Member Handbook


This Handbook is to provide basic information for all members of the Portsmouth Symphony Orchestra. It is a reflection of the PSO’s artistic philosophy.  Fundamental to this philosophy is the belief that both artistic achievement and maintenance of collegial community within a performance ensemble are mutually supportive endeavors.

The success of the orchestra is every member’s goal, therefore the Member Handbook/Guidelines is directed to all orchestra members, paid and unpaid, so that all members are in cooperative alignment.

To that end, it is expected that all members of the orchestra be prepared to perform their parts to the standards set out in this Handbook.  Orchestra-wide commitment is needed in order for the PSO to achieve its goals, as stated in the Mission Statement:

“The Portsmouth Symphony Orchestra is a community orchestra committed to contributing high quality symphonic music to the seacoast community. We are dedicated to entertaining, educating, and encouraging the audiences of today and tomorrow.”

Through this, the orchestra can satisfy increasingly higher expectations of the current audience, earning their loyalty while at the same time attracting new audience members.

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Hate Speech 

The Portsmouth Symphony Orchestra is committed to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for all individuals.  Furthermore, as an organization we will not tolerate any form of hate speech targeting race, color, religion (creed), gender, gender expression, age, national origin (citizenship/ancestry), disability, marital status, sexual orientation, or military status, or any other group. We are committed to providing an inclusive and welcoming environment for our staff, musicians and audiences. 

Staff, members, and players of the PSO must adhere to this and all the policies of the organization. The Executive Committee of the PSO will review any policy violations and determine the appropriate action, up to and including expulsion.  


The Portsmouth Symphony Orchestra is comprised of the following players:

  • Strings: 14 first violins; 12 second violins; 10 violas; 10 cellos; 8 double basses;
  • Winds: 3 flutes; 3 oboes; 3 clarinets; 3 bassoons;
  • Brass: 4 horns; 3 trumpets; 3 trombones; 1 tuba;
  • Percussion: 1 timpani; 1 percussion;

For works scored for a larger orchestra, additional players are engaged as needed from the supporting players list.

Four levels of Membership defined

The four levels of membership are:

  1. Principal – Section Leader (paid, voting member)
  2. Regular Supporting Player (paid, voting member)
  3. Community Volunteer Player (unpaid, voting member)
  4. Auxiliary Player (paid; non-voting member)

1-Principal Position – Section Leader (Paid)


A Principal reports directly to the Music Director.

A Principal is responsible for their entire section and is expected to hold musicians in that section to the highest standards.

A Principal is expected to communicate with other Principals regarding the repertoire being rehearsed; is strongly encouraged to actively nurture and mentor section players; and, by personal example, to encourage high artistic standards.

A Principal is expected to perform at the highest technical and artistic level with flawless intonation; responsive musicality; dynamic nuance; rhythmic accuracy; and vigilant sensitivity to ensemble.  She/he must be fully prepared at first rehearsal, and in full technical command of the repertoire to be rehearsed.

A Principal is expected to attend one staff meeting with the Music Director prior to each concert cycle.

A Principal is expected to perform in that position for the entire concert season and attend all rehearsals.  Exceptions must be requested with timely notice to the Music Director and will be granted at the discretion of the Music Director.

A Principal’s tenure is renewable at the discretion of the Music Director.

The Concertmaster is responsible for all bowings.  Remaining string principals will mark bowings in accordance with the Concertmaster’s bowing decisions.

All marked parts are to be uploaded by the Orchestra Librarian and made available to orchestra members 4 weeks prior to the first scheduled rehearsal.

Principal positions are paid per service at a rate determined by the PSO Board.

2-Regular Supporting Player (Paid)


Regular supporting players report to their section leader and are encouraged to make use of the section leader’s expertise and experience. They are expected to bring printed or electronic parts with markings to the first rehearsal and be prepared to play the rehearsal repertoire at concert speed with accuracy.  Attendance at all rehearsals is mandatory.  Absences must be requested with timely notice and will be granted at the discretion of the Music Director.

The roster of regular supporting players will be reviewed at the end of each concert season based on performance.

Regular Supporting Players are paid per service at a rate determined by the PSO Board.

3-Community Volunteer (Unpaid)


All community volunteer musicians report to their section leader whose expertise and experience will be a significant resource.  All are expected to bring printed or electronic parts with markings to the first rehearsal. Volunteer musicians must be able to play with musicality and proficiency and be familiar with the rehearsal repertoire.  By mid-point of the rehearsal cycle, volunteer musicians should be able to perform the repertoire at concert speed with prescribed bowings and fingerings.  Attendance at all rehearsals is particularly important for community volunteer musicians and therefore mandatory.

4-Auxiliary Player (Paid)


As needed, the orchestra periodically requires the services of professional players hired to attend only a few rehearsals and a performance.  These are paid positions of a temporary nature, and such individuals are not considered full orchestra members nor do they have voting rights


The PSO recognizes that emergencies do occur from time to time, requiring absence on the part of a musician. In such cases, every effort should be made to inform the personnel manager in as timely a fashion as possible. Members should do their best to minimize these situations. 


The rotation of seating is beneficial to the educational experience of musicians. All seating is ultimately at the discretion of the Music Director, however the orchestra endeavors to encourage rotation to allow all musicians to develop their skills in ways that are best suited to their individual musical personalities.

Winds, Brass, and Percussion:

Each section will have a Section Leader appointed at the Music Director’s discretion. Members of each section will be given part assignments for each work on a performance by the Section Leader in consultation with the Music Director. These assignments will likely, but not always, change from work to work to allow and encourage all players to develop while maintaining a high artistic standard.


