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Thread: Starting a Mandolin Orchestra

  1. #1
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    Default Starting a Mandolin Orchestra

    Every now and then I catch myself watching videos of different mandolin orchestras from around the world, and lately I've entertained the idea of becoming part of one myself.

    Despaired and in disbelief I found that not all of the worlds capitals have a mandolin orchestra , and I've started to entertain a much more ambitious and less realistic thought;

    How does one go about starting a mandolin orchestra from scratch?


    There's some pretty obvious issues right off the bat I guess. Like where to get a dozen or so mandolin players in a small town being a mayor one, but none the less...

    It would be interesting to hear cafe members thoughts on this. Maybe some might even have had experience in a mandolin orchestra.

    What could be said to be the "ABC's" of mandolin orchestra founding so to speak?

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    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Starting a Mandolin Orchestra

    First, you need players and repertoire and a place to practice.

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    Default Re: Starting a Mandolin Orchestra

    I started one in 1991. I left it after about ten years, but it's still going strong today.

    I began by posting notices in acoustic music stores advertising an initial meeting and jam (in the public meeting room of a library of all places). About 8 people came to the first meeting. I brought some mandolin orchestra music that I had scrounged up, and we tentatively played through it.

    It grew quickly from that. The orchestra made a big step forward after a few months when a player capable of serving as conductor and artistic planner joined the group. We began playing in public early on, at senior residences, park music programs, and things like that. We got a lot of new members after we were guests on an acoustic music program on public radio during the initial year.

    Just do it -- it can happen. Good luck.

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    Front Porch & Sweet Tea NursingDaBlues's Avatar
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    Default Re: Starting a Mandolin Orchestra

    Depending on how ambitious you want to get and how big your community is:

    A music director/conductor;
    A funding source to pay for copyrighted scores, practice hall, performance venues, sound system rentals, sound engineer, etc.;
    A publicist/promoter;
    Compensation (?) for the artists and non-artist positions

    As you mentioned, it is ambitious. But it can be very rewarding – for the artists, the community, and for you. I hope that you’ll find a way to succeed.

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  9. #5
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    Default Re: Starting a Mandolin Orchestra

    Quote Originally Posted by jelhai View Post
    The orchestra made a big step forward after a few months when a player capable of serving as conductor and artistic planner joined the group. .
    Quote Originally Posted by NursingDaBlues View Post

    A music director/conductor;
    A funding source to pay for copyrighted scores, practice hall, performance venues, sound system rentals, sound engineer, etc.;
    A publicist/promoter;
    Compensation (?) for the artists and non-artist positions
    All good ideas that obviously I overlooked.

    Particularly the conductor/music director part.

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    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Starting a Mandolin Orchestra

    (Sometimes it helps to know where the poster is located.)

    f-d
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    Default Re: Starting a Mandolin Orchestra

    Quote Originally Posted by fatt-dad View Post
    (Sometimes it helps to know where the poster is located.)
    Yes. Because i was going to recommend finding one not too too far away and joining.

    Seeing how much work goes into it, and especially how much musical knowledge and insight the director needs, and I am satisfied to participate as much as I can with long time existing orchestras than to do the heavy lifting to start something.

    But that is very location dependent.
    Indulge responsibly!

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    Mandogenerator Mike Black's Avatar
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    Default Re: Starting a Mandolin Orchestra

    Where are you located? Maybe there IS one in your area. Or someone could help find one that's at least close.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Starting a Mandolin Orchestra

    The Classical Mandolin Society of America (CMSA) has a listing of mandolin orchestras here. Mostly North America but there are some in Europe and Australia listed as well.

    I would become a member since that gives you access to the sheet music libraries as well as a listing for your group.

    I would first start small with as many mandolin players you know locally. Build from there. I was a member of the New York Mandolin Orchestra and part of their funding came from member yearly dues.
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    Default Re: Starting a Mandolin Orchestra

    Thanks again everyone!

    Well I'm down in Central America. San Jose, Costa Rica. And it turns out theres not exactly a massive mandolin scene down here. I've never seen a mandolin played at a gig. I've never even seen a mandolin in a music store come to think of it.
    So finding enough players is probably going to be tough. Though, I have read somewhere that close to a hundred thousand americans reside here, so If like 0.01% of those play mandolin...

    I didn't know about CMSA, but that seems like a great association. Thanks Jim. If I ever manage to gather enough players I will definitely contact them. Who knows maybe they'd love the thought of the first Central American Mandolin Orchestra and send down a handfull of players and a conductor!

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    Registered User T.D.Nydn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Starting a Mandolin Orchestra

    I think it might be tough to find mando- bass players..

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Starting a Mandolin Orchestra

    MandoNina: We may be down there some time or another. maybe even this summer since my wife loved it down there one time and wants to celebrate her retirement.

    My suggestion is to find musicians of any kind and soak up the music. A cultural exchange would be great. I will bet that there is some traditional Costa Rican instruments that have 4 strings or so and a wooden body that are either tuned in fourths or fifths. Seems like most countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have similar instruments. Explore and report back here.
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    Default Re: Starting a Mandolin Orchestra

    Quote Originally Posted by T.D.Nydn View Post
    I think it might be tough to find mando- bass players..
    Maybe the modern substitute is the acoustic bass guitar. Same tuning, much more common.

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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Starting a Mandolin Orchestra

    Well, some parts of Latin America have an estudiantina tradition ... that's an orchestra of plucked strings, just not necessarily mandolins.

