Americans used to have the most marvelous way of saying the word “orchestra”, somewhere in between “awchestra” and “ohchestra”.  It had a vaguely patrician ring to it and yet it was entirely of the people.  I don’t think it was a regional pronunciation, although New Yorkers and Bostonites certainly pronounced that way, as did everyone in the movies.

Now it’s time for a reader vote.  I’ve amassed a small collection of 20th and 21st century personalities, all Americans, saying “orchestra”.  Included are some notable hangers-on to the old tradition.  Whose version of the word “orchestra” do you like the best?  Leave your vote in the comments section!

Aaron Copland https://www.willcwhite.com/audio/aaron%20copland.mp3

Perhaps the finest representative version of the old-style way of saying “orchestra”.  Quite pleasant and mellifluous.

Frank Sinatra https://www.willcwhite.com/audio/aaron%20copland.mp3

Surprisingly, this is a pretty modern rendition, although I’m quite sure that if I did a little more digging, I would find Frank saying “orchestra” with more of the original flavor to it.

Nelson Riddle https://www.willcwhite.com/audio/aaron%20copland.mp3

Again, somewhere in the middle, but closer to the modern way.

Loren Maazel https://www.willcwhite.com/audio/aaron%20copland.mp3

A very classic, very patrician reading, for a very classic, very patrician sort of man. [His “Nawth Korean” ain’t bad either.]

Elmer Bernstein https://www.willcwhite.com/audio/aaron%20copland.mp3

Elmer “No Relation” Bernstein falls slightly on the classic side of the dividing line.

Charlie Rose https://www.willcwhite.com/audio/aaron%20copland.mp3

For me, Charlie has about the best rendition of “orchestra” of anyone under 70.  An interview between him and Loren Maazel is a match made in heaven and a symphony of syllables when it comes to this word.

Lenny https://www.willcwhite.com/audio/aaron%20copland.mp3

Lenny’s version is definitely in the classic category, though there are plenty of examples of him saying “orchestra” that have a more modern twist.  This particular version leans heavily on the “ohchestra” side of things and has a vaguely British quality to it.

Larry David https://www.willcwhite.com/audio/aaron%20copland.mp3

Larry David’s version is a fascinating one — his “awk” is very purely classic, and he really breaks up the rest of the syllables.

I really think that a revolution is afoot and that we can get the word “orchestra” back to being pronounced the way it ought to be. It is our American birthright.

So, please do leave a comment about who says “orchestra” your favorite way, and which way might work best for you!



Come on, Homer; you can’t spell “obsequious” without I-O-U.

I’ll have to trust you on that.

Well, Marge was always a good speller…let’s ask her.

Cuntus Magnus

You put ‘who’s’ and meant ‘whose.’ Also, what is the deal with putting punctuation outside the quotes? This isn’t merrie olde Englande.

El Benson

I have to go with Aaron Copland (Larry David takes home honorable mention). They’re the two who slide perilously close to pronouncing “orchestra” with the stress on the second rather than first syllable. Copland’s emphasis is especially exaggerated. He sounds like he’s saying aw-KEST-tra not OR-kest-tra

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