Keeping Score with Houston Symphony Librarians

Keeping Score with Houston Symphony Librarians

The orchestra librarian’s job is to guarantee that the right music is in the right place at the right time for all orchestral rehearsals and performances. Before each rehearsal begins, the Houston Symphony Librarians work closely with the Music Director and guest conductors to prepare the music for the orchestra, allowing rehearsal time to be spent on making music rather than correcting printed mistakes. This work includes procuring the music, either via purchase or hire, securing copyright and other permissions, and ensuring that each part is legibly marked to the conductors’ and musicians’ specifications. During performances, you may often see one of the Symphony’s librarians setting the conductor’s score on the podium or collecting the musicians’ folders once the concert is over.

Jeanne Case, Principal Librarian

The Principal Librarian is considered to be a member of the orchestra and like any orchestra position, a vacancy is filled through a national audition. For our audition, a committee consisting of seven musicians and several orchestra staff members evaluated a group of highly qualified candidates in a three-round audition process, consisting of a written projects, oral and written skills tests, and interviews with the committee. The initial rounds were conducted virtually, and then four candidates were chosen to participate in the in-person final round at Jones Hall.

Luke Bryson, Associate Librarian

Marshall Burlingame, retired head librarian of the Boston Symphony, served as a consultant to the committee and was invaluable in helping to focus the committee on what to look for in an ideal candidate, and in crafting the tests to assess each candidate’s knowledge, skill, and aptitude for this demanding position. Successful candidates needed to demonstrate an encyclopedic knowledge of orchestral music, including details of instrumentation, editions, publishers, copyright law, performance rights, and more.

Hae-a Lee, Assistant Librarian

They were asked to demonstrate hands-on skills such as marking bowings, transposing parts to various keys, making seamless cuts in complex works, and writing transcriptions by hand—accurately, neatly, and quickly. Finally, candidates needed to show they possess exemplary organizational skills as well as the ability to stay calm and composed in unexpected and urgent situations. A final vote of the musician committee and the consensus of management on the two top candidates resulted in the engagement of Jeanne Case as Principal Librarian, and the promotion of Luke Bryson to Associate Librarian.

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