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Orchestra Section

Any MU member who plays or intends to play with an orchestra as their main job or as a freelancer is invited to join the Orchestra Section. 

Last updated: 02 November 2023

The Orchestra Section is managed by the MU's Orchestras team, whose officials work to negotiate the pay and terms and conditions (via collective bargaining agreements) for musicians employed or engaged by all the major UK orchestras. The MU has over 40 agreements with different orchestras (and promulgated rates) from small chamber outfits to large symphony, opera and ballet orchestras.

There are also lots of orchestras that work under the terms of the ABO/MU Agreement (Association of British Orchestras) as well as orchestral musicians who play under our recording and broadcasting agreements whilst performing and recording with orchestras. So, if you are offered work with an orchestra, you can reference the rates of pay you will receive and conditions you’ll be working under. 

The Orchestras department liaises with its six consultative committees as detailed below. Five of these committees are made up of the Stewards and Chairs of the Players’ Committees of each orchestra within that area of work.

There is one consultative committee however that is made up of members nominated from the 2,000+ freelance members of the MU Freelance Orchestral Section (which sits within the Orchestras Section).

Freelance Orchestral Committee

The MU Freelance Orchestral Committee (FOC) is really important to us in helping represent freelancers and extras and deputies working in the orchestral section of the industry, the committee keeps us updated on what’s happening on the ground on a whole range of topics from health and safety concerns, good news stories, and local issues.

The committee members occasionally also help us to negotiate terms and conditions with organisations such as the ABO, individual orchestras and other engagers of freelance orchestral musicians, when appropriate.

The FOC is also home to our Roving Stewards, who represent members in places where we have no fixed stewards.  If you want to find out more or stand for nomination on the FOC, please contact the MU Orchestras Department via email

Orchestra Section Committees

The following committees are automatically populated by the Steward and the Chair of the Players’ Committee (where the chair is an MU member, and the orchestra has a chair in post) for each orchestra within that area of work:

BBC Performing Groups Committee (BBCPGC)

  • BBC Concert Orchestra
  • BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
  • BBC National Orchestra of Wales
  • BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
  • BBC Symphony Orchestra
  • BBC Singers

Opera and Ballet Orchestras Committee (OBOC)

  • Birmingham Royal Ballet
  • English National Ballet
  • English National Opera
  • English Touring Opera
  • Northern Ballet Sinfonia
  • Opera North
  • Royal Opera House
  • Scottish Ballet
  • Scottish Opera
  • Welsh National Opera

Regional Orchestras Committee

(ROC - for orchestras based regionally that are employed and have an agreement directly with the MU)

  • Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
  • City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
  • Hallé
  • Royal Northern Sinfonia
  • Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Royal Scottish National Orchestra
  • Ulster Orchestra

Stewards of Freelance Orchestras Committee (SFOC)

  • Britten Sinfonia
  • Bath Festival Orchestra
  • Chineke!
  • English String/Symphony Orchestra
  • London Mozart Players
  • London Philharmonic Orchestra
  • London Sinfonietta
  • London Symphony Orchestra
  • Manchester Camerata
  • Northern Chamber Orchestra 
  • Orchestra of the Swan
  • Philharmonia
  • Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Scarborough Spa Orchestra
  • Scottish Chamber Orchestra
  • Sinfonia Viva
  • The Hanover Band

If you play in an orchestra where we don’t currently have an agreement or steward and are interested in helping us to better represent the rights of the musicians in your workplace, whether you are freelance or employed please get in touch via

Stewards of Freelance Orchestras Committee

Many freelance orchestras have an agreement with the MU though as mentioned above some follow the MU’s agreement with the Association of British Orchestras (ABO)  often with bespoke internal policies in one area or another, particularly in the self-governing orchestras. Most of them have an MU Steward.

The MU Stewards of Freelance Orchestras Committee (SFOC) and its sub-committee for the London Self-Governing Orchestras brings together the stewards of freelance orchestras small and large who are not served by other consultative committees in order to share best practice and help us organise more effectively.

AGM Report 

View the 2022 AGM Report for the Orchestral Department.  

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