Leaders in the Arts: A Q&A with an Orchestra Section Leader

Maria Volkman ’22 answers questions about what it is like to be a section leader within a City High orchestra.


Rachel Marsh

The City High Symphony orchestra joins with members of Wind Ensemble to perform the finale from Dvorak’s “New World Symphony” back in February of 2020.

Sophia Wagner, Web Executive; Arts and Entertainment Editor

What’s the role of a section leader in Orchestra? 

Section leaders are supposed to lead the section— [they] are able to go through the music and help the people that are in their section. They also have the extra role of just trying to be everybody’s friend, and showing new people in the orchestra that they are accepted and welcome. On occasion, section leaders also get put on the spot to play solos. That’s fun. 


What was your initial reaction when asked to become a leader in the orchestra? 

Initially, I was wondering if I could do it. You need to know a lot of things to be a section leader. Thankfully I have a great section partner, Sixuan Liu, who knows many things as well, so we can work together. I was also very excited because I love leading groups and stuff like that. I was also really excited to make people who are coming into the Symphony Orchestra feel welcome. My first year in the Symphony Orchestra I felt really out of the group, so I was excited to make people feel welcome.


What’s the most challenging part of being a section leader? 

The most challenging part is feeling you always have to be playing really well. There are people watching you for cues, and all the other section leaders are very talented and very, very good. There’s always the constant fear that you will let the people in your section down in some way. You just have to be the best you can be.


Is there anything you’ve learned from other leaders? 

A couple of years ago [there was a section leader] and she was just always so nice to everybody. I noticed that even when she messed up, nobody cared because she was just so kind and uplifting. It really showed me that you don’t have to be the best [at everything] to be a good leader.


What qualities are important when being a leader within a musical program? 

You just have to be kind and willing to help people. Just be a friend to everybody because it doesn’t really matter how good or bad you are. If you work together with other people and are kind to them, it’ll work out.