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    Default Re: Starting a Mandolin Orchestra

    Quote Originally Posted by mrmando View Post
    Well, some parts of Latin America have an estudiantina tradition ... that's an orchestra of plucked strings, just not necessarily mandolins.
    or the string groups called "rondallas".

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rondalla


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    Default Re: Starting a Mandolin Orchestra

    I've been coming down here for years, and I'm actually somewhat into the music scene by now.

    Though the Spanish guitar is popular and you'll see "guitarrones" quite a lot, I'd say that when it comes to traditional Costa Rican string instruments, the Quijongo Guanacasteca and the Quijongo Caribeño are the main ones if not the only ones.
    Apart from that there is a lot of Marimba music of course, and the Ocarina is the national instrument if I am not mistaken. La Carraca (tough as with the ocarina, used all over the world) is also considered a traditional Costa Rican instrument.

    If there is a "Cuatro" from this region that I haven't stumbled upon yet, please scream out in my direction, but as far as I know South America has a greater tradition for those types of stringed instruments (e.g Cavaquinho, Charango and Ronroco)


    I'd say that finding players to fill various of the non-mandolin positions for an orchestra shouldn't be too hard. There is a relatively large amount of art and music here in general (amazing what happens to a country that doesn't have an army to spend it's money on) and the level of musicianship is fairly high, it's just that the culture for mandolin music is close to non existent. No worries. I'm on a mission to change that!

    I traded out the guitar for the mandolin as my go to instrument for jams some months ago, and people haven't complained as of yet


    PS: Watch out Jim. It's easy to get stuck down here

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    Default Re: Starting a Mandolin Orchestra

    I would like to start or join a mandolin orchestra but I'm afraid it would sound like a mandolin version of Portsmouth Symphonia:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nDZZ...DZZEfrRbdw&t=9
    Cabin Fever String Band, Bill Gorby and the Musical Mercenaries

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  32. #18

    Default Re: Starting a Mandolin Orchestra

    Quote Originally Posted by jim simpson View Post
    I would like to start or join a mandolin orchestra but I'm afraid it would sound like a mandolin version of Portsmouth Symphonia:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nDZZ...DZZEfrRbdw&t=9
    Never heard of them, what an interesting concept. Do they kick people out when they get better?

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    Default Re: Starting a Mandolin Orchestra

    Quote Originally Posted by jim simpson View Post
    I would like to start or join a mandolin orchestra but I'm afraid it would sound like a mandolin version of Portsmouth Symphonia:
    Thanks for the link. To be honest, I've never heard a mandolin orchestra that I enjoyed listening to for any length of time. The Portsmouth Symphonia makes we smile, I recommend: The Blue Danube and bet you can't listen all the way to the end.

  35. #20
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Starting a Mandolin Orchestra

    They probably all need to be sight readers of their Score on the music stand.
    writing about music
    is like dancing,
    about architecture

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  37. #21
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    Default Re: Starting a Mandolin Orchestra

    So quite the coincident, but none the less... A couple of days ago I was at a jam session and one of the musicians started talking to me about my mandolin, and it seems I misspoke when it comes to how inexistent the culture for mandolin music is in Costa Rica.
    He for one had played in some sort of high school ensemble where the mandolin was one of the instruments. And he said a bunch of kids learned some mandolin, sometimes along with the violin or guitar, when they initially started music at school.
    Maybe there are more mandolin players than I thought lurking around here

    That Portsmouth Symphonia is really something. I'd join in a second if there was something similar close by. It would be a perfect place to pull out the violin I never get to practice.

  38. #22
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    Default Re: Starting a Mandolin Orchestra

    Quote Originally Posted by mandroid View Post
    They probably all need to be sight readers of their Score on the music stand.
    Not necessarily - you could be an OK or less reader. You'll get better as you play.But you do need to read staff notation.

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    Default Re: Starting a Mandolin Orchestra

    Also, if there are violinists they might be able to double on Mandolin or maybe even play violin in the group. Hey invite all sorts of instruments. Could be interesting. Music is Music.
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  41. #24
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    Default Re: Starting a Mandolin Orchestra

    Maybe start with forming a quartet first and letting it grow from there? Just brainstorming...
    Mike

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  43. #25
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    Default Re: Starting a Mandolin Orchestra

    We started a local “all comers” orchestra many years ago and it’s still going. I haven’t been for a long time as I couldn’t justify the time anymore. It’s called the Seriously Aweful Sinfonia based in Camelford; the name alone should show the ‘lofty heights’ toward which we were aiming.
    One important thing thing we did was to find a musical director who wanted a challenge, boy we gave him a challenge. We found a wonderful director who had retired from running various music establishments and very good choirs. He was brilliant at arranging, so could adapt pretty much any pieces to whatever balance the orchestra had at the time. But the organisation of the orchestra and the musical direction were kept seperate, with one of the founding members taking up the admin, our percussionist was in charge of managing the scores etc which ensured durability and meant there was no non-musical burden for the director. This worked really well and made the thing much more robust than if there was just one person at the helm. This meant we were able to replace people as needed, without the whole thing grinding to a halt when someone had to move on.

    Our mandolin orchestra is slightly different in being run under the umbrella of another musical organisation, but the effect is similar, with the admin and musical direction being independent.

    You could keep your ear to the ground locally and see if there are any choir directors or music teachers who would like a challenge.
    Eoin



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