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South Shore orchestra changing vision, name

By Paul E. Kandarian
Globe Staff / November 27, 2011
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The nonprofit Neponset Valley Philharmonic Orchestra is changing its name and vision.

The orchestra, which formed in June 2007, is largely taking a break from public performances this season while it becomes New England’s first professional training orchestra, said Sharon resident Susan Epstein, chairwoman of its board of directors.

To facilitate the transition, with the orchestra’s new name yet to be chosen, the board will be doubled to 20 members, and the ensemble will offer a series of chamber concerts in private homes to raise money for its operation, Epstein said.

The organization’s five-year plan includes raising $1.4 million, with $200,000 already in hand, said Lawrence Isaacson (inset), the orchestra’s music director. The operating cost for a full season will be $437,000, which is in line with many orchestras of similar size around the country, he said.

In addition to being the only training orchestra in New England, the Neponset Valley ensemble would be only the fourth in the country, he said. The others are the New World Symphony in Florida, Civic Orchestra of Chicago, and Symphony in C in New Jersey.

The 65-member orchestra will be adding training opportunities and seminars for musicians seeking a professional career after college. A regular concert schedule will resume next fall, Isaacson said, with four concerts in Boston and four on the South Shore, in addition to chamber concerts in primary and secondary schools.

The reason for the change, he said, is that “ticket sales and fund-raising were flat for the past three years. There was no way we could survive doing what we were doing, so we had to look at other options, one of which was going out of business.’’

The board decided on the training concept, providing professional-level instruction that will give its members an advantage in continuing their musical careers, Isaacson said.

“Musicians have very few places to play that are better than their college experience. Many begin a slow slide downwards after college and often end up leaving the field by the time they’re 30, if not before,’’ he said.

By providing training and a place to play, he said, “they will have a fighting chance at making a successful run at what is admittedly already a very difficult field to enter. Similar to medical and legal interns, most music-school grads aren’t quite ready for their first job. They need a bit of extra time to mature as musicians.’’

The advanced training of orchestra members will happen through clinics, master classes, and mock auditions, he said.

The private chamber parties, reservations for which are being accepted, will feature four to six musicians performing in homes for groups of friends, with the musicians later chatting up the cause for the orchestra and talking about music with aficionados, Isaacson said.

“By training the next generation of performers to be the best performers that they can be, and keeping them in the Boston community,’’ Isaacson said, “we are improving the quality of life for the musicians and community alike.’’

The orchestra does have one public concert lined up, as part of the Tri-Town Chamber of Commerce’s “Holiday Gala of Giving’’ on Dec. 8 in Mansfield. The fund-raiser takes place from 5 to 7 p.m. at the chamber’s office, Suite L 100 in the Mansfield Crossing mall at 280 School St.; tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the event. For details, call 508-339-5655 or e-mail

For more on the organization, and to suggest a new name or book private chamber performances, visit or call 781-381-3300.

HONORING SISTER’S FIGHT: The Dennison Lubricants golf tournament in Lakeville this year raised nearly $22,000 for the Greater New England chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and has raised more than $50,000 since its inception.

Lakeville residents Tim and Karen Dennison, owners of the company, started using its annual golf tourney as a fund-raiser in memory of Brenda Cobb Williams, Karen’s sister, who battled multiple sclerosis for 20 years, after her death in 2007.

While Williams was alive, members of her family, including her two children, Champ and April, and her three sisters, participated in an annual walk in Plymouth to benefit multiple sclerosis research and advocacy as “Brenda’s Angels.’’

More than 100 golfers turned out for this year’s charity classic, which was held at the Poquoy Brook Golf Club in Lakeville.

FULBRIGHT IN WALPOLE: Andrew Giandomenico (inset) of Walpole is teaching English in the Slovak Republic this school year with the help of a Fulbright Scholar Grant.

Giandomenico graduated from Colgate University last spring, earning a degree in English with a focus on creative writing, and a minor in film and media studies.

He is a teaching assistant at Gymnasium Andreja Kmeta, a high school in Banská Stiavnica, a community in south-central Slovakia. Fulbright recipients are chosen on the basis of academic or professional achievement as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields.

Paul E. Kandarian can be reached at Kandarian@

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