RIT Philharmonic Orchestra

During the academic year, members of the RIT Philharmonic Orchestra study the various theoretical, historical and technical facets of the musical arts through rehearsing and performing music of canonical masterworks from the Western art music tradition of various musical periods, styles and genres, as well as film scores, music from video games and other contemporary compositions, resulting in performances and presentations to the RIT community and general public.

Music performances and music studies have long been an important component of what is considered a solid foundation for the educate individual. In this tradition, the RIT Philharmonic Orchestra’s mission is to develop the skills and knowledge of our musicians via a hands-on approach and thus enhance the life of our community and the communities into which RIT graduates enter. The connections and collaborations between RIT and local professional musicians complement and elevate the artistic achievements of the diverse nature that RIT students represent.


Mid-Week Beethoven - Spring 2022

A series of four short concerts in Allen Chapel on Wednesday afternoons, 5:30-6:15. Each concert will be preceded by a brief discussion on Beethoven’s life and music by Dr. Michael Ruhling and students from the Beethoven’s World and Music course, beginning at 5:10. We cordially invite all RIT faculty and staff to stick around after work these days to enjoy this great music and the educational activities of our students.

PLEASE NOTE: The location of the Wednesday, March 2 performance has moved to the Al Davis Room (SAU cafeteria) and the concert time adjusted to 5:15pm. There will be no pre-concert presentation for this concert.

2020 saw the 250th anniversary of the birth of Ludwig van Beethoven, one of history’s most influential artists.  Covid restrictions on live performance protocols did not allow for a proper celebration of Beethoven, so we are taking the opportunity to explore his music and culture this semester through this series of presentations and performances. 

Concert 1: Vienna meets Beethoven

Wednesday, February 9, 5:30, Allen Chapel of the Schmitt Interfaith Center

Haydn, “Representation of Chaos” from The Creation (1796)

Mozart, Serenade in E-flat for Eight Winds, K. 375 (1782), 2. Menuetto and 3. Adagio

Beethoven, Symphony No. 1 in C, Op. 21 (1800), 3. Menuetto and 4. Finale. Adagio—Allegro molto e vivace

5:10 presentation: “. . . where you will receive the spirit of Mozart from Haydn’s hands.”

Concert 2: Beethoven’s “Pastoral” Symphony

Wednesday, March 2, 5:15, Al Davis Room (SAU Cafeteria)

Beethoven, Symphony No. 6 in F, Op. 68 “Pastoral” (1808)

There will be no pre-concert presentation for this concert.

Concert 3: Music for Goethe’s Egmont

Wednesday, March 30, 5:30, Allen Chapel of the Schmitt Interfaith Center

Beethoven, Overture and Incidental Music to Goethe’s Egmont, Op. 84 (1810)

Featuring Prof. Amy Cochrane, Clärchen (soprano), and Prof. Andy Head, narrator/Egmont.

5:10 presentation: Beethoven and women, real and fictional.

Concert 4: Vienna, 1822

Wednesday, April 20, 5:30, Allen Chapel of the Schmitt Interfaith Center
Beethoven, Consecration of the House Overture, Op. 124 (1822)

Schubert, Symphony No. 8 in B minor “Unfinished” (1822)

5:10 presentation: Receiving the baton and passing the torch.

Quick Facts

  • 50-75 members: RIT students, faculty, staff, and Rochester community musicians, by audition
  • RITPO students frequently among RIT Outstanding Undergraduate Scholars
  • Nearly every RIT college represented
  • Perform four to eight concerts per year, on campus and at a number of beautiful venues in the Rochester area
  • Standard orchestral repertoire from ca. 1600 to the present, including world première and modern première performances
  • Performances with some of the Rochester area's finest soloists, and other area ensembles
  • Began in 1981


Spring 2022 Auditions

If you are interested in auditioning for the RIT Philharmonic Orchestra, please contact Dr. Ruhling (mergsl@rit.edu) as soon as possible. Auditions will be held the first week of classes, with new members asked to audition Jan. 10.

