Over 70 students and their conductor shuffle into the large practice room in the basement of the Staller Center on Tuesday night. They sit in their designated seats, pull out their music and follow the lead of the woman standing in the front. They raise their bows, grasp the necks of their instruments, put their lips to their brass pieces and begin to play.
The Stony Brook University Orchestra is a part of the department of music and practices every Tuesday evening from 6:30 until 9:30 p.m. This large group of undergraduates, graduate students, MBAs, high school students and simply talented students with a love for music start their rehearsals promptly at the beginning of the semester to begin their journey to performance.
Susan Deaver, the SBU Orchestra conductor and artist in residence, has been working with the department since 2000 and lights up when she talks about her students and their talents.
“A lot of people studied at a young age,” she said. These students – some music majors, some music minors and some even beginning pre-medicine but love to play — auditioned for the chamber during the first week of classes in a competitive yet invigorating process.
Deaver said that, during the audition process, students must perform two pieces of their choosing, sight-read and be willing to put a lot of extra time and work in – a struggle for students who sometimes have other classes, obligations or interests.
On Sept. 15, Deaver handed out sheet music to the different sections. The violins sat together, the brass section sat in the back, and one student sat to the right of the white-walled room on a stool grasping a giant bass, larger and taller than himself.
With serious faces, the students complied with their conductor up front, but during breaks they would smile, laugh and talk amongst each other – clearly all friends and all closely related to sharing the same passion: music.
Abe Tishelman-Charny, who plays viola, has been with the orchestra for four years and is completing his final year playing with the group, something he cares for and is happy he got involved with.
“My favorite thing about performing with the orchestra is collaborating with 50-plus students at the same time, who are into the same music as I am,” he said. “And performing at the end of the semester, it makes it all worth it.”
Lyvette De Jesus Cruz, a junior oboe player and music major, says that the rehearsals are not only great for helping her technique, but also a way to socialize with similarly interested people.
“This year, I’m looking forward to improving and playing,” she said. “I like to play with other people and be a part of something bigger.”
The SBU Orchestra will hold four recitals throughout the year,two in the fall semester and two in the spring, showcasing different compositions, talents and themes.
One of the recitals, the family concert, is the show that junior music major Winnie Lewis is looking forward to the most. The flute and piccolo player said that she gets her “kids fix” because dozens of children come and listen to the family-friendly music the group prepares.
“Last year we played music from ‘Frozen’ and had a woman who dressed as Elsa come on stage with us,” she said with a huge smile across her face. “It was a lot of fun.”
The enthusiasm that the students show when they pick up their instruments proves how dedicated the ensemble is, and Deaver couldn’t be more proud.
“Stony Brook has a very well known music department for graduates and MBAs,” she said. “We have a very good reputation and very good faculty.”
The orchestra’s first recital will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 17 at 8 p.m. at Staller and will be followed by their annual Messiah Sing-Along on Sunday, Dec. 6 at 3 p.m.