Behind the scenes with the National Symphony’s principal librarian

Posted on: September 11, 2017

“When an orchestra takes the stage, all eyes, and ears, are on the music. But before the musicians can play, someone has to make sure they have the sheet music to play from,” writes Anne Midgette in Friday’s (9/8) Washington Post. “It takes about 100 hours, says Elizabeth Schnobrick, the National Symphony Orchestra’s principal librarian, to prepare the music for a single subscription program. The orchestra owns hundreds of parts…. The music is sorted not alphabetically, but according to when the orchestra played it—starting, appropriately, with Beethoven’s First Symphony. (Sorting chronologically means the librarians don’t have to rearrange all the music if, for instance, the orchestra acquires more scores by a composer beginning with B.) As soon as the season is announced … the librarians … set to work. ‘The first thing we do,’ … says Schnobrick, ‘is sourcing. What do we own, what don’t we own. If we don’t own it, can we buy it?’ … Schnobrick was [originally] a music educator…. The librarians are not part of the administration, but an official part of the orchestra’s roster. ‘We are musicians,’ says Schobrick. ‘We’re here to support performances.’ ”

Posted September 11, 2017