Mon Mar 17, 2014

#OrchestraYou unites NJSO concertgoers and musicians


The first ever #OrchestraYou saw 78 concertgoers, students, music teachers, parents, subscribers and NJSO musicians come together for a special session in which audience members performed their own orchestral instruments alongside NJSO musicians following the Orchestra’s March 15 performance at NJPAC in Newark. NJSO Education & Community Engagement Conductor Jeffrey Grogan led #OrchestraYou in “Les Toreadors” from Bizet’s Carmen.

READ: NPR’s firsthand account from the #OrchestraYou violin section

Hundreds of concert attendees, families and friends watched the session unfold from the Prudential Hall lobby and balconies, sharing photos and comments on social media. Grogan invited participants to share the view from their seats as well—the conductor even posted some selfies of his own!

“The energy in the room was indescribable,” Grogan says. “Everyone—#OrchestraYou members and audience alike—was cheering each other on in an incredibly supportive way. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before.”

Participant Seiji Shiraishi shared his excitement about the “magic” of #OrchestraYou on Facebook. NJSO Coordinator of Education & Community Engagement Lester Vrtiak—an #OrchestraYou violinist—says: “Nothing brings people together better than music. [The NJSO] and #OrchestraYou mashed together so many of my worlds into one amazing musical moment. The use of cell phones isn’t usually encouraged at classical concerts, but at #OrchestraYou, it was—looking up and seeing all those people capturing the scene with cameras was a breathtaking and unique experience.”

“It was truly inspiring seeing teachers, students and professionals from all over New Jersey (and the country!) coming together to make great music in such a great space,” says violinist Rosemary Topar, a teacher at the New Jersey Workshop for the Arts. “I felt like I was witnessing both the past and the future of music education, from the seasoned pros to the younger students who will carry the inspiration of this night with them for a long time. It was a real triumph, and I was so happy to be a part of it.”

OrchestraYou_-_balcony_2_-_credit_Fred_Stucker_(web).jpgNJSO clarinetist Andrew Lamy says: “This was the best time, place and manner to do a community collaboration ever. The space was beautiful, and there was such a great buzz—[my fellow NJSO musicians and I] didn’t know who we’d meet there, so everyone was looking around to see who was playing. It was a thrill to see people we knew—[especially ones] we didn’t know played orchestral instruments. The orchestra sounded terrific—there were really good college and regional players there, as well as great students.

“I saw a lot of smiles. [A Rutgers professor I’m friends with on Facebook] liked all my photos before I got home—she could see some of her students playing in them. This was a real event, a real sense of momentum for this happening again. Musically, personally, it was the best.”

The NJSO auctioned off the #OrchestraYou triangle part at intermission, with funds going to support the NJSO’s education programs. Maureen Ghosh won the honor for $550.

Violin star Hilary Hahn, who performed Brahms’ Violin Concerto with the NJSO earlier that evening, surprised #OrchestraYou participants with brief remarks. “It’s wonderful to have an event like this that celebrates music education. We all have been influenced by a music educator in our lives,” Hahn said, mentioning teachers who inspired her.

“There usually aren’t many opportunities to work with professional musicians, but the NJSO offers lots of those opportunities—both inside and outside the classroom,” Vrtiak says. “#OrchestraYou was an expansion of that, allowing beginners, professionals and everyone in between the chance to play side by side. You could tell that the students sitting next to professional musicians were thinking, ‘Wow, I’m playing the same thing they are. This isn’t a beginners’ arrangement; this is the real deal—a real performance.’”

#OrchestraYou was free and open to all ticketholders. The event was part of the Orchestra’s Music Education Night, which celebrated music educators, music students and their families.