Determining your vision and goals
The first thing you should do when starting your orchestra is figure out what you want your orchestra to be like. Don't start recruiting musicians or making any definite plans until you know your goals. Here are some questions to think about:
- Will it be an entry-level orchestra where anyone who can keep up with the music is welcome? Or will it be a slightly more advanced group that expects a higher level of musicianship from players? Or a semi-professional group that pays its musicians? Or do you want to start as an entry-level group and gradually transform it into a professional symphony?
- Is your primary purpose to serve your musician members as a playing outlet, or is it to serve your audience by performing high-quality, engaging concerts?
- Will you play just the classical warhorses, or do you want to be a pops orchestra, a new music ensemble, a baroque orchestra? Or do you want to play a healthy mix of everything?
- Will your concerts be relatively casual, or do you want them to be formal? Do you want them to be non- traditional or unusual somehow?
Make sure your community can support the type of orchestra you want to form. Will you be able to attract enough players of the desired type? Will there be too much competition for players and/or audience from other, similar groups? If you don't already know what other groups operate in or near your area, take the time to find out before you do anything else. Even if you are starting an orchestra just for fun, you are essentially starting a business; you need to know your market.
Keep in mind that the vision and goals you have for your orchestra will have financial impact. If you're going to pay your musicians or play a lot of newer music, you're going to need more money than if all your musicians are volunteers and you play mostly older music that is out of copyright. If competition for audience is a significant factor, you can't charge too much (or anything) for tickets.
Make sure you discuss your vision and goals clearly with your potential conductor before you commit to working together; you and your conductor need to share the same goals. (If you are the conductor, find a co-founder who can help you with the administrative stuff, and make sure this co-founder shares your goals.)
Both in the beginning and as your organization grows, be realistic. You'll probably have more good ideas than you can realistically pursue, given limited resources and volunteer manpower. Be clear on what your "minimum shippable product" is.