Monthly Archives: September 2013

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.

NewWSO Testimonial #7: The Fountain of Youth

Well here’s a new one…and orchestra that makes you feel YOUNGER. We have several musicians who have surpassed the Berlin Philharmonic’s mandatory retirement age, but here they are welcome and encouraged to play for as long as they desire.

Violinist Jim A. of Harrison, NY has this to say about his experience playing with NewWSO:

I was inspired to add my two cents to this effort by two things: Heidi G’s beautiful Testimonial #1, and the contents of a recent interview of Woody Allen by Oliver Burkeman in The Guardian (U.K.). I found the interview in The Week recently, so at the risk of violating everything Copyrights are meant to protect, here are some of Woody’s comments under the heading “Allen on Aging”:

“(Aging) …. is a bad business. It’s a confirmation that the anxieties and terrors I’ve had all my life were accurate. There’s no advantage to aging. You don’t get wiser, you don’t get more mellow, you don’t see life in a more glowing way. You have to fight your body decaying, and you have less options.”

Woody went on to say, “There’s only one way to handle the horror of mortality . . . . . distract yourself . . . . . .play the clarinet.” (Emphasis is mine, the words, are his). “The only thing you can do is what you did when you were 20, because you’re always walking with an abyss right under your feet.”

Pretty dramatic, I’d say. But Woody was –and still very much – is — a dramatist of genius proportion.

During my first several NewWSO rehearsals, I shared a Violin II stand with a lovely woman I came to know slightly. She was extremely ill, and knew it, and told me about it. I think she lived alone, with, perhaps, a pet cat. She was noticeably weak, and I have no idea how she physically got to the Conservatory. I always did my best to be cheerful and would often compliment her vigorous bowing and attention to intonation. The orchestra was a distraction that kept her going – until she passed away only weeks later. She sawed away at her violin with passion and satisfaction. She was an inspiration to those of us who knew her. In a sense, she was an embodiment of all that is good about this organization. What more can we mortals ask for, at such a time?

As someone only months from being 80 years old myself, I think more about mortality than I like to admit. But since discovering this orchestra, I definitely spend much more time thinking about my colleagues and our attempts to create great music than almost everything else. The experience of “being 20 again” is a gift from those who created the NewWSO concept and the reality.

If anyone reading this so-called testimonial once played an instrument and thinks that recreating that youthful pleasure is ancient history, just plain out-of-reach . . . . . come and simply watch a rehearsal! I predict that you will be moved to rush home immediately to see if you can find your old high-school trumpet in the garage somewhere.

And here’s another thing! For those of us “of a certain age,” let’s face it, making new friends is difficult. But not here! And that’s a fact.

If you join us, you will enjoy a positive, life-altering experience. I know . . . . I did it.

A Kinder, Gentler Orchestra

Does the thought of a conductor waving a stick at you scare you? Not excited about the prospect of playing music with a bunch of anti-social music geeks? Well you’re in luck, because the New Westchester Symphony Orchestra is nothing like that at all. Well…maybe a little? Listen to Conductor Ben Niemczyk talk about the culture of NewWSO and you be the judge!

NewWSO Testimonial #6: Let’s Fall In Love

Think back to your high school or college orchestra experiences, or even other adult community ensembles that you might play in currently. What was the atmosphere like? Did you love the ensemble and its members, or was it just a place to play music and you put up with the not so desirable aspects?

NewWSO musicians are some of the luckiest people on the planet right now, because they get to fall in love with their instrument, with the music, and with each other every week. Orchestra rehearsals display the best of what humans can create when they get together. Trombonist Robert B. of White Plains has this to say about NewWSO:

When I joined I thought that I would likely out grow this audition free orchestra. I no longer feel that way. The change in my point of view is not because I have not improved as a player. It is because I have come to recognize that there is a tremendous amount of love in our orchestra when we play. The orchestra improves because we all want to improve. The orchestra improves because we concentrate on what we are accomplishing rather than on the errors that other musicians may make. The rehearsal and performance space is devoid of negative thoughts about others, even when we have had a set back in playing. I have never before experienced another musical group with this spirit. I now realize that being a part this loving group of amazing musicians in itself is enough for me. By the way we have vastly improved and can stand proud in what we have accomplished musically.

Similarly, cellist Robbin. L of Pleasantville says:

As an adult student of the cello, it seemed impossible that I would ever have the opportunity of playing with an orchestra, which I might have had if I had begun playing while in school. What a joy to find a group as professional and yet supportive and friendly as the New Westchester Symphony Orchestra! We members love the discipline, the musicianship, and the camaraderie of this group. Many thanks!

Most of our new members are a little intimidated to walk into a room full of musicians who seem to know what they’re doing. However, after rehearsing one piece, they start to understand that NewWSO is unlike any orchestra they’ve ever played in. The common goal of playing great music together forms an incredible bond among what is otherwise a large group of strangers. That’s magic for you.

NewWSO Testimonial #5: Hope and Healing

Another testimonial about the healing power of music, and how nobody should be denied the opportunity to play if it can affect people in such a positive way. Cellist Kim B. of Fairfield, CT writes:

I found the New Westchester Symphony Orchestra at a turning point in my life. I struggle with depression and was nearly hospitalized twice earlier this year. When I saw the group notice from I tried to not get my hopes up too much…I am a beginner on my current instrument and I knew I would not be able to withstand anything that felt like competitive pressure. The first rehearsal was a revelation–the warm camaraderie, the encouragement from my section, and an instant energy infusion from a brilliant and charismatic conductor. The music we play is the real deal. This is the stuff that feeds souls. I left invigorated, excited to practice, and determined to continue! The beauty of this group is the unique opportunity it offers to musicians of all levels. My teacher says I have made quantum leaps in my playing. I’m pleasantly surprised on an ongoing basis at how much I am able to play and it feels WONDERFUL. I have played with the NewWSO in concerts at a church, a library and most recently a rehabilitative hospital for patients and visitors. This orchestra fills a special niche by bringing music to people and places where it otherwise would not exist and we are all the better for it. Our audiences are so appreciative and enthusiastic! The gift we receive in playing together we give in turn by sharing music with others. This is a community orchestra in every sense of the word and I’m very proud to be a part of this group.

Say no more.

Fun and Games

It’s the start of a new membership year with the New Westchester Symphony Orchestra, and what better way to kick it off than to welcome members old and new with some orchestra humor?

A hilarious set of memes was put together by someone who has obviously played in their fair share of orchestras. Click HERE to judge the author’s accuracy for yourself. Some of our members report that the section stereotypes are spot on, in most cases embarrassingly so!

If you don’t know what a “meme” is, Google defines it as “a humorous image, video, piece of text, etc. that is copied (often with slight variations) and spread rapidly by Internet users.”

Orchestras can be serious, and NewWSO is serious about the music and about playing to the best of our ability. But we are also a fun-loving bunch and don’t take ourselves too seriously. Our primary motivation is to make music together, plain and simple. If you are thinking about joining but are somewhat intimidated about jumping into an orchestra setting, you’ll find that once you get to the rehearsal space that you will be welcomed no matter what your age or ability. More information on joining can be found on our website, Join us!