Faq playing in an orchestra

Being part of one of The Netherland’s professional symphony orchestras is the ambition of many conservatory students. It isn’t simple, for the level is high and the competition is great. What can you do to get there?

A permanent job or look around first?

There are advantages in not looking for a permanent job immediately. First you might want to try to get some audition and orchestra experience. It can give you some more knowledge of the orchestra world. All orchestras are not alike. There are differences in choice of repertoire, performance methods, level, atmosphere, and possibilities for working part-time or not.

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Substitution in an orchestra

All orchestras need replacements from time to time. How do you get them to ask you?

- If you have the right contacts you may just be asked sometime. Of course this depends on your own qualities, but you also need a bit of luck. Don’t hesitate to make use of the contacts you have!

- You can write an open letter to the orchestras of your choice, offering your services. Send a CV along explaining your course of study and relevant work experience.

- Some orchestras hold replacement auditions. If you get through that successfully then you are put on a list of regular substitutes. Be careful when auditioning if you have already built up a good relationship with an orchestra; a failed audition can worsen your position. Always take an audition very seriously.


Playing in an orchestra and auditioning are two very different things. There are musicians who (can) function beautifully in an orchestra, but who are continually unable to demonstrate their best qualities in an audition. But you still only get a job in an orchestra in one way: by auditioning.


You can find the ads for job vacancies in Dutch orchestras in the Saturday newspapers. You can also ask the orchestras of your choice to keep you informed about future auditions.


A job in an orchestra is not granted to everyone. But it’s also not ideal for everyone. If you want to express many of your personal musical ideas, for example, then playing chamber music is a good option. In addition to the orchestras, The Netherlands has many large and small ensembles. It is, however, difficult to earn a living playing chamber music.

Combining private lessons with performances of your own ensemble is a good alternative. There is also a lively circuit with combined forms of genres and disciplines where musicians can find a place to perform.