City Orchestra Nurtures New Talent; Promises to Delight Audience Opening Night

NBSO Launching Youth Orchestra
By Pamela Marean Standard-Times Correspondent

The New Bedford Symphony Youth Orchestra will hold auditions for musicians under the age of 22 on Sept. 20 at UMass Dartmouth, with rehearsals to begin in October. “It’s coming together rather magically,” says Dr. David MacKenzie, music director of the New Bedford Symphony Orchestra. The Youth Orchestra is a component of the NBSO’s educational outreach programs.

Solo instruments and small ensembles undeniably make beautiful music, but without an orchestra, musicians cannot achieve what 12-year-old Fairhaven violinist Kimberlee Joseph describes as the “big sounds.”
Starting this fall, the New Bedford Symphony Orchestra is going to make the experience of playing with a full complement of musicians available to young instrumentalists under the age of 22 when it launches the New Bedford Symphony Youth Orchestra.
“It’s coming together rather magically,” said Music Director Dr. David MacKenzie. “The Youth Orchestra will give talented young musicians on all instruments the chance to come together with other talented musicians to refine their skills. It will give them exposure to a more challenging repertoire and also the advantages of working with an orchestra conductor and coaches.”
For young musicians on SouthCoast, the grand symphony experience until now has been generally limited to those students who have been accepted into, and could afford to travel to, the youth orchestra programs in Boston or Providence.
Most SouthCoast public schools have small orchestras, strings programs or bands. For students in some towns, and for private school students in particular, young musicians must rely on private lessons.
Fairhaven High School’s music program last year expanded to create a small orchestra. In all, there were 36 players counting 17-year-old cellist Jessica Clark. She plans to audition for the New Bedford Symphony Youth Orchestra because, she said, “I like orchestras. It’s not just one person making music. It’s everybody. You have to listen to each other to make it work.”
NBSYO Coordinator Merrillan Melberg said that judging by the tremendous outpouring of interest from parents and students, the Youth Orchestra will likely launch this year with 100 players divided into two orchestras — one advanced-skill group and one intermediate. She said the youth symphony’s intent is eventually to have a beginner’s level orchestra as well.
Auditions will take place Sept. 20 at UMass Dartmouth for students who have at least three years of experience playing their instrument. Rehearsals will kick off in October. For an annual fee of $350, a young musician will gain entry to a three-hour session on Saturdays that will combine orchestral practice with small group coaching and music theory, Ms. Melberg said.
New England Conservatory of Music Preparatory Director Elisabeth Christensen said the NBSYO’s fee is a good deal compared with the Conservatory’s $610 to $865 price tag for similar programs, and will give SouthCoast’s serious young musicians a vital experience.
“Youth orchestras for a lot of young musicians is where they fall in love with the big orchestra literature that you can’t play alone. It’s where they can be a part of a big sound,” she said.
Still, many New Bedford area instrumentalists may find the fee hard to come up with. To keep the fee from being higher, the NBSO will be raising about $20,000 a year to cover youth orchestra expenses, said Executive Director Lena Moniz. In addition, she said they will be looking for scholarship support to offer so that hopefully the Youth Orchestra will not have to turn anyone away due to financial constraints.
“This is a major undertaking that the NBSO board decided (by unanimous vote) was very much needed in the community,” said Mrs. Moniz. “This symphony has always been about community. That has been the mission of the organization since it was started in 1915.”
The Youth Orchestra is an appropriate addition to the NBSO’s education and outreach programs, Mrs. Moniz and Dr. MacKenzie agreed. “It completes the package. Many cities the size of New Bedford and up have youth orchestras,” said Dr. MacKenzie.
For a Dartmouth mother of two string-instrument players, the upcoming NBSYO is doubly exciting. The daughters of Diana Nichols — Sarah, 9, who plays the violin, and Molly, 12, who plays the viola — both took part in the Acushnet Classic Ensemble this summer. ACE gives local instrumentalists in middle and high schools an intensive three-week experience of being part of an orchestra. The rigorous schedule of six hours of practicing five days a week culminates in a concert performance that gives some performers their first exposure to the roaring approval of an audience.
As a violinist herself, Ms. Nichols said she can appreciate “the excitement of playing with trumpets and drums, clarinets and flutes — hearing the full rich sounds” that come with being part of an orchestra. She thinks that the year-round experience that NBSYO will offer kids is an important step forward for music in our region.
“Maybe some of the children in it will make music their profession. For others it’s about the joy of playing great music and making new friends,” she said. “As a parent, I’m constantly looking for ways to motivate my children to practice. And there simply is no better motivator than performing and hearing the applause for a job well done. I’ve witnessed first-hand the high children experience during concerts as they see all their hard work culminate in a musical masterpiece, and share the sense of ‘I did it!’ ”
The NBSYO is open to all musicians under the age of 22 who play an orchestra instrument. Auditions will be held in 10-minute blocks from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sept. 20. Email to schedule an appointment.
For more information about the New Bedford Symphony Youth Orchestra, contact Ms. Melberg at (214) 542-4350 or
August 31, 2008
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New Bedford Symphony Orchestra Presents “Romantic Gems” Opening Night- September 27, 2008; 8pm Free pre-concert prelude with Dr. David MacKenzie: 6:45pm
The New Bedford Symphony Orchestra proudly opens its 94th Season with “Romantic Gems” featuring the compelling talent and skill of Russian pianist Alexander Ghindin, winner of the 2007 Cleveland International Piano Competition, performing Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor. The Season Opening concert will also feature Strauss’ colorful tone-poem Til Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks and Paul Hindemith’s very popular Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes of Carl Maria von Weber. The NBSO has made its popular $20 tickets part of the new pricing structure for the 08-09 Season. Tickets now run from $20-50 and Student tickets have been reduced to $10.
The NBSO’s 94th Season opens with Strauss’ Til Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks. Musical imagery tells the tale of “roguish” practical joker Til Eulenspiegel, who entered German folklore in the 1500’s. His high-spirited pranks and cataclysmic downfall are illustrated in the dazzling orchestral effects of Strauss’ colorful orchestral masterpiece. Also to be performed will be Paul Hindemith’s Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes of Carl Maria von Weber. The four movements of this work incorporate themes from Weber’s Piano Duet, Op. 60.4, the Overture to Turandot, the Piano Duet, Op. 3.2, and the Piano Duets, Op. 60.2 and 60.7.
The concert will be held September 27th at 8 p.m. and will be performed at the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center in downtown New Bedford . For tickets, please call the Z box office at 508-994-2900 or online There will be a free pre-concert prelude with Dr. David MacKenzie at 6:45pm at the Zeiterion.
September 04, 2008
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