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The UMass Boston Orchestra, under the direction of Sommer Forrester Image by: Kahrim Wade
March 27, 2019

UMass Boston Orchestra is a community affair


  • Boston
UMass Boston music majors play alongside non-music majors, faculty, staff, and community members alike

It’s 6 on a Wednesday night, and it’s Vandy Bontemps’s favorite time of the week: Rehearsal for the UMass Boston Orchestra.

While the sophomore plays clarinet, she’s not a music major. Bontemps studies exercise and health sciences, and wants to get in the health care field, but orchestra offers her an outlet for her passion of music.

“I’m in the orchestra because I love playing music and I love playing ensembles and it’s a nice way to grow as a musician,” she said.

Unlike some university orchestras, the UMass Boston Orchestra is open to all, which means Bontemps plays alongside other non-music majors, music majors like junior trumpet player Kelly Pry, faculty, staff, and even community members. Conductor Sommer Forester, an assistant professor of music at UMass Boston, says you can’t underscore the value of this setup for UMass Boston students.

“We have community members who have been playing their instruments for decades sitting alongside freshmen who liked to play when they were in high school and are now here at the university and they’re looking for a way to continue their music-making. What better to celebrate the notion of lifelong learning and form friendships with those with whom they might not necessarily have crossed paths,” Forrester said.

Care Corner-Dolloff is now retired from UMass Boston’s Human Resources Department, but she still comes to campus every Wednesday for rehearsal. The violist says although she sometimes sees herself as a coach of the younger players, she’s just as much a student.

“Some of them are such good players that I feel like they also teach me some things. We have some very young players who are incredibly gifted and I think that they’re an inspiration to me and just make me practice just a little bit more,” Corner-Dolloff said.

Cellists Paul D’Angelo, a retired music teacher, and Arthur Wharton, a retired X-ray technologist, started making the trip up from Plymouth 13 years ago – ever since they saw a call for string players in The Boston Globe.

“I’ve found this group to be really inspirational,” Wharton said. “It’s inspirational to see the range of their abilities, and I’ve learned, along with them in terms of making this ensemble work.”

“I’ve even invited some of them from other countries to come to Plymouth, and shown them Plymouth Plantation,” D’Angelo said.

Pry, the trumpet player, confirms that the experience has been a family, as well as friendly, affair, and it has advanced her musicality.

“The learning experience from orchestra is really amazing, and the repertoire we play is a lot of fun and it’s a great community to get involved with. We’ve made a lot of great friends through this group,” Pry said.

The UMass Boston Orchestra will perform the program Art. Life. on Friday, April 19 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $5 for students and alumni and $10 for the general public, with funds supporting the UMass Boston Orchestra and the Music Department. You can get tickets online or at the door.

And if you have an instrument in your closet? Pull it out!

As Wharton put it, “Bring it, and bring a friend!”

Auditions are held at the start of each semester – experienced and novice musicians are welcome. To find out about upcoming auditions, visit the Performing Arts Department’s website or Facebook page.