Community String Orchestra performs today

The CSOA is performing its first show of the season at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts today, June 30, at 5 p.m. CSOA members are seen here this past Thursday, June 23, at a rehearsal at LPCA. (Enterprise photo — Dellice Chase)

Music is often viewed as something that brings people together. That’s true for the Community String Orchestra of the Adirondacks, or the CSOA.

Music — and what the CSOA’s founder, Esther Rogers Baker, saw as a need for a place for young people to be able to come together to play string instruments — is what sparked the creation of the CSOA. The orchestra was founded by Baker, a professional cellist and conductor, in 2017.

The CSOA is performing its first show of the season at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts today, June 30, at 5 p.m.

Baker is excited to have the group in a real theater. The first time the company was in the LPCA was during a trial run five years ago, and they’ve since performed at various locations. Now that they have been invited to perform in their first theater, the hope is to return again in the following years, according to Baker.

Baker said that there will be 37 members onstage, the largest number yet.

Barb Curtis was in the CSOA’s last session and was introduced by a friend. Curtis had conflicting emotions about performing in a theater. With little experience in music, she was nervous, but has come to love the challenge.

“It’s been a learning experience for me. It’s fun, it’s challenging for me, so this is going to be very exciting to play on this stage and to a real theatre,” she said.

Something Curtis loves about the CSOA is the range of people who perform: Beginners, professionals, children and the elderly. There is no requirement for previous experience or age limits. A 6-year-old can play next to a 90-year-old — but there are no 90-year-olds yet.

The oldest member is 86-year-old Gail Wrenn on the violin. Wrenn went to Westminster Choir College and spent life in and around rehearsals in the Kennedy Center. As assistant to the director, her job was to take notes and make appointments. Now she is in the orchestra.

“It’s a high, it’s thrilling. And to have a body of people that you can play with is just an extraordinary experience,” she said.

Cellists Priscilla Kis, 19, and Paul Osenbaugh, 60, take lessons with Baker and are performing today. Both expressed their value in the opportunity to meet new people and make connections with people of different ages, skills and backgrounds.

Olive Stewart, 13, also started her lessons with Baker, and it was clear she valued Baker’s teachings as she expressed her excitement for the performance coming up.

As Baker conducted the orchestra this past Thursday, during a rehearsal, it was clear she was focused on helping the group come together.

Kim Diehnelt, the guest conductor of the CSOA, highlighted the good energy of the group. Diehnelt said there was more than a difference in generations, but also a difference in the individual styles of the performers.

“It’s a safe space, no matter the age, people are able to ask each other for help,” she said.

Maggie Bartley, a 72-year-old cellist, has been playing the cello for 20 years. Even with so much experience, she still finds joy in playing with the group. The focus is beyond learning and succeeding at their instruments — Bartley spoke about the community they have formed within the CSOA.

“I was town supervisor in Elizabethtown for two years … I have no idea what the politics of the people here are … It brings us together, it’s very unifying,” she said.

The group is excited for their performance this coming Thursday, and members said they can’t wait to show just how much they appreciate all that Baker has done for them.


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