Freshmen musicians start their own chamber orchestra

June 22, 2010

By Christopher Huber

Members of a youth chamber orchestra, formed by Pacific Cascade Freshman Campus students, practice June 18. Contributed

Last December, Nirupama Suneel needed to come up with a way to fulfill her community service hours for school. The Pacific Cascade freshman from Sammamish had been heavily involved in music as a pianist and violinist, and she wanted to further pursue her passion with her friends while serving the community.

So, she decided to start her own chamber orchestra in January. The orchestra performed its first concert June 20 at the Aegis Inn, in Redmond.

“When she told us, I thought it was a nice surprise,” said Amy Yang, an orchestra member.

Members of the group, consisting of violinists, pianists, vocalists, flautists and percussionists, have worked an average of five hours per week since then to notate, re-arrange and practice various classic songs from the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, as well as some Disney favorites, with the purpose of entertaining people at senior centers.

“I’ve always been interested in a chamber orchestra,” Nirupama said. “With so many of my friends deeply passionate about music, I thought it would be a great idea to form an orchestra group in order to entertain audiences, showcase our talent and apply our musical education to serve the community.”The orchestra is completely independent of the school, said Nirupama and friends Amy Yang and Grace Wan, both Sammamish residents. They do get help from their parents, such as driving to rehearsal, providing a rehearsal venue (their homes) and technical help with equipment. But otherwise, the group is self-directed.

Suneel Parthasarathy, Nirupama’s father, said watching his daughter form an orchestra made him wonder how he spent his middle- and high-school years — certainly not forming his own bands, he said.

“It’s rare to have a friend circle that had this passion,” he said. Many members have played in the Seattle Young Artists Music Festival and are involved in area youth symphony orchestras. “I don’t think as a ninth-grader I would have the courage to put together an orchestra.”

Group members said they planned to play six or seven pieces at the first concert with various individuals or pairs performing their own pieces, too.

“The main goal is to bring joy into seniors’ lives,” Amy said.

Through the notating and custom arranging of the songs, the girls said they wanted to develop their own style, but adhere to the basic tone of the pieces, which included a version of “You are My Sunshine.”

“We tried to stay true to the feel of the music,” Grace said, but “we wanted it to be more upbeat.”

Despite it being difficult to focus when 10 or 12 close friends get together to practice music, the girls seem to feel good about the orchestra’s abilities.

“As a group, we’re pretty good, actually,” Nirupama said. “It has been an exciting experience as each of us took on the challenge.”

The main challenge, though, was “finding free time on each of our activity-packed schedules to rehearse as a group,” Nirupama said.

The girls said they hope to make the orchestra performances a summer thing, as long as they can juggle the practice and music selection process with their school schedules.

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