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By Ricky O'Bannon
Nov. 2, 2016

Soloists are an integral part of the orchestra calendar and often among the first pieces to fall into place as artists and administrator make plans for their season. 

Continuing with our look at the 2016-2017 season, we highlight who some of the most popular soloists are, where they come from, what they play and the overall gender balance among featured soloists.

With apologies to vocalists and their fans, the following looks specifically at instrumental soloists — both because crediting information is more inconsistent with vocalists who are often named closer to the concert date and because when looking at gender, the instrument a musician plays is not directly linked to their physical vocal range.

The data counts each concert in which a particular instrument or soloist is featured. To be counted, a soloist and their instrument must have been credited in the concert listing. The crediting rules can be inconsistent from orchestra to orchestra (for example, some orchestras will list the organist playing Saint-Saëns' Symphony No. 3 as a soloist while others do not.) So while that means the numbers are not perfect, as an aggregate it gives a broad picture of what instrumentalists get the most opportunities to be headliners (which is good news for pianists and bad news for those hoping to hear that rare tuba concerto.)

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1617 Instrumental Soloists Hf


  • Data was collected in July and August of 2016. Concert listings might have been updated since then but reflect original programming decisions by orchestra leaders. Similarly, concerts are included as originally announced, regardless of cancellations or work stoppages.
  • The 85 American orchestras included were chosen based on size criteria. Additionally so that orchestras are programming from the same repertoire, all included ensembles are symphony orchestras, which excludes chamber orchestras, period-focused historic ensembles or pops-focused ensembles.
  • Orchestras included are Alabama, Albany, Allentown, Arkansas, Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Boston, Buffalo, Cape, Charleston, Charlotte, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Colorado, Colorado Springs, Columbus, Dallas, Dayton, Des Moines, Detroit, Eugene, Florida, Fort Wayne, Fort Worth, Grand Rapids, Greenville, Harrisburg, Hartford, Hawaii, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Kalamazoo, Kansas City, Knoxville, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Louisiana, Louisville, Madison, Memphis, Milwaukee, Minnesota, Mobile, Modesto, Naples, Nashville, National (DC), New Haven, New Jersey, New West, New York, North Carolina, Oakland, Oklahoma City, Omaha, Orchestra Iowa, Oregon, Orlando, Pacific, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Portland, Quad City, Reno, Rhode Island, Richmond, Rochester, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Santa Rosa, Sarasota, Seattle, Spokane, St. Louis, Toledo, Tucson, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wichita.
  • The programs and repertoire included are from the 2016-2017 season as listed on each orchestra website and brochures prior to the start of the season.
  • Calculations for the initial findings and infographic are weighed by the number of times a piece of music will be performed in concert.
  • Concerts data was collected from include subscription classical concerts, classical specials and new music series. Touring, holiday concerts, small ensemble or solo chambers series, pops and family concerts are excluded.
  • While technically touring, the Cleveland Orchestra’s concerts in Miami are included in the main classical programs as its performances in Miami are an annual part of its season.
  • To be included in any of the categories, concerts must use musicians from the listed orchestra.
  • Composer nationalities are based on information from the New Grove Encyclopedia of Music and Musicians as accessed through Oxford Music Online. When no entry exists for a living composer, nationality information comes from the best available biographical information usually from the composer’s website.
  • Composition date is based on the best available scholarship of the year in which a piece was completed.
  • Later revisions are not included in the composition date unless a concert program specifically denotes a different version of the original piece. For example, Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite was completed in 1910, some orchestras might specify they are performing the 1919 or 1945 versions, which is included in the composition date for those entries.
  • While composition date is based on the best known date of completion of a piece, for works premiered during the 2015-2016 season, the composition date reflects the premiere date.
  • In most cases, composition date information comes from the International Music Score Library Project / Petrucci Music Library.
  • Instrumental soloists were counted based on being named in orchestral programs. This includes visiting soloists as well as featured orchestra members and also includes both concerti and other symphonic works that have a featured soloist role (ex. Copland's Quiet City features a trumpet soloist.)
  • Conductor information was also taken from being listed in concert program info, and includes music directors, visiting guest conductors or associate/assistant conductors.