Trumpeter Jim Cunningham rehearses with the Butler County Symphony Orchestra in a previous season. The orchestra typically has three or four rehearsals before a concert, but members have the music even before that, so they can practice.
Ultimately, the job of putting together a season for the Butler County Symphony Orchestra falls to the music director and conductor. That is Matthew Kraemer, who is in his first season with the symphony. Last season, before Kraemer started, a committee put most of the 2012-13 season together, with Kraemer's input after his selection as conductor. Setting up a new season involves selecting all the music and engaging guest artists, among other duties. Helping the music director with this job is a committee of board members and orchestra members. “We throw out a lot of ideas,” Kraemer said. “It's great to have all that creativity.” It must be an efficient process because the 2013-14 season is already finished. “That's the norm,” said Kraemer about planning for the next season. “Most orchestra seasons are finished by the new year.” There won't be an overall theme for next season, but each of the six concerts will have a title joining the selections together. Three concerts will be strictly classical, Kraemer said, but the orchestra also will do other concerts of popular music, and, of course, the traditional holiday show. Kraemer said he tried to include as much diversity in the music as possible, across multiple composers. “Every orchestra has a very tight budget, so we have to watch what we spend on guest artists,” Kraemer said. But he has the benefit of having worked with a number of soloists. “I know some great artists, and that helps with scheduling them in here,” Kraemer said. The other big cost for an orchestra is buying or renting the music. “The cost of music alone can run thousands of dollars per concert, based in the number of performances and the budget size,” Kraemer said. Older music, more than 100 to 120 years old, is mostly in the public domain but may have different editions or editors, and music newer than that is available for rent only. “We have a decent size library, but there is a lot of music out there,” he said. “I look over new music on a regular basis. I also consider the large number of works that make up our core repertoire, pieces by Beethoven, Brahms, Debussy, Copland, etcetera.
“Putting a program together is often compared to planning a five-course meal. The works might be wonderful individually, but it's equally important that they are paired well together, either musically or thematically,” Kraemer said. “If a program I've planned doesn't fit in a season, I often save it for a later date.” The job of sorting and saving all that music falls to the association executive Julie Wilczynski and personnel manager/librarian Virginia Netchi. After each concert, music that has been bought is alphabetized and filed away. About $20,000 a season is needed for guest artists and for music. Other costs include the musicians' pay, production costs such as a movie screen and projector for a particular theme show, and the auditorium fee. “We coordinate our schedule with the (Butler Intermediate High) school,” Kraemer said. “When you're sharing a space, as is the case with most orchestras, you plan ahead with them.” In the weeks leading up to a concert, the 73 musicians are provided the sheet music, usually at the end of the previous concert, and three to four rehearsals are scheduled. Three concerts remain in the 2012-13 season: “Passionate Russians” on Feb. 9, “Movie Night” on March 9, and “Far Away Places” on April 13. Contracts are being sent out now for the guest artists to sign for the next season, said Kraemer, who hopes to announce the 2013-14 season by the March concert.