The Los Angeles Children’s Orchestra (LACO) and Los Angles Children’s Chamber Orchestra (LACCO), under the direction of Susan Pascale, received the highest ‘gold’ award and standing ovations from judges and audience, at the prestigious, invitation-only New York International Music Festival at Carnegie Hall on April 9.
The 61-member LACO is conducted by Pascale, founder of the South Pasadena Strings Program (SPSP). The chamber orchestra, with 14 members, is conducted by Zach Dellinger, a SPSP musician and teacher. The young players range in age from 6 to 12 years old, and come from throughout greater Los Angeles.
The children performed from memory, standing up, dressed in black tie and tails, or black silk tea dresses. The festival judges praised their performance (and outfits). One judge, Virginia Allen, assistant dean for orchestra studies at The Juilliard School, wrote on the judging form that she was “very impressed” by “an exciting musical performance, well done!”
The day before the Carnegie performance, the youngsters performed an unconventional flash mob. One by one, they began playing in the middle of Times Square. Once all the children were playing, they began a long hike through the streets of New York, past Rockefeller Center, then back to their hotel, the Hilton, at 58th Street. (The violinists, violists, and even the cellists played while walking; the bassists had to walk a few steps, then stop to play.) “It must have been two miles,” Pascale says. “At one point, the New York Police Department was alerted that 150 children and parents were on the march. Instead of arresting us, they gave us a police escort to help cross the big avenues!”
On another day, many of the youngsters took a lesson from a Juilliard student or faculty member, as part of the SPSP’s “College for Kids” program.
To help raise money for the New York trip, the parents organized concerts, yard sales, and other fundraising activities. The children put out their cases for passersby to toss money in, during performances at Pasadena's Kidspace Museum's Halloween Pumpkin Patch, the 626 Night Market, Chinatown festivals, Little Tokyo, and the South Pasadena Farmers Market, to name a few.
The funds raised helped pay for lodging, cello airfare (a cello needs a whole seat!), bass rental in NY, and a celebratory post-Carnegie reception.
The children worked hard practicing for the event. Along with weekly orchestra rehearsals, they met for quartets, small practice clubs wearing fuzzy slippers, and attended strings boot camps.
After returning home, the orchestras continued to ride their wave of success by claiming three top awards at the Disneyland Music in the Parks Festival. Their highest honor was Best Overall Orchestra, which they won in competition against middle and high school orchestras.
“I feel that my job as a director of the Strings Program is not only to teach the kids how to play a string instrument correctly,” says Pascale, “but also to create an environment that inspires them to practice – to set goals, to be a part of something larger than themselves, and to experience what it means to work hard and accomplish something really great – whether it’s performing in the school auditorium, or at Carnegie Hall. Working hard pays off. It makes you feel good about yourself.”
The orchestra members are all students at the SPSP, where music instruction is offered to children as young as 3 years old. For more information, visit www.stringsprogram.com. Videos of the orchestras in action are at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pascale-Method-for-Beginning-Violin/437624182975268
Hysterical video made by a parent using their iphone of children's orchestra marching in down town Pasadena, L.A. It is part of a fundraiser for their upcoming trip to Carnegie Hall. Who says cellists can't march and play?!