Dan Auerbach conducts members of the CSI and Richmond County orchestras.

Young orchestra students from across Staten Island performed their end-of-semester CSI Orchestra concert at the Center for the Arts Springer Concert Hall on Dec. 10. During the Fall semester, the orchestra students received sectional instruction from professional musicians from the Richmond County Orchestra. These musicians performed with the students sitting side-by-side. The personalized instruction provided these students with a unique opportunity to enhance their musical abilities. A generous grant from the Frank & Lydia Bergen Foundation provided the funding to secure this unique instructional opportunity.

The concert featured a program of classical standards and audience favorites, including: Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, Suppe’s “Poet & Peasant Overture,” Grieg’s “Arabian Dance” from Peer Gynt, Bernstein’s West Side Story selections, and Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.” CSI’s own Sophia Sparnroft, soprano, was featured in the program. Sparnroft is the recipient of the prestigious Rose Volpe scholarship, which is awarded annually to an outstanding undergraduate student studying Music.

The CSI Orchestra was founded in 2013 through a collaboration between the College of Staten Island and Curtis High School. Its mission is to provide opportunities for orchestral performance by young people on the Island through exposure to the rich repertoire of the symphony, while being directed and mentored by professional musicians. The CSI Orchestra is a College course, open to all CSI students, as well as community members. It also offers the possibility for high school students to receive college credit through the CSI/CUNY College Now program.

This was the first time that such an orchestral program was offered on Staten Island. In addition to Curtis High School, many other schools from across the Borough participate in this unique program, including Port Richmond High School, New Dorp High School, Staten Island Academy, Staten Island Tech High School, Tottenville High School, and IS 61. The co-directors of the orchestra are Dr. Dan Auerbach, Professor of Music, College of Staten Island, and James Minenna, Professor of Music, Curtis High School.

The orchestra serves a specific mission, to enable students to receive a comprehensive musical education.  Many of the participating students could not otherwise afford such personalized musical instruction. “These young students deserve a musical education and I am just glad that we received the necessary funding from the Frank & Lydia Bergen Foundation to keep their dreams alive,” commented Professor Auerbach. “I am looking forward to next semester’s concert featuring the winners of the CSI Performance Competition for Strings, showcasing the hard work and dedication of both Staten Island students and their teachers,” noted Auerbach. This competition, a sister project of the CSI Orchestra, receives funding through sponsorships provided by members of the CSI Administration, the Performing and Creative Arts Department at CSI, Strings & Other Things in Manhattan, and the Frank & Lydia Bergen Foundation. Private donors provide supplemental contributions critical to the program. The second annual CSI Performance Competition for Strings is scheduled for February 3, 2018. The competition is open to middle and high school string students who are Staten Island residents.

Next semester’s CSI Orchestra concert, scheduled for May 6, 2018, will again feature the orchestra students joined by professional musicians from the Richmond County Orchestra. Young competition soloists will perform concertos by Bach and Mozart, in addition to other selections. “The May 6 concert promises to be an exciting event, showing just what happens when you keep a young person’s dream alive,” commented Professor Auerbach. ​