If it is high school or college, then generally the best 3 - 4 flutists of the entire school or music department get into the orchestra.
Orchestra playing is very different than playing in a band. In an orchestra, there is one flute on each part. That player has to be able to project and be heard above the entire orchestra when necessary. To audition, you may be asked to play standard orchestral flute solo excerpts e.g. Beethoven Leonore #3, Peter and the Wolf, Daphnis et Chloe, Prelude a l'apres-midi d'un faune, in addition to the standard slow lyrical (to show off tone and phrasing) and the fast technical pieces.
Baroque and Classical period pieces are generally scored for 2 flutes, while Romantic and Russian Nationalist music may have 2 flutes and piccolo. Then there are some works scored for 4 flutes (and sometimes Alto Flute like in Holst's Planets).
I've played Principal Flute in the DVC Philharmonic since 1989 and have heard a wide variety of flutists come through the orchestra. Some have gone onto to their Masters in Flute Performance, while others have very timid tones because, unlike band, you can actually hear yourself play which can be a little unsettling at times.
If you are talking the San Francisoc Symphony, LA Philharmonic, NY Philharmonic etc, then the top 10 flutists in the entire country are in those.
Well, just kidding about that last part. But seriously, you have to be the creme de la creme. It's almost unrealistic to think about unless your flute professor says your the best student he/she has ever had.
Very Very hard to get into professional orchestra. You have to be the best of the best in your area, your region, your country, or in the world. Winning many international competitions to get attention and recognition. Many good flutists from Eastern Europe, Russia and Asia apply internationally, they are very very good players and cheap.
Many graduates of Conservatory (not university music college) can't even get into a professional orchestra. And after 27 years old your chance of getting into professional orchestra is very very slim, many grad people told me after 27 yr old and you can't get into one, your orch future is virtually doomed.
Because unlike violin, orch only need 4 flutists (2 at a time). Youth orch needs 4-6 flutists.
To apply Asian Youth Orchestra (second best in the world) for example, all the best flutists in Asian apply for it. I have to work extra hard for it.
Many flutists from developing countries are working hours and hours on flute everyday since childhood, so you need to work hard to catch up and compete in future.
Try play in as many Youth Orchestra as possible in your region, it is a good way to get into pro orch with lots of experience and practice.
If you can't be in a professional orchestra, there are other options if you truly love it. Many communities field local, amateur orchestras, some of which are quite good. You don't have to be a pro to enjoy music.
I agree with DanTheMaster, there probably is an orchestra at your level somewhere. And once you start you can continue practicing hard, if you are interested in playing in a more advanced orchestra. Your teacher should be the perfect person to help you with this. They know how well you play, and they know what orchestras and ensembles there are in your area.
(BTW, sorry to hi-jack the thread, but does anyone have any good tips for how to attract members to an amteur orchestra/ensemble? Background:
The ensemble is run by the music school where I take lessons. (A music school for mainly adults of all levels. Have teachers for wind instruments, but also for strings, brass, and piano.)
The ensemble is free for the music school's students, and open for non-students for a small fee.
The ensemble is open for anyone, as long as you are able to read basic music. (Maybe after year for complete beginners.)
Problems: many of the potential members are more into jazz, and are active in the improvisation group at the music school. Adults seem to be self-consious and worry about not beeing good enough. (As I see it we have a lot of fun, and where would you learn ensemble playing skills if not here?) Travelling and time is also mentioned as an issue, by those who are not interested in joining.)
I think you partially answered your own question - connect with all the private teachers in your area, make sure they know who you are, and what you are looking for. Also consider posting notes on bulletin boards of local music stores and grocery stores. A website may also help.
I agree that people not thinking they're not good enough is an issue - especially in how to separate those who are shy from those who are truly not good enough! It may be helpful if you can define some type of criteria (ie, consider joining us if you are working on X pieces, or xyz level of method books, etc...) I read about one organization that tried to combat this problem by naming themselves the Really Terrible Orchestra. Helps set expectations!
Many thanks for all the suggestions, Watcher! The name example makes me wonder if people maybe are not joining because we sound so terrible at the end-of-semester recitals. :-D No, to be serious, it might be a good idea to create a name for us, instead of just calling us "the music school x ensemble". Defining clearer criteria is also very helpful, for the reasons you mention.
I am not one of the teachers, but I like your suggestions a lot. We will have a meeting this evening about how to develop the ensemble/orchestra and I will bring your ideas along. I do in fact know some private teachers, and it is a good idea to keep in touch.
1)Be at least the 2nd best flautist in the area. Sorry, but it is a fact of life that there are usually only 2 flutes in an orchestra.
2)Consider a playing a different instrument. Generally, orchestras will take all string players that are of the appropriate standard (and I have seen orchestras accept string players who are not really up to standard). If it has to be a wind instrument then Bassoon is a good bet, Oboe less good, but still better than the flute.
3)Be nice to the string players. For every flute in an orchestra, there are typically 20-30 string players. If you are mean to the strings and they give up then there will be fewer string players and hence fewer orchestras and hence fewer opportunities for you to be in the orchestra. Same for Horns, Oboes and Bassoons really. I know it sounds obvious, but most of the wind players that I knew when I was your age no longer play because there is nowhere to play.
4)Be friends with the appropriate people. Sadly, who you know is at least as important as what you know.
FWIW, I think you have good taste wanting to play in an orchestra.
Wow, Philoshite, thank you so much for your tips! You have spoken the truth.
In many youth orch I went to, the Viola, many violins are in just average standard, and Bassoon sucks, Oboe is lesser good, but flute is fighting to the death for a chance to stay or a better seat. Flutists are like the best players in the orch.
You said it right also that you need to make friends with conductor, music director and their staffs. Many people kiss their !*****! get better chance and seating! Sometimes, it is not the best player who gets the better seat. sad truth of music world
last year I sightread tempo 160 Paganini fast passages, but still got 2nd position, and the principal agreed on facebook that I was better than him by 10 miles. Why? because the conductor hates me.
Music world is very corrupt, unlike sport, there is no absolute win or lose in music, people can pick any problem of yours and say you are not good if they don't like you, and people can pick any merit of yours and say you are good if they like you.
Now that's interesting. I play Principal Flute in a college orchestra. Of the 4 principal winds, I would say that I'm the weakest player. The clarinet player has a PhD in Math, but is an excellent player and had played professionally in the past. The oboe has a music performance degree and has a private studio. The bassoonist is a UNIX Sys Admin, and also an excellent player, he subs with professional orchestras all the time. I'm a VP in the IT biz but don't think I play at the level that the other three do.
Karinabina, firstly you need to find out what kind of orchestras there are within commuting distance from where you live. (If there is no orchestra in your city, try the neighbouring cities.) Then ask them directly, and check their web pages, to learn what is required to become a member. Watch out for concerts and go and listen and see if it seems to be an orchestra you could join. Here in Sweden we have orchestra associations for amature and youth orchestras, so looking on the web for their member list would be one way to find orchestras. Another place to look is all kinds of music schools and other organisations where people go to learn an instrument.
I can see from your profile that you are involved in various music activities. Why not ask people there if they have any tips? I still think that your teacher is the fastest way to find an orchestra to join. They know the music environment, and they know how you play.
"Music world is very corrupt, unlike sport, there is no absolute win or lose in music, people can pick any problem of yours and say you are not good if they don't like you, and people can pick any merit of yours and say you are good if they like you."