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Backstage Pass: Orchestra Librarian

What is an Orchestra Librarian and what do they do exactly?


Published: 29 Mar 2024

Time taken : ~10mins

Why do orchestras need a librarian? Read on to find out, and try out the word search puzzle at the end to test your knowledge of what an Orchestra Librarian does!

When we think of the word “librarian”, the first thing most of us would think of is the librarian we see in libraries where we borrow books. But did you know that orchestras have librarians too?  

Why would an orchestra need a librarian? Let’s find out!  

This is Avik and he is an Orchestra Librarian!

The role of the Orchestra Librarian is a unique and important one within the orchestra team but before we get deep into what an Orchestra Librarian does, here are some quick facts you should know about Orchestra Librarians like Avik! 

A special kind of librarian

Have you ever noticed the music stands at an orchestra performance? Music stands are pedestals that musicians use to place and position so that they can refer to the score sheets. Musicians need to be able to read the score sheets so that they know what to play on their instruments while performing during a concert.  

An Orchestra Librarian has the important task of ensuring that these score sheets are good and ready for the concert—from acquiring them to making restorations to older scores, as well as making sure the sheets are notated with the correct information and cataloguing them after the concert has ended. Let’s find out more about what exactly an orchestra librarian does.   

The tools of the trade

For an organisation like Singapore Symphony Orchestra that has been around since 1979, it would be incredibly challenging to maintain and catalogue all the music that has been performed each year. Can you imagine just how many score sheets they would have accumulated over the years? Thousands! Here’s where technology comes in to help Avik with his job!  

The role of the Orchestra Librarian is essential, especially in large music ensembles. If the music score sheets are not prepared or notated properly, musicians will not be able to play their music properly and it could get quite messy! Keeping a catalogue of the music or archiving them properly is also equally important, as we have learnt from Backstage Pass: Archivist

Therefore, even though you may not see them on stage, the next time you catch an orchestra performance, don’t forget the important work that an Orchestra Librarian has contributed to in making the concert happen! 

Avik answers some questions and tells us more about his job as an orchestra librarian

Q: How long have you been an orchestra librarian?   

Avik: I was an Orchestra Librarian with Singapore Symphony Orchestra for three and a half years. 


Q: Why did you want to become an orchestra librarian?

Avik: I love music notation—it’s so interesting to see how different composers communicate their ideas on paper and how the ideas get translated by the conductor and musicians into the music we hear! As an orchestra librarian, I get to be a part of that process— helping communicate musical information to the performers in the most efficient way, which is a rewarding challenge to me. 


Q: What kind of skills do orchestra librarians need to have?

Avik: A great attention to detail is the most important skill set an orchestra librarian can have. We are often the key examiner before the music gets put onto the music stand. In addition to this, a strong understanding of orchestral music repertoire and history, as well as knowledge of orchestral instruments, is paramount. 


Q: What training did you have to go through before you became an orchestra librarian?    

Avik: A music education is often necessary for this role. I studied music composition with a minor in music licensing.  


Q: What are some challenges you’ve faced while on the job?    

Avik: I’ve had to review and re-notate (on notation software) several large orchestral works due to errors or inconsistencies in the original score and parts. These are often long processes that take multiple rounds of proof-reading and review, but once the finished product is ready, it's incredibly satisfying to see everything come together! 


Q: What advice do you have for someone who is keen to be an orchestra librarian?    

Avik: Become familiar with the orchestral repertoire and music notation. Having a strong understanding of why certain notation practices exist, and the nuances of orchestral music would be a great starting point. It is also important to learn how to notate music on a music notation software such as Sibelius, Finale, Dorico or Musescore—but understanding the orchestral practice is most important. 

Complete the puzzle!

How well do you know the role of the Orchestra Librarian? Find the words related to the job of the Orchestra Librarian and complete the word search puzzle below!