When preparing Stravinsky for Link Up, the engraver is also a student


It’s nearly May, which means that another series of New York City Link Up concerts is just around the corner. What’s Link Up, you ask?

Link Up is an incredible educational program developed by Carnegie Hall for students in grades 3-5, in which they learn to sing and play an instrument in the classroom and perform with a professional orchestra from their seats at a culminating concert at Carnegie Hall. Yes, these young students know how to get there — practice, practice, practice!


It’s not just local kids that get to enjoy Link Up concerts, though. The program has grown to more than 100 partner orchestras serving over 400,000 students and teachers, across the United States and around the world. At NYC Music Services we’ve had the privilege of preparing every score and part used in Link Up since 2011, printing all the orchestral music, and managing the library of sets that flow in and out of here year-round.

I’ve written before about the process of putting it it all together once we get the green light from Carnegie Hall. Each program features original compositions and shorter works by composers led by Thomas Cabaniss as well as standard repertoire. The shows are developed by the staff of Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute and are designed to be performed in one hour.

There are now four shows in circulation: “The Orchestra Rocks”, with heavy hitters like “Mars” from The Planets and excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s 4th Symphony; “The Orchestra Moves”, with pieces that really move like Mozart’s overture to The Marriage of Figaro and the first movement of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony; “The Orchestra Swings”, with jazz standards like When the Saints Go Marching In and C Jam Blues, and “The Orchestra Sings”, which showcases arrangements of folk songs like Simple Gifts and Ode to Joy along with the finale to Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite.

To keep things fresh, each show is constantly being refreshed and revised, especially when it comes due in rotation for the local productions, performed by the Orchestra of St. Luke’s. This year it’s that last program, “The Orchestra Sings”, that’s getting a makeover.

The Firebird excerpt has always been a part of the show, but when we first put the materials together in 2011, we opted to scan masters of the existing parts for inclusion in the books rather than engraving it like we did with some of the other compositions. Now that the show has evolved, and our house style and materials have been refined along the way (thanks to feedback from many of the partner orchestras), it was time to give the Firebird a little love so that all the pieces have a consistent look and format.

Original Flute 1 part to the Finale from The Firebird Suite (click for larger view)
Newly engraved Flute 1 part to the Finale from The Firebird Suite (click for larger view)

There’s something charming about the old parts, knowing that one our anonymous music preparation predecessors put actual pen to paper with each note, rather than pushing pixels around a screen. Those materials served us well for many years. But hopefully this new set will make the orchestras “sing” even more.

It’s deeply satisfying to take a masterwork by a great composer like Stravinsky and revisit it by setting the notes anew. Reviewing every musical line and orchestrational detail is like getting a composition masterclass. It wasn’t just the grade school students who were educated during this process!

If your work involves copying and engraving music, do you learn something musical in the process of doing so? What are some of the pieces you’ve worked on? Let us know in the comments.


  1. Abraham Lee

    Excellent work as always, Philip! It’s always exciting to see what you’re up to.

    I’m curious to know why the original copyist (which transfered over to the new copy) may have notated bars 24 and 26 the way they did. Why is the first note in one a dotted minim and the other is a minim-tied-crotchet? Am I missing something obvious or should they be the same?

    1. Philip Rothman

      Hi Abraham! Thanks for noticing that. It’s that way in the score, too, and also in the first violins. I can’t think of a good reason why they should be different. I’ll take another look and make them consistent.

  2. Percussionist

    Link Up…Moves, Cue 4, Strauss, Tamb. Picc. means Snare Drum! Not “piccolo tambourine” as marked in the re-engraved parts.

    1. Philip Rothman

      Correct, we need to fix this. Sloppy editing on my part. Thank you percussionist@example.com, whoever you are… Feel free to send a direct e-mail here: https://www.scoringnotes.com/contact/

  3. Peter McAleer

    The handwritten part you showed reminded me vividly of my days working as a freelance copyist for (mainly) the BBC (when their in-house team were too pressed to take on the work). Poor BBC orchestras! -I wonder what happened to my parts? Lovely little insight Phil, thank you.

    1. Philip Rothman

      Thanks, Peter! If you were ever inclined to write a guest blog post about your work as a copyist, I’d welcome it. I’m sure lots of readers would be interested in the stories you could share.

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