Sheet music mastery
The next time you go to the symphony, notice one little detail. Beforethe conductor comes out to raise his baton, someone dressed like anorchestra member comes out and places the score on his stand.
The next time you go to the symphony, notice one little detail. Before the conductor comes out to raise his baton, someone dressed like an orchestra member comes out and places the score on his stand.
That person is the symphony librarian, and he or she is in charge of all the written music for the orchestra.
Gary Corrin, 53, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s principal librarian, started out as a musician — which is typical for his job. “Having an understanding of playing in an orchestra is really important,” he says.
Corrin grew up in California and began playing the clarinet in grade four. In university, he got serious about the instrument and decided to make it his career. In grad school in Oregon, he played in a small orchestra for a tiny salary.
One day, the personnel manager for the orchestra announced: “Our librarian just quit, anyone want to do this?” Corrin offered, keen on the extra pay.
He liked the job, which he learned as he went, and kept playing too. After graduation, he started auditioning around the country for a job as a player, but also put out applications for librarian gigs.
Corrin quickly found out that there was much less competition for the librarian positions, and was soon hired by an orchestra in Denver. He moved around the U.S., getting better and better jobs at progressively larger orchestras. He came to Toronto in 1992 for his present job.
Before every rehearsal and every performance, Corrin or the associate librarian place a folder of music on the players’ stands. (This is one reason you need to know the orchestra well, or you’d never know where the first violinist sits.) They remain on hand while everyone plays in case there’s a problem with the music.
They take care of the symphony’s library, which is stocked with 2,000 big black folios containing scores — the conductor’s copy, which contains all the parts — plus the parts for every instrument from trumpet to percussion to violin.
Corrin spends office hours researching upcoming pieces the orchestra will play and buying or licensing the version the conductor wants to use.
Librarians are also charged with the task of handwriting special notations on sheet music to guide the string players’ bow movements, so they’ll all be unison.
In his spare time Corrin’s an avid cyclist, plus he still plays the clarinet.