Can You Say…Joshua Bell?


Joshua Bell, left, and Malcolm McDowell in a scene from ‘Mozart.’ Amazon Studios

Remember a few weeks back when we posted about our foray into acting in this blog post? And we mentioned that we shared the stage with a “very famous violinist” in the filming of the upcoming pilot “Mozart in the Jungle?” That violinist has finally been officially announced as none other than the great Joshua Bell!

It’s true. NewWSO formed part of the orchestra in the background and mimed the accompaniment to Joshua Bell’s signature performance of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto. It was an amazing thrill for all orchestra members involved, and not likely something that will happen again any time soon. Our jaws also dropped when Bernadette Peters walked out on stage, unbeknownst to any of us in advance!

NewWSO is mentioned this Wall Street Journal article from December 6, 2013, the day after the entire cast was announced Here is an excerpt, full article available here and links to other articles at the end of this post:

The roughly 30-minute pilot wrapped up filming in Manhattan and Purchase, N.Y., in November, and will be released online in early 2014. On Thursday, Amazon announced its cast, which, in addition to Mr. McDowell and Ms. Peters, includes Gael García Bernal, Lola Kirke, Saffron Burrows and Peter Vack….

Various local musicians are also involved, including the actors’ coaches and members of the Chelsea Symphony and the New Westchester Symphony Orchestra….

In Mr. Bell’s scene in “Mozart in the Jungle,” he plays the end of Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto and bows while bantering with Mr. McDowell.

While this mimicked his regular routine—performing, bowing, post-concert chatter—it was nevertheless a rush.

“It gives me a little bit of the bug,” Mr. Bell said. “It makes me want to stretch a little bit, and try a couple more lines next time.”

More articles on the topic:

Entire Wall Street Journal article, Dece 6, 2013

Official Press release via, Dec 5, 2013

Article on Mozart in the Jungle on, Dec 5, 2013

Director Paul Weitz (American Pie, About a Boy) on the MITJ Cast, Dec 10, 2013 – Click here to “follow” the project on the Amazon Studios website. Be sure to view it and vote for it when it comes out in early 2014!


A Smashing Sing

On Sunday, December 8, 2013, NewWSO held its second annual Messiah Sing-Along at the Briarcliff Congregational Church. Despite the threat of stormy winter weather, a full house of approx 130 audience gathered to sing Handel’s great oratorio to the tune of New Westchester Symphony Orchestra’s accompaniment.


Singing and playing several arias and all but a few of the choruses, the audience and the orchestra filled the festively-decorated church with the sounds of true community-created music. Even those who did not sing enjoyed being enveloped by the sound, a change from passively observing a performance from afar. The “Hallelujah” and “Worthy is the Lamb” choruses were especially impressive and awe-inspiring.

If you attended this year’s Messiah Sing-Along, please let us know your impressions by taking this brief, two-question survey. It will help us make next year’s Sing-Along and all future NewWSO events even better.


In November 2012, NewWSO held its first Messiah Sing-Along at the Music Conservatory of Westchester with 60 audience members. We doubled our audience this year, and who knows how many will join us next year to sing, listen and join in what seems destined to become a new Westchester tradition? Check our website often and join our mailing list to stay informed of details on next year’s Messiah Sing-Along as well as all of our 2014 performances and events.


NewWSO: Stars of Stage and Screen!

On Monday, November 18, 2013, 27 members of the New Westchester Symphony Orchestra participated in the shooting of a scene for an Amazon series pilot! The series, called “Mozart in the Jungle,” is based on the memoir of the same name by Blair Tindall. This particular scene was shot at SUNY Purchase in Westchester County, NY.

NewWSO horn player Heidi Giarlo looking fabulous!

They needed an orchestra in the background and tapped NewWSO and The Chelsea Symphony to fill the roles. They wanted the orchestra to look as real, so rather than hiring random extras they called us. They wanted us to play to track rather than play for real, a perfect arrangement which allowed our musicians to enjoy the experience rather than stress about putting on a performance.

