A collectively unique-looking group of all ages, atypical to the musical ensembles you usually see at the University, gathered onstage with their violins, violas or cellos for their weekly rehearsal at Morgan Auditorium.
Danielle Cummins, who sat and played her violin amid the group, gently tapped her foot to the beat as she carefully led the players in “Harvest Reel.”
“More articulation,” she said after the piece ended. The group listened, and their second attempt at the song was much improved and more harmonious.
The La Verne Chamber Orchestra, a string orchestra that started this semester, is small. Only 11 members were at last Thursday’s rehearsal, but they are growing. Three new players showed up that day but looked right at home when Cummins immediately dove into the music.
“I’ve wanted an orchestra at the University for a long time for our students to have the opportunity to play in an orchestral setting,” said Cummins, founder and music director of the orchestra and an adjunct strings professor.
“It adds such another dimension into music education when you can work with other people, because we are learning from each other,” she said.
During the rehearsal, she encouraged the players to “enjoy everyone’s sounds.”
“You (can) watch other people, talk to each other and talk about how to figure things out,” she said. “They learn from their stand partners – the people that they’re sitting with. It’s like passing on the knowledge that way.”
The orchestra is made up of players of all ages – University students, high school students and members from around the community.
Some of the players have a good amount to barely any experience with the violin, viola or cello.
“Some people are beginners, and so they come here and they start learning for the first time so that they have more experience,” Cummins said.
Some of the members are Cummins’ students and were invited by her to play in the orchestra.
Kathleen Boyer, La Verne resident and a new violinist, said she was thrilled to be invited to join the group.
“It’s wonderful to have a group of people to play with that is sort of at your level,” she said. “We’re growing together.”
“I just appreciate the fact that this school has allowed us to come with this teacher and have (the) benefit of her time to teach us and to play,” Boyer said. “(Cummins is) wonderfully patient, as you can tell.”
Catherine Bacus, a La Verne resident and former gerontology professor and alumna of the University, has been playing the cello for seven and a half years.
Bacus, who was invited by Boyer and Cummins to join the group, has never been in an orchestra before.
“It’s a group that’s growing,” she said. “Danielle’s doing such a great job of bringing everyone together.”
Bacus said she often practices with a fellow cello player, freshman music major Alicia Cocco Rodriguez.
“It’s like a mentoring thing,” Bacus said. “ It’s also great for older people to play with the younger people. That’s been really fun.”
Rodriguez, who has been playing the cello for two years, went up in front of the group at one point during rehearsal and carefully conducted them during one song.
“It’s really nerve-wracking, because I have stage fright,” she said. “ I’m hoping that what I benefit from (joining the orchestra) is getting over my fear of stage performance.”
University students who join the orchestra can receive credit through the string ensemble class, or MUS 119.
“I needed an ensemble class, and I thought it’d be pretty cool to learn a new instrument,” said junior music minor Eric Torres, who plays guitar and has only been playing violin for a couple of months.
“It’s hard in a way because I’m so used to the frets on the guitar,” he said. “But I’m getting the hang of it.”
The La Verne Chamber Orchestra meets from 4:30 to 5:50 p.m. every Thursday in Morgan Auditorium.
“I send an invitation to anyone who’s ever played a string instrument to come out and join us,” Cummins said.
Kristina Bugante can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.