A conversation with Connor Vorhaus, Christopher Beroes-Haigis and Timothy Megna, students at the Pierson Middle-High School in Sag Harbor who are members of the newly formed Suffolk County Principal Orchestra of the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra, which will have the honor of performing at Carnegie Hall in Manhattan on June 7, 2009. (Listen and watch a performance on video below).
How did each of you discover your passion for music?
Chris: In the fifth grade I started playing cello at The Ross School. They let us choose almost any instrument we wanted, and we were able to sample the instruments with one of the teachers, Laurinel Owen who played them for us. She played the cello very nicely and I knew I wanted to play that instrument.
Tim: I was in the fourth grade at [Sag Harbor Elementary School] and we had the choice to play for the orchestra. I decided to play the viola because there were violins everywhere, but I wanted to try something everything else wasn’t doing.
Connor: It was in kindergarten. I just wanted to play the violin very badly so I begged my parents for about a year and I got to play.
When did you audition for the MYO Suffolk Principal Orchestra? How was that process for you? Were you confident or was the competition daunting?
Chris: It was near the end of the summer.
Tim: I had an audition later in the season, around October.
Chris: I wasn’t that confident. I wasn’t very practiced at the time.
Tim: I was like a nervous wreck. I thought I definitely wasn’t going to get in, but they said I had a lot of resemblance and tone from my teacher, Chris Shaughnessy.
Connor: I auditioned like two-and-a-half weeks before the [November] concert. I was really nervous.
The orchestra practices in Farmingville, which is pretty far to travel from Sag Harbor on a school night. How difficult is that on you?
Chris: I get to finish some homework and usually I sleep in the car. It’s only around two hours, roundtrip, and only on Thursdays.
Tim: The ride there is actually really nice for me because I get to spend some time with my dad and listen to music in the car – rock and roll.
Connor: I enjoy it. I just get to chill and listen to music – awesome music.
How does playing in this orchestra differ from a school band or orchestra?
Connor: It’s a lot more intense and there is a certain skill level that is required. At my old school orchestra, because we really don’t have an orchestra [at Pierson] you could just come in and play music without practicing. This one you have to practice. [The conductor] will know if you don’t and he doesn’t like it.
Tim: I think that pretty much the whole level of music is a lot more exciting. I went to music camp this summer – the same one as Chris – and I found it was at about this level. It is a great experience.
Connor: It’s like Mozart. And not edited, but just how he wrote it.
Chris: I think I enjoy it a lot more because it is made up of people who play outside school, people who practice their instruments. You really have to put effort into it and you are expected to. Also, a lot of the pieces we play at school are arrangements, not the originals. One of the pieces we play in the orchestra is the overture to Don Giovanni with the original notes.
Is the material challenging for you?
Tim: I just find it is a whole different level. It’s just that people who want to play and are excited to play are there. There is a whole different sound quality.
Connor: The material is not challenging. I play 45 minutes to an hour a day. The amount of effort actually shows. The music stops being challenging, but you always have to work out the kinks and the mistakes.
What are some of your favorite pieces to play?
Tim: I have only played in an orchestra. I like Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber.
Connor: I really enjoy Don Giovanni and the Mozart pieces. I like the intensity of it. Minor is the best.
Chris: Probably my favorite would be Prelude in G Minor by Bach. It is one of the cello suites and that was a piece I played as a solo a year and a half ago.
Who are your favorite composers?
Tim: That is a tough question. I would say Bach because you can’t really be disappointed by Bach. I have never heard something that I have had to shut off. It’s just good music.
Connor: I really like Mozart. He has really good stuff.
Chris: I think all classical music is pleasing to the ear, even though it might not be the popular music. I don’t listen to it myself, but I like playing it anyway.
Do you see a future in music for yourself?
Tim: I find I really want to go as far as I can with it. I really enjoy playing. I just really want to go ahead and do what I can with it.
Chris: It’s hard to say. As long as I can keep up with the talented kids I have been playing with I would like to pursue music for as long as I can.
Connor: I really enjoy playing music, listening to music. I think I have to be able to remember what I ate for breakfast before I can tell you what I am going to be when I am older.