The day was long, but sharing the stage with a world-famous violinist (whose name we won’t mention here, but it’s not hard to find out who!), even if we were only “fake accompanying” him, was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and the highlight of the day. And most of us got to experience, for the first time, the behind the scenes action that goes into the making of a TV show. Also on set (among others who have not yet been officially announced!) was one of the stars, Gael Garcia Bernal, and co-writer Jason Schwartzman of Coppola family and Rushmore fame (Schwartzman is Talia Shire’s son, i.e. Francis Ford Coppola’s nephew). More about the series from Deadline Hollywood:

Mozart in the Jungle was written by Oscar-nominated writer and director Roman Coppola, actor and musician Jason Schwartzman, and Tony-nominated writer and director Alex Timbers. The project is based on the memoir Mozart in the Jungle by Blair Tindall. Mozart in the Jungle is all about sex, drugs—and classical music—and shows that what happens behind the curtains at the symphony can be just as captivating as what happens on stage.

“Many shows are in a single world; Mozart in the Jungle is an unusual show in that there are two worlds fused together. On one side is the high-level skill and sophistication that comes with classical music, and at the same time it’s a story that includes people rising up from the bottom, trying to make it in the big world. I love the sense of contrast, the high and the low, the refined and the more base—I hope audiences will love it too,” said Roman Coppola, co-creator of Mozart in the Jungle. “Amazon has been incredibly supportive and they have given us their blessing to make this show. We are very much in harmony and we feel lucky to be working with a partner that is so in sync with us and what we want to do.”

Checkout pics on our Facebook page, and stay tuned for information on  release date for the pilot, probably sometime in 2014. Pickup a copy of the book today!


Conductor Ben Niemczyk Invites YOU to our Messiah Sing on Dec 8

Conductor Ben Niemczyk shares his thoughts about our upcoming Messiah Sing-Along event on Sunday, December 8 in Briarcliff Manor:

New Westchester Symphony Orchestra’s Messiah Sing-Alongs are great for many reasons. First, it allows the audience (aka the singers) the opportunity to sing the complete choruses from Messiah, not just Part 1 and Hallelujah chorus. We will definitely sing the thrilling finale movement, “Worthy is the Lamb.”

Second, it allows the audience to sing the arias they’ve always wanted to sing, without the pressure of singing as a soloist in front of an audience. The audience will have the chance to sing the following arias as a section:

  • 2. Comfort Ye, My People (tenor)
  • 3. Ev’ry Valley (tenor)
  • 6. But Who May Abide? (alto)
  • 20. He Shall Feed His Flock (soprano & alto)
  • 45. I Know That My Redeemer Liveth (soprano)
  • 47. Behold I Tell You a Mystery (bass)
  • 48. The Trumpet Shall Sound (bass)

So sing out strong!

Third, it allows the audience to sing to the accompaniment of a full orchestra. NewWSO will play from the Mozart/Prout edition of Messiah, scored for full orchestra. It is a true testament to our members’ love of great music when an audition-free, amateur orchestra commits to learning Handel’s oratorio in just a few short weeks.

Having others with whom to make this great repertoire is priceless. Come join us for an afternoon of true community-created music!

NewWSO’s 2nd Annual Messiah Sing-Along, Sun Dec 8

In just two weeks, Thanksgiving will be upon us. And less than two weeks after that, New Westchester Symphony Orchestra will host its 2nd Annual Messiah Sing-Along on Sunday, December 8 from 305pm at the historic Briarcliff Congregational Church, 30 S. State Rd, Briarcliff Manor, NY 10510.

If you love Messiah sings, don’t miss your chance to sing the complete Messiah choruses (not just Part 1) with full orchestra accompaniment. You will even get a chance to sing a few of the arias that you’ve always wanted to sing. There are no soloists for this event – YOU are the soloists and the chorus!

