While patrons don’t often get to see an orchestra librarian, they are an important part of every orchestra. Pacific Symphony’s librarian is Alison Spaeth.
An alumna of the Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati College, Alison graduated with a Clarinet Performance degree. She first learned about the job after meeting Wendy Skoczen, who is now Chief Librarian for the Met Opera. At the time, Alison was looking around for an alternative to a performance career that would still keep her close to the classical music community. It didn’t take her too long to decide that this was what she wanted to do. She was an Assistant Librarian at the Cincinnati Symphony and Principal Librarian at the Austin Symphony prior to coming to Pacific Symphony.
The Orchestra Librarian’s space is located in the basement at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. Despite the fact that her work is primarily done behind the scenes, Alison still gets to interact with a wide variety of people inside and outside the organization. This list includes artistic staff, music publishers, string principals, conductors, the personnel manager, operations staff and orchestra musicians. Alison is at every rehearsal and concert. Her most visible job during concert duty is placing the conductor’s scores. Her most important job during concert duty is being present in case of a music emergency (a last-minute adjustment from the music director or a part left at home by a musician).
The photo above features the sheet music and folders the Symphony will be playing in the upcoming Zhang Plays Rach 2 concerts this week. Did you know that the library corrected over a thousand errors for the 1945 version of Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite for the parts before they were distributed to our musicians? The task required two librarians!
One of the reasons why it required that many corrections is because the 1919 version has undergone several revisions by expert editors. However, the 1945 version remains under copyright and can only be rented from a single source. If an orchestra wants to perform Stravinsky’s later version of Firebird Suite (which is somewhat reorchestrated and contains two extra movements) they have no option other than to rent the materials knowing that the parts are not entirely performance-ready. The publisher has little motivation to issue a corrected printing since they maintain the sole source for it.
There’s so much that goes on before, during and after a concert. Sometimes going unseen and unneeded is a sign of great success in her job. If she can get through a rehearsal without a page-turn fix request, a question about a wrong note, or any discussion about the music on the page, then she knows the music was adequately prepared. The less time our musicians spend thinking about the ink on the page, the more time they can dedicate to music-making.
We hope you’ve gotten the chance to get to know our librarian a bit better. Librarians are truly one of our community’s unsung heroes. How much did you know about the job? Let us know in the comments below! To learn more about what our Orchestra Librarian and Director of Orchestra Personnel staff members do, please click here.