This is Vassar: The newsletter for Vassar College Alumnae/i and Families

Photo credit: Courtesy Eli Spindel, By Louis Harris

The String Orchestra of Brooklyn

You’ve heard of the New York Philharmonic. Now meet the String Orchestra of Brooklyn (SOB). The all-volunteer orchestra provides a musical home for non-professional classical musicians living in and around Brooklyn: students, professors, architects, lawyers, executives, editors, designers, artists. The group plays a wide range of genres and periods (including many of the usual classical suspects) and has a special interest in contemporary composers.

The orchestra is the brainchild of Massachusetts native and SOB founder Eli Spindel ’06. The violinist and conductor – who serves as SOB’s artistic director – formed the group as the latest stage in his musical evolution. In addition to Vassar (where he majored in music), Spindel studied at the Bard Conducting Institute, Tafelmusik Baroque Summer Institute, and the preparatory divisions of the Longy School and the New England Conservatory. He’s played with the Brooklyn Repertory Opera, Empire State Opera, New Amsterdam Symphony Orchestra, and the contemporary music ensemble of CUNY’s Graduate Center. For his “day job,” he works as a managing editor in the publications department of the International Center of Photography in Manhattan.

When SOB kicked off during the summer of 2007, it had 15 musicians. Then, by talking to friends of friends – and with the help of ads posted on Craigslist – SOB grew. Quickly. One year later, when Spindel staged Mozart’s Requiem, more than 80 performers graced the stage. (Today SOB averages 35 musicians per concert.) What’s more, “we’ve always had a small contingent of Vassar alumni who have played in the orchestra, performed as soloists, or written pieces for our contemporary music concerts,” says Spindel. Current George Sherman Dickinson Professor of Music Todd Crow even performed Bach’s D-minor piano concerto at one of SOB’s first concerts.

As the group’s size has grown, so has its concert schedule. It recently added a highly successful chamber music series, which roughly doubled the number of concerts.

Spindel has evolved, too. “I feel like I’ve grown in my role as musical director,” he explains. “You learn a lot about yourself up there on the podium, and the trick is to figure out what’s working or not, and adjust accordingly.”

To see Spindel and SOB in action, mark March 12 on your calendar. The SOB will perform in a concert featuring newly commissioned works from the Issue Project Room, a non-profit that fosters new work by artists across a variety of media. Four composers have contributed to the event, to be held at St. Ann and the Holy Trinity Church in Brooklyn Heights. “Whatever happens, it won’t be boring,” promises Spindel. – Peter Bronski

March 2011

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