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Resources for Orchestra Conductors at the Library of Congress


Score study is a foundational practice for conductors. Use this page to learn how to find orchestra scores in the Music Division using both composer name and call number class searches. The Library of Congress Music Classification Schedule determines call numbers by instrumentation and composer. Call numbers for printed music begin with M (Music).

The Library of Congress Online Catalog is the primary discovery tool for finding music scores. The Performing Arts Reading Room card catalog is an additional tool for scores received prior to 1980 and especially valuable for out-of-print scores.

Search by Composer

As an example, look for orchestral works composed by American composer and pianist Henry Cowell (1897-1965).

  • In our online catalog's Advanced Search mode, type his name into the empty text bar as "Cowell, Henry" or "Henry Cowell" - the same results will appear both ways.
  • In the dropdown menu after the word "within," select "Name: Personal (KPNC)."

This search option will narrow results to items with him as the author or composer.

  • If you are interested only in Music Division holdings - musical scores, biographies, and autobiographies - click the "Add Limits" button. Under "Location in the Library," select Performing Arts.

Then, hit "Search."

Search results for Henry Cowell relevant to orchestra conductors will include a variety of materials available in the Music Division, including:

The Music Division's holdings in the online catalog best reflect items received after 1980. For composers active prior to 1980 like Henry Cowell, the Performing Arts Reading Room card catalog is especially helpful. Send Music Reference Specialists a message through Ask a Librarian for assistance with our card catalog entries.

Search by Call Number

If you have particular instrumentation in mind, you can search the LC Online Catalog in Browse Mode by call number class.

For example, works for orchestra and chamber orchestra are classified in the call number range M1000-M1075. Works for string orchestra are in the call number range M1100-M1160.

  • Go to our online catalog's Browse mode
  • In the left-hand dropdown menu, select "CALL NUMBERS (LC Class No.)"
  • In the right-hand text box, type a call number class

Examples of call number classes to try include:

For more information about searching by call numbers, Ask a Librarian or consult the Class M outline [PDF, 717 KB].