The plan for next semester is to study the music of Beethoven, among a few others. We will be working with a course I am teaching on Beethoven (PRFL 490-04 Special Topics: Beethoven’s World and Music; consider registering for it if it interests you) in presenting four short concerts on Wednesday evenings during the scheduled rehearsal time in Allen Chapel. Each concert will be preceded by a 10- to 15-minute presentation on a topic apropos to the repertoire, given by me or students from the Beethoven class. The concert schedule with tentative repertoire is as follows:

February 9: Beethoven’s predecessors, incl. works by Haydn and Mozart
March 2: Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 “Pastoral”
March 30: Beethoven’s Overture and Incidental Music to Goethe’s Egmont, featuring Prof. Amy Cochrane, soprano, and Prof. of Theater Andy Head
April 20: Vienna, 1822. Rossini’s Overture to The Thieving Magpie (possible), Schubert’s “Unfinished” Symphony No. 8, Beethoven’s Consecration of the House Overture.

Rehearsals will take place in the rehearsal room A130 of the SAU, with dress rehearsals (Sitzproben) the Mondays before each of the concerts taking place in Allen Chapel. The first week of class—Jan. 10 and 12—we will hold auditions. Jan. 10 will begin with a meeting for everyone, followed by auditions for new people (those not participating the first semester) and strings. Jan. 12 will be auditions for winds, brass, percussion, and any strings we could not fit in Monday night. Other audition times will be made by appointment, in my office (LBR 1110). I will give out registration codes at your auditions. Then first full rehearsal will be Wednesday, January 19.

The auditions will be excerpts from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 and the Overture to Egmont, so please learn these over the break. Here are links to the parts on IMSLP— Symphony No. 6
Egmont Overture

Find your part and click the arrow to the left to go to a downloadable pdf. You’ll have to wait a few (15) seconds for the advertisement to be able to get to the pdf.

I’m looking forward to working with you on this interesting repertoire. Beethoven’s 250th birthday was Dec. 16, 2021, but Covid did not allow too many Beethoven performances then. So we’ll make this spring a celebration.

And, again, there are still seats available in the Beethoven class next semester (PRFL 490-04, meets TTh 9:30-10:45), so if you are interested in learning more about this giant composer, consider registering for the course. A description follows this email. I look forward to seeing you January 10.

Dr. Ruhling

Rehearsal Information

The RIT Philharmonic Orchestra regularly rehearses Mondays and Wednesdays 5:00pm-6:15pm in the SAU Music Room (SAU A130). This is located in the basement of the SAU, down the hall from RITz Sports Zone, across from the backstage doors of Ingle Auditorium.

Please note: students may enroll for 1-credit or participate without enrolling for credit. In addition, when enrolling for credit, students are able to have individual lessons as part of this tuition. Please contact the Director for more information.


A headshot of Yunn-Shan Ma.

A passion for symphonic, operatic, choral-orchestral, and contemporary repertoire

Praised as being “extremely musical” and “having the gift to keep the orchestra tight with her hands”, Taiwan native Yunn-Shan Ma is active as a conductor, pianist and educator in both America and Asia. Her range of conducting experience bridges the gap between professional, semi-professional, and student ensembles. Ma moved to the United States in 2011 with a full scholarship and recently earned her doctoral degree in conducting at the Eastman School of Music under the tutelage of William Weiner and Neil Varon.

With a passion for symphonic, operatic, choral-orchestral and contemporary repertoire, Ma has been selected over the years to participate in competitions and master classes mentored by Helmuth Rilling, Mark Gibson, Donald Hunsberger, Johannes Schlaefli, Robert Page, Joseph Flummerfelt, Maurice Peress, and Donald Portney. She has conducted select performances with Cadaques Orchestra in Spain, North Czech Orchestra in Teplice, Genesee Symphony Orchestra, Greater Rochester Women’s Philharmonic, Evergreen Symphony Orchestra, Taipei Philharmonic Chorus, Taipei Chamber Singers, Eastman-Rochester Chorus, Eastman Chorale, and Eastman’s New Music Ensemble, OSSIA. In July 2013 she was selected as one of five finalists to guest-conduct the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. In 2015 she premiered Britten’s cantata Phaedra for mezzo-soprano solo and orchestra at Eastman Kilbourn Hall in February and guest conducted the Syracuse Vocal Ensemble in March. In summer 2015 she was invited to hold a workshop for the ensemble of Ying-Hua College from Hong Kong on their tour visit at Eastman School of Music. She guest-conducted the Chin-Yun Choir and Taipei Civic Orchestra at the National Concert Hall in Taipei in July 2016 and the Monroe All-County Senior High School Orchestra at Kodak Hall, Eastman School of Music, in March 2018. She has been on the faculty of the Taipei International Choral Festival since 2015.

