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Performance Kicks Off 2011-2012 Philharmonia Season

Performance Kicks Off 2011-2012 Philharmonia Season

Posted: November 21, 2011

When violist Rebecca Dreher glides bow against strings during Buffalo State College Philharmonia’s first performance of the season, Tuesday, November 22, she’ll enter a realm worlds apart from her day job attending to trauma and illness as an emergency room doctor.

Dreher, who is in her final year of residency with the emergency departments at Buffalo General Hospital and Erie County Medical Center, joined the Philharmonia in January 2010 following stints with the Syracuse Symphony Youth Orchestra and the Syracuse University Symphony Orchestra.

“I have always enjoyed playing music as an outlet from school or work, but I think performing and practicing emergency medicine are similar in many ways, Dreher said. "Each has helped me with the other. Additionally, after having dealt with many medical emergencies, I don’t have much anxiety about performing a well-rehearsed concert on stage.”

Dreher is one of several musicians in this eclectic orchestra who have rich careers and backgrounds separate from the music that brings them together. The Philhamoronia begins its 2011-2012 season Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center of Rockwell Hall with a free concert titled, “Rare But Well Done,” featuring rarely performed compositions by famous and not-so-famous composers.

Look in the cello section for Sister Jeanette Schregel, who joined the Philharmonia after retiring two years ago from Sisters of Saint Mary Convent, and in the viola section for Molly Regan, who works as an audio engineer for Fisher-Price Toys where she records and edits voice talent, designs sounds effects, and composes original lullabies for baby soothers, racing songs for interactive toys, and short musical ditties for various play sets.

 “That is what’s so extraordinary. They are gifted at their other jobs and also gifted as players,” said Paul Ferington, lecturer of music and director of the Philharmonia. “It’s a win-win for everyone.”

In 2009, Buffalo State hired Ferington, who also is serving in his 27th year on the conducting staff of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, to lead the Philharmonia as a way to build a string program. Along with faculty and  Buffalo State music and non-music majors, the Philharmonia is composed of Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra members, community musicians, local music educators, and even a couple of advanced high school students, all of whom are committed to performing the symphonic repertoire at a high level.

Every musician must audition and commit to weekly rehearsals for the one fall and two spring performances, which are free and open to the public. Only the principal players are paid.

 “It’s an unusual ensemble where college students can sit next to experience orchestra players,” Ferington said. “It’s a really positive experience for them.”

In a few cases, high school students, such as Kallan McMillan, also get to play next to professionals.  “The audition was really nerve-racking,” said McMillan, who auditioned and was accepted as a sophomore and is now a senior at Grand Island High School,. “I didn’t know if I was even close to being good enough to get in.”

Obviously she was, and the Philharmonia constantly challenges her to improve with its level of music and fellow musicians. “Someday, I would love to be that good,” she said of the other bassoonists.

The blended orchestra has proven beneficial for professional musicians as well.

 “I have wind players with master’s degrees with their instruments who are superstar performers and have been asked to sub with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra,” Ferington said. “I’m so thrilled that we are helping to link some of our players who are so competent with a major orchestra right down the street.”

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