Category Archives: Testimonials

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.

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 meetup.com 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.

NewWSO Testimonial #4: The Best Medicine

How many times have you heard the phrase, “the healing power of music?” Well it’s one thing to hear it and believe that music has magical, intangible qualities that heal a wide range of ailments from physical to psychological. It’s another thing to actually be able to provide an environment for music to work its magic. More and more it seems that NewWSO is that environment.

From Ed S., trumpet player from Katonah, immediately after our concert at Chappaqua Library in July 2013:

Today’s concert was the best medicine I have had for weeks.

I am still in the process of recovering from a ruptured Achilles Tendon. Two weeks ago I ruptured and herniated a disk in my back while doing exercises for my foot. Yesterday I had an epidural shot in my spine to try to alleviate the pain and promote healing.

In spite of all these problems I have continued to practice every day.  This morning I felt horrible so I set my alarm for 12:00 so that I could get ready for today’s concert.

As soon as I arrived at the library the feeling I had from being around my new orchestra friends put me in a great mood. I cannot find any words to express how great I felt being at the concert.

I really enjoyed the listening to and playing the music.  I particularly enjoyed seeing how we are improving as a group, knowing the effort everyone is giving.

As leaders of our Orchestra I want to thank both of you (and the whole group) for creating a great atmosphere that has helped me in my recovery process.

The magical powers of music are not only intangible, they are unknowable until something happens to make it obvious that music, and the people we make music with, contributes something essential to our lives.

NewWSO Testimonial #3: Do Good For Others, Do Good For Yourself

Let’s face it. Playing music alone is just no fun! Music necessarily brings people together in creation and community. Even the best individual player in the world needs musical support, as well as an audience, to be considered the best.

By indulging the individual desires of local amateur musicians who want to play great music, New Westchester Symphony Orchestra has created a community of people who make music not for themselves, but also for each other and for the community.

Flutist Janet Moulton of Pleasantville explains how playing music with NewWSO is satisfying on so many levels:

As my daughters will testify, one of my mottos has always been “music is a part of our lives”. I used this to force, errr, encourage their participation in public school music programs. Why? Because being a part of a musical ensemble teaches you about music and being part of a team. It helps develop skills as an individual and as a group. And, because I played flute in the middle school and high school bands and absolutely loved my experience. While I continued to dust off my flute annually, I really missed being part of a group. Enter the New Westchester Symphony Orchestra, a diverse group of musicians of all ages and abilities. Pair Ben Niemcyzk, Conductor with a glint in his eye, musicality bar few, and wonderful sense of humor and Belinda Kan, upright bass player, brilliant visionary and promotional guru and we have an organization that really works well. While the NewWSO charges an annual fee, charges admission to 2 concerts per year, and does some fund-raising, we also provide an amazing service to the communities in the Westchester County area by playing free concerts at library venues and entertaining physical rehabilitation and assisted living centers. These performances are well attended and so very much appreciated. The New Westchester Symphony Orchestra has fulfilled my own need to make performing music in a group a part of my life and sharing this with Westchester County.

Conductor Benjamin Niemczyk is a big fan of performance, for many reasons:

What are you waiting for? Join us either as a musician or an audience member at an upcoming concert.

New Westchester Symphony Orchestra. Great Music Played by Anyone…For Everyone.

NewWSO Testimonial #2: A New Chapter

When we recently asked our musicians to describe the role of NewWSO in their lives, we were very touched and extremely humbled to discover that in many cases, playing in the orchestra marked a new chapter of excitement and expression. One of our cellists from Hastings was even inspired to write a poem following a recent rehearsal. Read on…

Six months after my husband died, a friend in NewWSO encouraged me to join. After not playing the cello for 25-plus years, I was ecstatic to have the opportunity to play in an orchestra again. I’ve come full circle now, blossoming into this chapter of my life making beautiful music with a community of musicians and sharing it in our performances to warmly appreciative audiences.

Our Wednesday night rehearsals are better than a visit to a spa or a superdose of vitamins. Ben’s full acceptance of where we are when we begin inspires us to improve despite ourselves and to gain in confidence. It’s gratifying to play a piece a year later that originally seemed impossible.

I wrote the following poem the morning after playing Benjamin Britten’s Simple Symphony for the first time. There are other “rapturous evenings,” most recently with Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.

            AFTER

A smile lingers on my face

Like a magic candle

I can’t blow out

After a rapturous evening

With Ben Britten.

Do you know him?

We begin our evening

With  “Boisterous Bouree,”

Laugh joyously through

“Playful Pizzicato,”

Harmonize in “Sentimental Saraband”

Dance to the “Frolicsome Finale.”

An hour with Ben Britten

And my fellow string players

Is better than eating a bag

Of hot buttered popcorn,

Butter dripping down my chin

And not caring and better than

The first sniff of the ocean

Before we see the beach

After a long hot ride to the coast

It’s better than je ne sais quoi.

The day after, I’m still smiling.

   -Janet M.

NewWSO Testimonial #1: “Without music, life would be a mistake.”

A testimonial from NewWSO horn player Heidi G. of Port Chester:

The first things that come to mind are personal achievement, and an increased awareness of others. I dug my old flute out of the closet and jumped in with two feet and a lot of bad notes. The more I played the better I got and it felt good to get the old chops back.

Then out of need for a Horn in the orchestra, I once again jumped in with both feet. This is where I really feel that sense of accomplishment. From my first time playing it with the group, when I only knew 8 notes to now rocking the Beethoven 7 solo sometimes brings me to tears.

Learning anything new in your 40′s can be hard enough with life and work pulling you in all directions. But orchestra gives me focus. Playing with this wonderful group of people who are all working so hard to make great music is amazing. In order to make this great music sound great you have to listen. It’s important to listen to the conductor, yes, but almost more importantly to listed to the other players and make sure you are doing your part for the team. This has definately had a positive effect on my interpersonal skills outside of the rehearsal hall. I just love it.

All of what I just said spills out in our performances. The people who come to see us smile the whole time. Going to the Rehab facilities and Senior Residences is a way of giving back. These people gave in their lives. What? I don’t know but it’s nice to give back to them. It is especially wonderful when one of the seniors is a former player. To watch them watch us is hearwarming. You can see that they are playing along with us in their mind.

“Without music, life would be a mistake.” Friedrich Nietzsche

NewWSO Testimonial Series

Recently we asked orchestra members if they were willing to submit written testimonials about their experience playing with NewWSO. The guiding question was, “What is the need that you believe the New Westchester Orchestra fulfills either for you personally and/or for the community?” Members were informed that all or part of their testimonial might be given public exposure, and that the testimonials would NOT be anonymous.

We have gotten some very moving responses, and would like to share these with you in a series of blog posts. The testimonials posted here are quoted exactly as written by the members. There are some really deep thoughts here, but rest assured full permission was granted by the authors because they believed strongly in sharing their experience playing music in NewWSO with anyone who wants to know more about us.

We sincerely thank all members who contributed their thoughts on how NewWSO has impacted their lives and/or the lives of our community members.