The group was in town for a concert performance and held an education clinic for area schools in the afternoon. Pictured from left is Omaha Symphony members Brannon Fells, Garret Law, Craig Bircher and Mary Bircher. 

Liz Morales, The Columbus Telegram

COLUMBUS-- Members of the Omaha Symphony sat down with student musicians to discuss the inner working of symphony life.

The members spent all of Wednesday travelling to Columbus schools to work with students as part of an educational outreach program. The performers were in town for a Friends of Music concert performance.

One of the questions answered during their time with Columbus High School band students was about the process of auditions each prospective musician must undergo.

Craig Bircher, associate principal trumpet of the Omaha Symphony, explained this detail further.

“We post the auditions on an employment forum on our website,” Bircher said. “Then people send us resumes and once we decide who will come play for us. A repertoire of what we want to hear is then sent out.”

The rest of the audition process is the most difficult for some musicians.

“The players come to town and rent their own hotel room at their own cost,” Bircher said. “Then they come, practice for however long they need, then they go to a room by themselves to audition. The musicians cannot see anyone, they play in front of a screen, like an interrogation room.”

This is followed by a rigorous 10 minutes of playing for the musician. Mary Bircher, principal harpist of the Omaha Symphony, explained to the band how far dedication can go.

“The audition process of every musician is brutal and very competitive,” she said. “But if you really love to play, there are so many other things you can do besides perform in an orchestra. The art can allow you to create your own styles, also to make and find your own niche.”

Besides performances and practicing an instrument, there is another side to life in the orchestra. Brannon Fells works as operations and production manager for the Omaha Symphony.

“The business side of the orchestra is really important as well,” Fells told the high school musicians. “Not only is there the money aspect, but we’re in charge of making sure the individual needs of the musicians are met, we arrange lighting and other effects that can correlate with the music, and all around we see the technical part of each show.”

When members of the orchestra are not practicing together, some spend time teaching other musicians privately. Before he was the fourth French horn player for the symphony, Garret Law taught private lessons in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

“There is such an amazing variety of things you can do to expand on the love of music,” Law said. “One of the most rewarding things I’ve found is teaching private lessons. I’ve seen that this is a perfect way to help someone shape their style on a one-on-one basis.”

The advice the quartet offered to the high school resonated well with junior Novah Renner.

“Listening to the Omaha Symphony helped me realize how I can apply my music skills outside of the classroom and potentially bring my skills to the workforce,” Renner said.

Renner is a saxophonist who switches gears in winter for the CHS winter percussion ensemble.

Craig Bircher went on to explain the day in the life of a symphonist.

“We play so many different styles of music all the time,” Bircher said. “Sometimes we are preparing for four different programs that are coming up which means that’s four different styles we have to play each week. It’s a lot of work to keep that balance. But it’s a lot of fun.”


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