In addition to being an active conductor, pianist, and singer, Ma has devoted to musical education. She has frequently served as a guest clinician as well as an adjudicator for competitions and festivals. As the 2005 winner of the Taipei Municipal Joint Teacher Search Auditions from more than 250 candidates, she was appointed a full-time music instructor at Taipei Municipal Zhong-Zheng Junior High School and served on the jury committee in 2006. Ma has been invited to give lectures on conducting and music appreciation at Shi-Hsin and Cheng-Chi universities. Besides, she is a co-author for the cross-curriculum teaching manual, “Music and the Ocean”, published by the Taiwan Ministry of Education in 2011.

Ma received her early musical training in piano and violin at the age of five. At the age of eleven, she moved to Vienna with her family and won the audition to study piano and violin at the pre-college of the Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst Wien. After returning to Taiwan, she received a bachelor’s degree in piano performance with minors in violin and vocal performances, as well as a master’s degree in conducting from National Taiwan Normal University.

During her doctoral study at the Eastman School of Music, Ma assisted Eastman Opera, served as an assistant conductor of the choral ensembles, and taught a lab for the Basic Conducting course. Before joining the RIT, she was under the faculty of Hobart and William Smith Colleges and Nazareth College. She is music director of the Taiwanese Choral Society of Rochester, the conducting fellow of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, and the founder/artistic director of F-Sharp Chamber Choir in Taipei.

Highlights and History

  1. 1981


    Asher Temkin establishes the RIT Philharmonia as an extra-curricular ensemble.

  2. 1982-1983

    1982 – 1983

    Due to the tragic death of Asher Temkin, RIT Singers director Ed Schell becomes interim music director of the RIT Orchestra.

  3. 1988-1989

    1988 – Present

    The RIT Philharmonia and RIT Singers become credit-bearing academic courses in the College of Liberal Arts.

  4. 2000-2001

    2000 – Present

    RIT Philharmonia plays the first of nine annual joint concerts with the Brighton Symphony Orchestra.

  5. 2002-2003

    2002 – Present

    Members of the RIT Philharmonia travel with music director Michael E. Ruhling to Claremont, Calif., for a performance-presentation regarding an arrangement of Haydn's "Surprise" Symphony at the Haydn Society of California Conference.

  6. 2005-2006

    2005 – Present

    RIT Philharmonia is renamed RIT Orchestra beginning in the 25th year of the ensemble. Violinist Karine Stone is named first professional concertmaster of the RIT Orchestra.

  7. 2007-2008

    2007 – Present

    RIT Orchestra performs Ethan Haimo's Symphony for Orchestra, composed in 1998. Mr. Haimo attends the concert and answered questions about the composition from the audience and orchestra before the concert.

  8. 2008-2009

    2008 – Present

    Halloween concert with the Brighton Symphony Orchestra is conducted by Eastman trombone Professor John Marcellus. This marks the ninth and final annual joint concert of these two ensembles.

  9. 2010-2011

    2010 – Present

    Thirtieth year of the orchestra at RIT. The newly established RIT Chamber Orchestra presents its first public performance.

  10. 2015-2016

    2015 – Present

    RIT Orchestra collaborates with New York State Ballet for four sold-out performances of The Nutcracker in December, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream in April as part of “RIT Celebrates Shakespeare.” In a concert in March in the University Gallery, dancers from the New York State Ballet and soprano Elizabeth Phillips join the RIT Orchestra for music inspired by Shakespeare, the first event of “RIT Celebrates Shakespeare.”

  11. 2018-2019

    2018 – Present

    RIT Orchestra welcomes a new music director, Dr. Yunn-Shan Ma, and is renamed the RIT Philharmonic Orchestra.

Ensemble Images