By Jennifer Corr
On May 22, the Children’s Orchestra Society Young Symphonic Ensemble will travel from Syosset (where they rehearse at Community Church of Syosset) to Lincoln Center in Manhattan.
The 29th Annual Discovery Gala Concert combines the excellence of young musicians with special guests including 24-year-old Yung Li, an internationally recognized pianist; John F. Kennedy Senior High School Senior and cellist Kimon Vontas, an alumni of the Young Symphonic Ensemble; New York City based conductor Yoon Sang Timothy Cho, a faculty member of the Children’s Orchestra Society and Taiwanese-American violinist and conductor Kevin Shue, also a faculty member of the Children’s Orchestra.
Michael Dadap, the Children’s Orchestra Society artistic director since 1984 and an accomplished composer, guitarist, conductor educator and folklorist, will be leading the musicians through this concert.
The Syosset Jericho Tribune spoke with Dadap ahead of the concert as he reflected on his years leading the Children’s Orchestra Society with his wife, executive director Yeou-Cheng Ma, daughter of the orchestra’s late founder, Dr. H.T. Ma, and sister of cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Over the years the orchestra has grown from 35 string players to 125 students, with four orchestras and over six chamber groups.
Syosset Jericho Tribune: When it comes to this concert that’s coming up, what would you say makes it different compared to other concerts?
Dadap: Every single concert, as far as I’m concerned as the artistic director and conductor, is entirely special and different in many senses. It’s hard to compare them, because I’m dealing with children who are ergonomic and fluid, meaning I do not have the same members [at the same concert] that happens every year… I wrote a piece, which is a celebration… that was performed in 1998, 25 years ago. That piece has been revived and it will be performed again at this concert. It will be performed by entirely different members of the orchestra. None of them has heard the piece yet, until the rehearsal. That’s special to me.
Syosset Jericho Tribune: How does this orchestra benefit the children that are a part of it?
Dadap: It’s a chance to express themselves, and everybody can gain more confidence and they can gain a lot of learning opportunities as a performer and as a colleague in chamber music… Those experiences benefit them when they interview for other opportunities in life. It becomes a life skill for them. Music is like a stepping stone for them, a stepping stone for life success. Over the years, we’ve been fortunate that about 35 percent of our graduates go to Ivy League schools.
Syosset Jericho Tribune: How has the move of the rehearsals been to Syosset? Have you been getting more students from Syosset and Jericho wanting to join the orchestra?”
Dadap: Syosset is a perfect place right now for us to plant our seeds of musical education. It is a very vibrant community of young immigrants and new immigrants from all over the world. A lot of them are music lovers who love education. And also I must say in the Syosset and Jericho area, it’s fortunate that there’s so many opportunities for children.”
Syosset Jericho Tribune: Can you tell me about the guests of the 29th Annual Discovery Gala Concert.
Dadap: Our special guest artist is a young pianist, Yung Li. She’s the winner of the Young Concert Artist Susan Wadsworth International Auditions, so I invited her to be our guest artist to perform with the orchestra, and the reason for that is that I always believe the Discovery Concert is fine for our young people to experience performing on the same stage with a world renown artist as Yung Li. On the side, we have an Annual Discovery Artist Competition and the winner, who is a talented student named Kimon Vontas, was given the prize to perform as a soloist with our orchestra. With the entire program, I have as my assistant conductors. Kevin Shue, who is an alumni with the children’s orchestra, and he graduated in the early 2000s, came back to teach with us… The other young conductor is Yoon Sang Timothy Cho. He’s also my assistant principal conductor and he’s a big part of the Children’s Orchestra Society family. He’s been with us for about five years now.
Syosset Jericho Tribune: “What keeps you sticking around and conductingthe Children’s Orchestra Society year after year.”
Dadap: “Do you ever stop drinking water? I look forward to making music and to teaching music to children of any kind, of any age, of any color, of any background, because I think when a child learns something new in this life, it transforms him or her into a better individual. That kind of feeling is so refreshing to me, because where in the world can you get a job where I don’t feel like I’m working? I’m working a job where I feel that I’m cultivating something for the good of the young people. Plus, music is my life.”
To learn more about the Children’s Orchestra Society, how to get tickets for the 29th Annual Discovery Gala Concert and how you can get your child involved, visit childrensorch.org.