Unseen Errors in Unheard Music

The Podcasting Store
3 min readMar 1, 2024


by Drew Holmes

“Maestro, I would like you to meet Drew Holmes. He’s one of our students working in the library this summer” Clint said as he introduced me to the guest conductor.

I was slightly starstruck. The conductor was Bobby McFerrin and I had asked to accompany Clint to deliver the scores for that night’s performance on the off chance of meeting him. Clint made sure of it with that introduction, but then something unexpected happened.

“You’re Clinton!” came the Maestro’s excited reply “You find the wrong notes!”

That caught me off guard. World famous recording artist and conductor Bobby McFerrin was a fan of Clint Nieweg, Principal Librarian of the Philadelphia Orchestra? There was more to this than I realized.

I had been an intern in the Philadelphia Orchestra Library for just a couple of weeks and my eyes were opened wider each day. Most striking in Clint’s library was the focus on finding mistakes and fixing publishing errors. A file cabinet full of errata lists was by the stairs and professional orchestra librarians from around the world frequently submitted requests for copies to edit their performing materials.

While at the time I was intrigued by this proofing and error correcting, a recent article drove home the importance of these scholarly activities.

In her article “The Price is Wrong”, Sharon Su exposes the uneven treatment of the works of composer Florence Price. In 1933, Price entered a composition contest and had her winning piece performed by The Chicago Symphony Orchestra. For most people this would mark the launch of a noteworthy career creating music. But Florence Price was not like other classical composers of the day. She was black.

Due in large part to the rampant racism of the day Price’s works went largely unpublished, preventing her from achieving widespread recognition during her lifetime. Then in 2018, music publisher G. Schirmer acquired the rights to her catalog, which at the time had the potential to atone for the sins of the past and finally make her music widely available. In prior years anyone interested in performing her music would either need to choose from the scant published works available or source materials from one of three archives that stored her works, which would then necessitate copying and editing performance parts.

Unfortunately, the G. Schirmer acquisition was not the panacea it seemed at first blush.

Some of the newly published editions are rife with errors and misprints. People already familiar with Florence Price’s work report bizarre editorial choices that make some materials virtually unplayable. If the intent was to revive her work and give more ensembles access to her music, a lack of scholarship and attention to detail is subverting that effort.

Decades before I met Clint, then Music Director of the Philadelphia Orchestra Riccardo Muti charged him with finding and correcting errors in the printed music. This would not only save valuable rehearsal time, but also assure that the orchestra’s performance was true to the composer’s intent. He took this assignment seriously, and would acquire copies of manuscripts, multiple editions of scores, and any other materials available to get the most complete picture of what should be on the page. Today there are dozens of corrected and critical editions in print (one of which, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, I proudly co-edited with Clint).

Until discovering what had happened with Florence Price’s works, I had not fully considered the deeper implication of errors in printed music. Incorrect rehearsal systems, wrong notes, and unclear articulations waste time and frustrate performers. This can cause programming decisions to exclude problem publications, which in turn can lead to composer’s works being overlooked and forgotten.

While my time proofing and correcting music was (compared to Clint) brief, I am proud to have been even a small part of it. Music publishers owe it to the creative minds composing the music to produce the best possible materials so their vision can come alive. Until this responsibility is taken seriously, composers like Florence Price will continue to languish in obscurity.



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