Joining APO

Thank you for considering joining APO! As one of Reading’s friendliest musical ensembles, we pride ourselves on performing interesting works, including a world premiere every year, to a good amateur standard, whilst having a fun, relaxed but stretching rehearsal experience. We are a project-based orchestra that practises in the weekend’s leading up to concerts, of which we have between 3 and 4 a year at venues in Reading.

We are always looking for strings players. If you are interested in joining, please see the guidelines below and contact

If you are interested in joining but play any other instruments, please contact with and we will get in touch with you to discuss adding you to the wind/brass lists.

Players not known to us are invited to take part in a rehearsal where they would be seated with an experienced player in order to assess their ability. Wind/percussion players may also be asked to audition to assess whether they meet the general standard of the section.

Minimum standards

APO seeks to provide an opportunity for as many amateur musicians to play/sing in its rehearsals, workshops and performances. Whilst seeking maximum accessibility it is necessary, in order to ensure enjoyment for ensembles as a whole, to specify some minimum standards required for participation in various APO activities, in terms of musical ability.

Guideline standards for string players

On a technical level, string players who are around grade 6 should be able to play most of the music that APO performs. However, there is such a lot of it to be learned in a short space of time, and by necessity our rehearsals proceed at quite a pace – it can be hard to keep up at the best of times! For this reason, our guideline for string players is that grade 8 is the minimum standard required, though it is not necessary for the actual examination to have been taken/passed. At your first rehearsal, we will sit you with an experienced player for a very informal, seated audition (just through playing in the rehearsal – no scary solo playing is required!).

Sitting in on rehearsals

Even at a grade 8 level, if you’ve never played in an ensemble before it will take a while to acquire the skills of orchestral musicianship: awareness through listening to the other parts, ability to understand the conductor’s and section leaders’ direction (through peripheral vision), development of inner pulse, tuning and rhythmic cohesiveness in ensemble. We therefore encourage string players who have never played in an orchestra (or haven’t for a while) to sit in on rehearsals, perhaps without playing in the actual concert, and maybe for only one piece in the programme (we publish a rehearsal schedule so you won’t have to wait around for your piece). We will do our best to seat you with an experienced player who can help you develop towards being able to learn all the repertoire for a programme. And, of course, everyone is very friendly and supportive! This is the ideal route for grade 6+ string players who want to develop both the instrumental technique and orchestral musicianship skills.

Woodwind, brass and percussion in the orchestra

APO has been fortunate to call upon the services of many talented woodwind, brass and percussion players over the course of its existence. Unfortunately, this has its drawbacks. There aren’t enough parts in every concert for everyone to play and having different players each time doesn’t help to build a coherent section – especially when APO works with such a limited and intensive rehearsal schedule.

To try and get the best of both worlds, APO maintains a pool of regular wind/brass players and a reserve list. The ultimate aim is to have a settled and balanced section of players, who can maintain a good general standard and improve through playing together as a unit. Therefore, in addition to the ability to play in ensemble stipulated above, Wind/Percussion players must meet the general technical standard of the section as a whole.


From time to time, APO performs orchestral works that require singers. A list of APO singers who meet the required standard is kept for such occasions. The criteria for being added to this list are that individuals must have an appropriate range for their voice type, a voice that is likely to blend well with others and within an orchestral texture, a high level of sight-reading ability and/or the ability to learn parts quickly. The Music Director may require singers to audition to check that these standards are met.

Rehearsal model

APO is a project based orchestra with rehearsals starting 4 weeks before the concert. Our usual rehearsal venue is Maiden Erlegh School in Reading, on Crescent Road. This is on the number 17 bus route from central Reading which runs very regularly, though we try to organise lifts for those without transport, and parking is available on site. Our concerts are generally held at venues in or around central Reading holding audiences of 300 or more. The standard rehearsal timings are below:

Name Date Timings Type of rehearsal
Rehearsal 1 4 weekends before concert Saturday Afternoon only

(with morning for bowing for section leads etc)

Rehearsal 2 4 weekends before concert Sunday all day

(10.30 – 4.30)

Sectional am

Sectional pm

Rehearsal 3 2 weekends before concert Sunday all day

(10.30 – 4.30)

Rehearsal 4 Weekend before concert Saturday Afternoon only

(with morning for optional development activities)

Evening Social event

Rehearsal 5 Weekend before concert Sunday all day

(10.30 – 4.30)

Friday Rehearsal Day before concert 7.30 – 9.45 Tutti
General Rehearsal Day of concert 1.30 – 5.00 Tutti

Membership Fees

APO doesn’t charge a subscription fee. However, we do ask for a voluntary donation on a concert by concert basis. The recommended donation is usually between £25-50.

What makes APO different?

APO is a lively, fun, project-based orchestra performing challenging orchestral works to a high standard at local venues in Reading. So far, so ordinary you may think! What makes APO special, we think, is our adventurous programming with a wide range of styles from a variety of periods and composers, trying less-known works alongside the popular classics. We especially love performing music by living composers, and have commissioned around 30 new works in 20 years.

We’ve kept our ticket prices as low as possible and give generous concessions, where appropriate. Then, of course, there’s our Concert Virgin Scheme, which offers free tickets to anyone who’s never heard a live orchestra before. We’re famously welcoming at our concerts, with the musicians mingling with and welcoming audiences, and generally making the atmosphere less formal and stuffy.

Our rehearsal model is project-based, where we rehearse predominantly for a couple of weekends before each concert, to allow local musicians who can’t make weekly rehearsals the chance to play. This means many more young people at the beginning of busy non-musical professional careers get the chance to play. Our rehearsals are full of laughter and fun, as well as seriously hard work. Our members travel from as far afield as Berlin to experience the ‘APO buzz’.

We hope that after reading this you’re still interested in joining us! If you have any questions at all, please do contact us on or