With the exception of the concertmaster and principal players, musicians in the string sections will rotate in a way that offers a varied experience to members but not to the detriment of the rehearsal process. The Music Director in consultation with the concertmaster may fix seating for a portion or entirety of the rehearsal cycle if it is deemed in the best interests of concert preparation.

Member conduct

All PSO members are expected to comport themselves respectfully and responsibly in all public interactions when representing the orchestra.

All members of the PSO are expected to treat each other with collegial respect and consideration.

Membership Review

The Music Director is responsible for reviewing the season’s performance work product and the roster of musicians at the end of each season.  Such a review will naturally include performance level, commitment, and overall contribution to the organization. The Music Director has the discretion to consult with Section Leaders and the Orchestra Committee. If the membership review identifies concerns about an individual musician, the Music Director, in conjunction with the section leader, will create a good faith plan to address said concerns on an individual basis.  If, and only if, the guidance plan has been exhausted AND the performance concerns remain will recommendation for dismissal be considered. 

The decision to dismiss would be made by the Music Director, in consultation with the respective Section Leader and the Chair of the Orchestra Committee.

Joining The PSO

Musicians auditioning for a Principal vacancy must audition in person.

All other musicians wishing to join the PSO at any level should submit a video to 

Proficiency and audition requirements are listed on the PSO website and will be updated periodically at the discretion of the Music Director. Auditions will be reviewed by the Music Director and the relevant section leader of the PSO.  Players of all levels are invited and welcome to submit a video.

Proficiency requirements for entrance auditions

Current members of the orchestra will not have to re-audition.

All Winds: 2 octaves scales @metronome marking 110, standard keys up to 4 flats and sharps. 2 contrasting solo pieces, from the standard repertoire. Orchestral excerpts as listed on the PSO website. Sight reading.

Strings (violins, violas, celli): 3 octave scales @ metronome marking 110, standard keys up to 4 flats and sharps, 2 contrasting solo pieces, from the standard repertoire: one piece by J. S. Bach, one free choice. Orchestral excerpts as listed on the PSO website. Sight reading.

Double Bass: 2 octaves scales @metronome marking 110, standard keys up to 4 flats and sharps. 2 contrasting solo pieces, from the standard repertoire. Orchestral excerpts as listed on the PSO website. Sight reading.

Percussion: Orchestral excerpts as listed on the PSO website. Sight reading.

Musician’s Concerns

Concerns should be presented to the Orchestra Committee. The Orchestra Committee will review and make their recommendations to the Music Director and the Board.

The Music Director and the Board are committed to careful consideration of all Orchestra Committee recommendations.  Orchestra members will retain their right to directly address the Music Director when he is available for discussions.


The Librarian will make all public domain music available for download from the PSO or other web site. It is each musician’s responsibility to print their part before the first rehearsal. The Librarian will provide a printed part for any musician who specifically requests it at least 3 days before a rehearsal.

For music that is purchased or rented, parts will be distributed by the Librarian.  Musicians should return their music immediately after each performance. A central location for return of music will be designated at the performance venue. Music must not be left on stands or chairs. Members who do not return music immediately after the performance will be responsible for all consequential fees assessed to the PSO by the music publisher. In the rare event that music must be returned by mail to the Librarian, a service that includes tracking number must be used.


Details on rehearsal schedule, locations, and directions are available on the PSO website.  Musicians are responsible for checking the website to stay abreast of each rehearsal’s details.  In general, rehearsals during the season take place every Monday from 6:30-9:00 PM at Portsmouth High School.  During concert week, there is typically a mid-week (Wednesday or Thursday) evening rehearsal and a Saturday Dress Rehearsal. Alternative locations are occasionally used depending on availability of the Portsmouth High School.

Members are expected and urged to be punctual, since late arrivals are disruptive and cause rehearsal delays.  Members are expected to be warmed up, seated, tuned, and ready to rehearse at the published start time. All electronic communication must be silenced during rehearsal.


PSO’s typical season includes performances in November, December, March, and June with occasional educational and summer performances. Members are asked to keep these performance times of the year as free from other obligations as possible so that PSO can successfully assemble a solid performance series. The Board of Directors will make every effort to give as much advance notice as possible about specific performance dates. Most performances are held on weekends, either in the late afternoon or evening. All potential performance dates are brought before the board for discussion, and are typically finalized by June 1st for the following season.

Performance Dress

The impression that is made on an audience is influenced by many factors other than the collective musical performance abilities of the orchestra. A polished, engaged, professional appearance onstage communicates to the audience our high regard for the music to be performed. The Music Director will establish particular dress requirements each season, based on the circumstances of each performance.

Leave of Absence

If circumstances require a Leave of Absence, the member must make a formal request in writing to the Board of Directors for approval.  Leave of Absence is understood to not be longer than one year unless otherwise agreed to in writing by the PSO Board.  The vacated position will be filled temporarily with the understanding that the member is guaranteed a position in his/her section at the agreed upon return date.

Inclement Weather Policy

Understandably, rehearsals must be held whenever possible in spite of inclement weather. If rehearsal must be cancelled notice will be sent to all members via email by 3:00 PM whenever possible, as well as updated on the schedule on the PSO website. If there is uncertainty whether or not a rehearsal will take place, please call the office  (603) 686-8133.  Musician loyalty and tenacity in spite of inclement weather are crucial to the success of the concert cycle. If rehearsal is being held, but local conditions make it impossible for you to travel safely, please notify the Membership Coordinator as you would in any absence.

Performances may be cancelled due to weather.  Should this happen, every effort will be made to notify all members at least three hours prior to performance time by email, telephone, and the PSO website.

IF NO WORD IS RECEIVED, MEMBERS SHOULD ASSUME THE PERFORMANCE WILL BE HELD.   Outdoor performances usually have identified an alternate performance location in the event of inclement weather.