Frequently Asked Questions
What is the concept behind NYLSO?
Most amateur orchestras in the US are designed to be pre-professional or youth orchestras. Why should kids have all the fun? The underlying idea is to encourage and enable adults to play together, so they can improve and enjoy the experience. NYLSO was formed to bring the thrill associated with being able to take part in a substantially-sized orchestra playing ”real” pieces to a broader segment of the music-loving community. We don’t mind if you sometimes hit the wrong notes. Whatever your level, bring your instrument and come join the fun.
I’ve never played with a group before. How is it different from playing alone?
Playing with a group is exhilarating and challenging! Even when the music is relatively simple, playing in an ensemble adds the elements of keeping time strictly, paying attention to the conductor, and careful listening to the other parts to produce music that sounds integrated and beautiful. You will find that you develop your listening and sight-reading skills to a great degree by participating in an ensemble.
Am I experienced enough?
Yes. We are a teaching orchestra; we welcome anyone who genuinely loves music and wants to experience the fun of group play! Although it does help if you already have at least basic sight-reading skills and some level of familiarity with your instrument (we recommend a minimum of 1 year’s worth of lessons), it is more important that you possess a healthy sense of humor and a fair amount of patience.
We are a no judgment zone. Some pieces may be more challenging than others and may take some players longer to master. We have all been there! Not mastering a piece is also ok. Relaxing and enjoying and working towards a goal of playing more notes with each week is a perfectly worthwhile goal!
True beginners are encouraged to play to their fullest potential, whatever that may be, but please recognize that while we do have a conductor, her role is not to provide one-on-one instruction during rehearsals. The conductor’s purpose is to help guide the group as a whole, and, of course, to troubleshoot problem spots. Some individual attention will be necessary at times, but the emphasis is on improving the group's overall sound and ensuring a nice flow during rehearsals. It is not fair to the group if the time becomes a surrogate for individual lessons for only a few participants.
What if I find I’m not ready to play with the orchestra yet?
NYLSO also offers a small Beginners Ensemble, that meets from 2 to 4 PM on Sundays in a room adjacent to the full orchestra. The Beginners Ensemble practices simpler music under the supervision of a senior member of the Orchestra. The fee is $10 an hour to participate. As beginners improve their skills at reading music, intonation, dynamics, and keeping time, many will move into the Orchestra.
Am I too advanced?
If you have ever been paid to play your instrument, recently graduated with a degree in performance, or have been playing since elementary school, we are probably not the group for you.
Because we do not audition, our ensemble consists of a range of technical abilities and notational literacy. Sometimes this requires tolerance, flexibility, and the use of techniques that accommodate all players. We aim to create a safe and welcoming environment for adults coming late or recently returning to music. We are always accepting new members; some are seasoned, experienced players who want to enjoy their music in new company and others are new to music playing and have never played in an orchestra before.
We count on our advanced players to not only take on the more challenging parts of the music but also to provide inspiration to the group at large. In bringing everyone together, members are placed in the position of being both mentor and mentee, an arrangement that fosters growth and enjoyment at any level.
Players with an impatient or overly competitive nature need not apply.
What should I bring?
Your instrument, of course, sheet music (emailed to active members prior to the start of a term) and a portable music stand are essential. You should also have a folder or envelope to keep your music together and a pencil with an eraser to mark your music.
What kind of music do you play?
During each six-week cycle we work on a selection of six to ten short pieces (generally one or two pages each) encompassing mostly classical music, but also including folk, pop, and even contemporary music.
At times we have even worked with new composers who have written pieces expressly for us. The composers are invited to attend rehearsal sessions where they get to hear their pieces come alive (a rarity for composers) and to hear valuable feedback directly from players. On the flip side, players have the opportunity to learn about the creative process of composing and are able to reach a deeper, more nuanced understanding of a piece by hearing the composer's motivations while writing.
Do you perform?
Yes. At least three times a year at the end of a six-week cycle we invite family members and friends to an “open rehearsal,” followed by refreshments. On occasion we have also performed in music festivals in city parks or with other musical groups. In addition, duets, trios, and quartets comprised of orchestra members have been invited by our host, Mount Sinai East, to perform on weekdays in the hallways of the hospital.
How much will I need to practice during the week?
It goes without saying that the more you practice, the better you (and therefore we) sound, but this group is meant to be recreational. It is not meant to create more stress than you already have. While we do aim to improve over the course of the term, the goal is not necessarily total mastery of a particular piece. The idea of our group is to come as you are and have a good time. Play the parts or measures that you can, listen to the parts you cannot, and strive to contribute to the best of your ability.
Do I have to come for all 6 weeks?
We understand that life can get a bit hectic. Conflicts will inevitably arise for us all. The purpose of our group is to bring joy and camaraderie to our fellow music-loving members, not to cause undue pressure and stress. That said, however, we do expect a certain level of commitment.
What does it cost?
NYLSO is a self-supporting collective. The cost is $100 for each 6-week cycle. Players who want to try us out can pay a single-session drop-in fee of $20, which can be credited toward the full fee if you decide to join the group at the end of that day’s rehearsal. Payments are applied to the costs of rehearsal space, conductor fees, website hosting, bank fees, music purchases, etc.
How can I join?
Easily. Send us an email to and let us know your approximate level and the date you plan to come. We will e-mail you back with links to music selections to print.