Dan Auerbach playing violin and Maria Zakharycheva '19, soprano, with James Minenna conducting at the CSI Orchestra performance.

The College of Staten Island (CSI) Orchestra performed their spring fundraiser concert at the Springer Concert Hall at CSI. Joined by musicians from the Staten Island Philharmonic, as well as the Rutgers String Quartet, the performance celebrated the unique collaboration between CSI and Curtis High School, where students receive college credit through the College Now program. Since its inception, the orchestra has grown to include other Staten Island area schools, as well as various community members. The co-directors include CSI Professor Dan Auerbach and Curtis High School representative James Minenna.

“The College is very proud of the collaboration represented by Dan Auerbach and James Minenna, who work with so many talented local high school musicians to produce the CSI Orchestra concert series on campus.  The fruitfulness of this collaboration was fully in evidence at the recent spring concert, where the young musicians successfully tackled a varied and interesting program.  CSI looks forward to the continuation of this collaboration and these wonderful concerts,” noted CSI Provost Gary Reichard, PhD, who attended the performance.

The Orchestra performed a diverse selection of classical repertoire, including the lamenting G Minor symphony No. 40 by Mozart, the lighthearted “Spring” from The Four Seasons by Vivaldi, as well as two baroque selections: Bach’s Erbarme Dich from the St. Matthew Passion, with CSI student soloist Maria Zakharycheva ‘19, as well as a concerto grosso by Geminiani with the Rutgers String Quartet.

The concert was made possible by the Frank & Lydia Bergen Foundation through a generous grant, which enabled the students to work with professional musicians from the Staten Island Philharmonic, as well as rehearse with members of the Rutgers String Quartet.

“Such dedication on the part of both the professional musicians and students is what enabled the students to be able to master the difficult repertoire,” commented Auerbach.

Additional sponsorship came from Valpak of Staten Island and Greater Brooklyn. This company has been a generous contributor, supporting the Strings Competition at CSI, bringing talented Staten Island high school and middle school students on campus for a chance to win prize money and a guest solo spot with the orchestra. As this was a fundraiser event, the Orchestra is grateful to the many community members, staff, faculty, and generous parents who purchased tickets, thereby giving financial support and helping to fund future concerts at CSI.

Professional musicians gather after the concert.

Zakharycheva ‘19, a voice student of Professor Elena Heimur, performed an elegant and lyrical rendition of Bach’s famous aria, Erbarme Dich, accompanied by orchestra co-director Auerbach, and alongside concertmaster Isabel Bruschi, who provided the additional solo violin part.

Auerbach and Minenna agreed that, “The orchestra did a wonderful job of maintaining a subordinate role to the soprano soloist.”

Auerbach performed “Spring” from The Four Seasons, guiding the orchestra through this programmatic work and ensuring that students played in a stylistically authentic manner. Curtis High School student soloist, Skivon Hardy, concluded the concert with My Shot! From Hamilton. Additional selections in the program included a Geminiani concerto grosso with the Rutgers String Quartet.

“The orchestra ably supported the quartet, conversing with them in dialogue fashion, demonstrating their knowledge of proper performance practice. All throughout the concert, the professional musicians made sure to aid the students without overshadowing them. This was also the case in the first work on the program, Mozart’s G Minor symphony, No. 40. That the students were able to tackle some of the more demanding passage work is a testament to the level of professionalism exhibited by students and professionals alike,” said Auerbach.

The CSI Orchestra plans to continue collaborating with professional musicians after this initial successful partnership. Looking forward to the next concert, Auerbach plans to expose students to the diverse world of 20th century music, as well as enable students to experience diverse programming in the same vein as noted above. The fall 2017 CSI Orchestra concert on December 10 will feature an inaugural performance by the winners of the CSI Performance Competition for Strings, an annual event initiated by Auerbach to help support Staten Island middle and high school string students and their teachers.