Heather Buchman, Department Chair
315-859-4568 (fax)
Office: List 233


Orchestra and Chamber Ensembles

Director | Repertoire | Chamber Music Program | Applications & Auditions


The Hamilton College Orchestra, which averages between 40-50 Hamilton students and community members, is considered among the most dynamic programs of its kind. It rehearses on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and performs at least twice a semester. Membership is by audition at the beginning of the academic year. The focus is on giving student instrumentalists the experience of studying and performing great works of the orchestral repertoire at a high level, and on developing the level of ensemble skills and musicianship essential for orchestral playing.


Brahms Symphony No. 4, I. Allegro non troppo

Brahms Symphony No. 4, II. Andante moderato

Brahms Symphony No. 4, III. Allegro giocoso

Brahms Symphony No. 4, IV. Allegro energico e passionata


The Orchestra’s Brainstorm! Concert, performed every March, takes advantage of the Orchestra’s liberal arts environment to explore interdisciplinary themes focusing on connections between the arts and other areas. Recent programs have included:

  • Landscape Music – an environmental reading of Sibelius Symphony No. 2
  • A Devil to Play: the Horn and Its Subculture – music of Webern, Mozart, and Brahms
  • Reverberations Over Time – hybrids of multiple musical styles in music of Haydn and Respighi
  • The Creative Spark: Origins of Genius – Brahms’ and Stravinsky’s early works and influences
  • Kinesthetic Sound – the sensation of movement/kinetic energy as an essential aspect of music
  • Apollo’s Muse: the Classical Ideal – Apollonion versus Dionysian qualities in music of Mozart, Debussy, and Stravinsky
  • A Sense of Time – how music of different periods reflects its era’s conception of time


In 2014 the Orchestra began a unique educational collaboration with Utica Dance, the area’s premiere school of dance, to present a fully staged production of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker ballet in Wellin Hall. HCO’s live orchestral performance, paired with Utica Dance students’ high level of artistry, received great accolades from both campus and community audiences. The co-production also highlighted Wellin Hall as the region’s ideal venue for both music and dance. HCO repeated this innovative community arts partnership in 2015, and plans to continue it every two years.

The Orchestra regularly features advanced instrumental students as concerto soloists. These have included Mendelssohn and Bruch Violin Concertos, Mozart concertos for horn, clarinet, piano, and violin, suites for flute and strings by Bach and Telemann, and oboe concertos by Albinoni and Vaughan Williams.

The Orchestra has commissioned and premiered new works by rising composers, including Aaron Travers, Armando Bayolo, and most recently a new site-specific work by visiting composition faculty Ryan Carter. We have also performed very recent works by established 21st-century composers including John Adams, Michael Torke, and Philip Rothman.


Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor
Telemann Suite in A Minor for Flute and Strings
Sibelius Symphony No. 2 in D Major
Dvorák Czech Suite
Mozart Symphony No. 36 in C Major, Linz
Schumann Genoveva Overture
Brahms Symphony No. 4 in E Minor
Schubert  Symphony No. 5
Haydn  Symphony No. 6 in D Major, Matin
Respighi Ancient Airs and Dances Suite No. 2
Respighi Fountains of Rome
Mahler Lieder eines fahrendes Gesellen
Copland Rodeo: Four Dances
Debussy Prelude to Afternoon of a Faun
Stravinsky Firebird Suite (1919)
Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor
Beethoven Egmont Overture
Wagner Siegfried Idyll
Schumann Symphony No. 3
Kodaly Dances of Galanta
Dvorák Symphony No. 6 in D Major
Beethoven Symphony No. 2 in D Major
Sibelius Symphony No. 5 in E flat Major
Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 5 in E Minor
Schubert Symphony No. 9 in C Major
Mozart Symphony No. 38 in D Major, Prague
Debussy Nocturnes
Stravinsky Petrushka Suite (1947)
Beethoven Symphony No. 8 in F Major
Brahms Variations on a Theme of Haydn
Copland El Salon México
Schumann Symphony No. 4 in D Minor
Dvorák Symphony No. 8 in G Major
Copland The Red Pony Suite
Mussorgsky Night on Bald Mountain
Beethoven Symphony No. 3 in E flat major, Eroica
Brahms Symphony No. 1 in C minor
Prokofiev Lieutenant Kije Suite


Not only is much great music composed for chamber ensembles, playing chamber music is invaluable for developing ensemble skills and musicianship. Chamber ensembles meet once a week for coaching with members of the adjunct music faculty, and rehearse at least once a week on their own. The specific ensembles are based on student interest, and typically include at least one string group (string quartet or variant), Brass Ensemble, Flute Ensemble, Saxophone Ensemble, and other woodwind groups.


Chamber groups perform for various events on campus, as well as at area churches and for various community venues and events.


In 2015 the Chamber Music program started a new partnership with the Departments of Art and Creative Writing to present an inter-arts Sight / Sound / Spoken Salon in the Linda Johnson Gallery in the Kennedy Center for Theatre and Studio Arts. Combining the artistic traditions of music salons, gallery openings, and literary readings, this collaborative event brings together the work of students in the arts, with performances by the chamber ensembles and readings by creative writing students in a gallery space displaying student artworks. The April 2016 event featured spoken performances by members of the student-led creative writing group Vibes.

In May 2015 two chamber groups performed on the sidewalk at the One World Flower Fest at Oneida Square in Utica, a collaborative partnership between various educational institutions and arts organizations. The event celebrated a neighborhood (near the Munson Williams Proctor Art Institute) with significant artistic and cultural assets as well as challenges, and demonstrated the potential of collaborative partnerships between the arts and community organizations to help revitalize urban neighborhoods.

Saxophone Ensemble at One World Flower Fest in Utica, May 9, 2015


Heather Buchman, Professor of Music, is Director of the Hamilton College Orchestra and Chamber Music program. See her biography here. She can be contacted at hbuchman@hamilton.edu. She also maintains her own website at www.heather-buchman.com.


Experienced orchestral instrumentalists (violin, viola, cello, bass, flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, classical saxophone, trumpet, horn, trombone, tuba, harp, and percussion) applying to Hamilton College are encouraged to submit a recording as part of their application. Arts supplements are submitted online as part of the online application to the College. 

Auditions for Orchestra and chamber ensembles take place the day before classes start. Both new and returning students need to audition at the beginning of every year. A signup sheet will be posted during Orientation outside of List 233.

For arts supplements for college applications and for ensemble auditions, students should have one or two pieces prepared that they feel comfortable with and that demonstrates their playing in both technical and lyrical/expressive styles.

Students who wish to join Orchestra or chamber groups in the spring semester can email hbuchman@hamilton.edu to schedule an audition.