Tickets are $10 and include optional score rental. Children under 8 free. Purchase advance tickets online at

Special thanks to Interim Minister Jack Lohr at Church in the Highlands, White Plains, for posting this blog entry about our event.


Video: “Jagdleid,” Arranged by our 17-Year Old Horn Player

It’s not everyday that you get a young person who arranges music for an orchestra with musicians five times his age (yes, we have two 85-year young members!).

Max Rosen, a junior in high school here in Westchester, arranged  Jagdlied (The Hunt) for the New Westchester Symphony Orchestra brass ensemble. Originally a choral piece written by Felix Mendelssohn, Max (on the far right) plays Wagner tuba on his arrangement, which also includes trumpet and horn. Ain’t it great to be young!

Compare to the choral version:


Teaser Clip! Why You Should Come To Our Oct 20 Concert

Our Fall Concert at White Plains Presbyterian Church on October 20 is less than two weeks away! NewWSO musicians are working hard to put on a great performance for the audience – and, of course, for themselves.

On Sunday, September 29, NewWSO performed a “preview concert” to a full house at Ossining Public Library. For the musicians, it was a way to get the performance jitters out of the way before the Fall concert. For the audience, it was something they probably never expected from a group of “hobbyist” musicians. A great time was had by all, and Ossining has already invited NewWSO to return in 2014.

Here is a teaser clip from the September 29 concert. This is Rafael Forte (cellist Carmen Forte’s hubby) performing Puccini’s Nessun Dorma from Turandot. He will be performing it again on October 20, so if you like this make sure to get your tickets!

From Bigger to Smaller: NewWSO Chamber Ensembles

The New Westchester Symphony Orchestra is rapidly approaching 70 members. That’s a lot of musicians playing at one time! Finding venues that can accommodate a group of our size is becoming more and more of a challenge.

Something curious that has happened completely organically is the outgrowth of smaller ensembles. Unprompted by our conductor, some of our musicians have gotten together of their own accord to rehearse chamber pieces. This keeps it interesting for the players and allows us to continue playing in smaller venues where music is desperately needed and much appreciated.

Our numerous flutes have done this from the beginning and now even have an official name: The Silver Winds. Other sections such as the trumpets and cellos are following suit, and mixed ensemble groups have performed as well. One of our younger players, a 17 year old horn player, arranged Mendelssohn’s Jaglied for brass, which had its world premiere this August.

Check out these ensemble videos from a recent performance:

NewWSO Testimonial #8: With Friends Like These…

Saying Hello to Ashokan’s Farewell

Rosemary Williams (White Plains), Second Violinist, the New Westchester Symphony Orchestra

Every musician, amateur or professional has a special set of notes that touch their heart, brightens their days, give them something to go to sleep by. Depending on how they are arranged, they are known by different names. I lost touch with my notes twenty four years ago when my second child was born. He brought a different kind of music into my life but still, once I put my violin down, it was as though I lost some very special friends. As the years rolled by I’d hoped for a reunion but the demands of juggling two children, work, a household, and a traveling husband left more and more distance between my notes and me. For many years, I thought I would never see them again. I mourned those lost relationships until a year ago when someone told me about the New Westchester Symphony Orchestra. At first, it sounded too good to be true. How could I return to my second chair position without drawing attention to the staleness of my skills? I soon learned that it is the love of those notes that matters most to our conductor and all of the players because, they are determined to experience being part of their music and living the beauty of the music matters far more than perfection. Now, one year later, I rush to each rehearsal in anticipation of being with my friends again. Each week they go by different names: Camille Saint-Saens’ Carnival of the Animals, Ludwig Van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, and my favorite, my lovely good friends that are known as the Ashokan Farewell by Jay Ungar. What a wonderful new chapter in my life thanks, to musicians who share my longing and delight in welcoming new comers into their weekly reunions.