Master’s in Orchestra Playing

Goals and content of the course

In the “Orchestra Playing” Master’s course, students are prepared practically and expediently for a career as an orchestra musician. For music college graduates who see their future in an orchestra, this Master’s course offers comprehensive specialisation. 

In addition to individual lessons in the various instruments, the course includes mock auditions, sectional rehearsals, orchestral studies, analysis of works and ensemble playing. In addition, performance coaching, relaxation techniques, mental training and seminars on music law or music teaching, etc. are offered. An essential element of the training is the focused preparation for auditions and the probationary year in an orchestra. Teaching is conducted exclusively by hand-picked orchestra musicians from top orchestras or experts in the respective subject area.

Another unique feature of the course is thus that the students are networking with countless musicians from national and international orchestras even before they graduate. Through NRW Orchestra Internships, they also have the opportunity to gain experience with orchestras in NRW and to experience close artistic exchange with international soloists, conductors and ensembles that work together with Orchesterzentrum|NRW as exchange partners. The Master’s course aims at comprehensively preparing the students over the course of four semesters for the various requirements asked of orchestra musicians in the 21st century.

Study programme

The Master’s degree in “Orchestra Playing” requires four semesters of study. In accordance with the Bologna Process, the course is divided into modules and takes the European Credit Transfer System into consideration. Each year of study is composed of three modules:

Module 1 | Compulsory elements

The following units are compulsory for all students:

Instrumental major
Teaching takes place in an instrument class at one of the four state colleges of music in NRW.

Training for auditions and orchestra studies
Auditions with the students are simulated in the Orchesterzentrum|NRW with musicians from top national and international orchestras. Thereafter, all participants receive feedback on their performance in a one-to-one situation as well as individual coaching.

Chamber music
With specialists for chamber music, the various requirements of ensemble playing are practiced in small groups.

Orchestra playing
In the orchestra or in the respective instrumental groups, relevant works and passages from orchestra literature are analysed and practiced for the audition under the direction of a conductor. Repertoire practice provides students with a broad knowledge of the orchestra repertoire as well as of the audition excerpts in the overall context.

Orchestra project
A symphonic concert is developed and performed under professional conditions and the direction of renowned conductors.

Module 2 | Compulsory elective elements

Students are to choose two of the following three options in the first year for in-depth study and as a focus in the second year.

Musical Practice
The interaction in an ensemble is studied in depth. Alternate orchestration, specifics, styles of playing and works from various eras are the focus. The students play in the chamber music ensemble and/or in a professional partner orchestra.

The interaction in an ensemble is studied in depth. The focus is on preparation for the various leading tasks in the orchestra, e.g. as concertmaster, principal, section leader, soloist, etc.  The fundamentals of ensemble leadership, communication training and musical practice are studied.

The focus is on the teaching of music, which is of ever greater importance for orchestra musicians. The skills for teaching various reception groups, e.g. orchestra colleagues, concert audience, children and young people, are taught methodically through seminars and practically through workshops for music education courses.

Module 3 | Elective elements

The curriculum also has a wide offering for individual additional qualification. Students can choose from a range of options according to their own preference and needs:

  • Culture management and music law
  • Mental training
  • Performance coaching
  • Communication training


The first year of study is completed with the module examination. This consists of:

  • an examination in the artistic major (i.e. on the student’s own instrument)
  • an examination in the ensemble at a concert in the Orchesterzentrum|NRW

 The second year of study and thus the entire course at the Orchesterzentrum|NRW is concluded with the Master’s project.  This consists of:

  • an examination in the artistic major (i.e. on the student’s own instrument)
  • an examination in the ensemble at a concert in the Orchesterzentrum|NRW
  • reflective component (e.g. oral examination or written elaboration on themes relevant to the study content)

Detailed information on the study programme and the content of the course can be found in the examination regulations, in the module schedule and in the module description for the “Orchestra playing” Master’s course.

Most of the teaching in the “Orchestra Playing” Master’s course takes place at the Orchesterzentrum|NRW in Dortmund. It is necessary to attend one of the four partner colleges only for classes in the major subject.