From its inception in 1974, The Shepherd School of Music at Rice University has emphasized orchestral training as a central element in its performing curriculum. As the Shepherd School has grown and matured, so too has the orchestral program until it is now made up of a full Symphony Orchestra of one hundred-plus music students and a Chamber Orchestra made up of some thirty more music students.
Orchestra members rehearse at least five and one-half hours a week, and they also attend classes in orchestral excerpts and orchestra repertoire classes for brass, percussion, woodwind, and string sections. Houston Symphony members who are members of the Shepherd School faculty also frequently lead section rehearsals for the Orchestras.
Larry Rachleff has been Music Director of the orchestral program since the fall of 1991, and under his leadership the Orchestras have reached new artistic levels, performing major works from the standard orchestral repertoire as well as giving several premieres of important new works and performing with the Shepherd School Opera.
Regional critics have hailed the free concerts given by the Orchestras as "the best orchestral value in Houston" and have specifically complimented the "tonally attractive, well-synchronized sound from the string section...," "nice tonal shadings and subtly controlled soft passages...," and "brilliant, pointed sound...marked by strong bursts of brass tone."
From its inception in 1974, The Shepherd School of Music at Rice University has emphasized orchestral training as a central element in its performing curriculum.Each of the two Orchestras typically performs three or more concerts a semester, and works performed in recent seasons by the Symphony Orchestra include Strauss: Don Juan, Op. 20; Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67; Brahms: Variations on a Theme of Joseph Haydn; Prokofiev: Symphony No. 5; Ravel La Valse; Sibelius: Symphony No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 82; Barber: Symphony No. 1 in One Movement, Op. 9; Rachmaninoff: Symphony No. 2 in E Minor, Op. 27; De Falla: Three Dances from Three-Cornered Hat; Janáek: Suite from Cunning Little Vixen; Bartok: Suite from The Miraculous Mandarin; Stravinsky: Symphony of Psalms; Mahler: Symphony No. 4 in G Major.
Works performed in recent seasons by the Chamber Orchestra include Ives: Three Places in New England; Mozart: Symphony No. 36, (Linz); Stravinsky: Danses concertantes; Brahms: Serenade No. 2 in A Major, Op. 16; Messiaen: Oiseaux exotiques; Respighi: Trittico Botticelliano; and Schubert: Symphony No. 8 in B Minor (Unfinished).