I have been playing the flute since I was 9 years old. I
first took lessons in grammar school, and had my first private lesson when I
was 11 years old. I belonged to the local band and orchestra in Grammar
School and at Jonathan Dayton High School, where I graduated in 1973. I then
went to Glassboro State College, now Rowan University, but dropped out in
1975. I didn't get back into music till 1980, where I enrolled at Kean
University. I graduated with my BA in music in
1982, and a music certification to teach music
But it was very hard to find a job in the music field, so
I went back to doing bookkeeping jobs. In 1993, I joined the Union Municipal
Band which is an amateur group of mostly adult players. Then I joined the
New Jersey Intergenerational Orchestra in 1996, when
flutes where allowed to play the string parts. About four years ago we
became a full symphony and now have many woodwinds and brass instruments in
the orchestra. It really is interesting how much the group has grown.
I also play with Joe Gluck and Mary Barbiarz's Chamber
Music String Workshop.
Even though I play the flute, I can always play the first
violin part if I can't find a piece with flute. I have been with that group
I just lost my husband William Leavitt, who passed away
this summer. We were married 29 years. He was 59 years old. I am so glad to
have my music groups to look forward to in the fall. All three groups give
me much comfort and solace.
The NJIO is a very rewarding group to play with. It is
very interesting to play with senior citizens, children and every generation
in between while we make beautiful music together. This is a very unique
experience, musically and personally.
Joe Gluck is a wonderful director. We are very lucky to
have someone of his caliber as our conductor. I hope he is with us for many
years to come.
I think playing my flute or any instrument, for that
matter, is a wonderful hobby. I hope everyone has such a rewarding place as
NJIO to play their instrument. I am looking forward to the fall 2008
—ELLEN LEAVITT (Summer, 2008)
My musical experience began at
age 7 when my father taught me the mandolin. A year later he bought me a
violin thinking it would be nice if we could play mandolin-violin duets. I
started private lessons and became concertmistress of my grade school
orchestra in Springfield. During my four years of high school, I played in
the NJ All State Orchestra as well as the South Orange Symphony. Then, upon
my high school graduation, I quit! I recall my violin teacher saying that
someday I would regret that decision but, at age 17, I was convinced I had
My violin stayed in its case unopened for 40+ years until
my daughter’s father-in-law, who was in the final stages of battling cancer,
implored me to “pick up the violin again.” His words echoed the same
sentiments that my own father had expressed many times before he passed
away. To honor both their memories, one day in late 2002, I “picked up my
violin” and started playing. While it felt good to be back, I also had a
strong desire to play with others in an orchestra or ensemble but wondered
if I’d ever find a place where I could fit in after all these years.
In the spring of 2003, a friend told me about an
“intergenerational” orchestra based in Cranford. She had been to a few of
their concerts and thought I should look into joining. I followed up by
calling the conductor, Lorraine Marks, who persuaded me to come to the next
rehearsal. I recall walking into the rehearsal room that following Thursday
with feelings of great trepidation. But those were quickly dissipated when I
was greeted with such warmth and friendliness. Not only did I find NJIO to
be a place where everyone is made to feel like part of a larger family but
also one where they can fit in regardless of performance level.
Thanks to NJIO, I am able to enjoy the experience of playing in an
orchestra with people of all ages and ability and also derive the personal
satisfaction of bringing music to others through my participation in their
Outreach Program. In addition to NJIO, I have attended several of the annual
Summer String Workshops at Monmouth College in West Long Branch, hosted by
the Simon Quartet. I also participate in the very popular monthly Chamber
Music Workshops hosted by the current NJIO conductor, Joe Gluck, and his
wife, Mary Barbiarz.
In retrospect, and with my violin teacher’s words still
echoing in my ear, I would not have quit at age 17 if I could do it over
again. But more importantly, I am deeply grateful for the opportunities that
the musical foundation of those early years is making possible for me today.
FOSTER (Spring, 2008)
Everyone else in the family was playing an
instrument—piano, clarinet, drums, guitar - and at age 40 I couldn’t even
read a note. I was a little bit jealous but figured the music genes had
passed me by. But I was encouraged to hear from a friend that he had
recently started playing violin for the first time in a parent-child program
in Westfield. I had always loved the sound of the cello, so I decided to
give it a shot. I called Shana Gaskill to arrange lessons and tried a 3
month instrument rental. Within weeks I was playing “Twinkle, Twinkle” and
was very proud of my new found skill.
The big breakthrough came when I began playing with a
small group in Westfield. I learned so much faster by playing with others.
Pulling the cello out at home after work became much more frequent -
motivated in part by the need to avoid embarrassment in the group rehearsal.
We even performed in public so that spurred me to practice even harder.
During our lessons, Shana told me about a new orchestra
that was forming for musicians of all ages and suggested that I give it a
try. I was very nervous at the thought of playing in an orchestra but I
found out that if I worked at it I could play most of the music. So I joined
NJIO and became a regular in the cello section, making some good friends in
NJIO’s founder moved to Florida after 10 years at the helm, a few of us got
together and decided that NJIO was too important to us and the community to
let it wither away. We worked hard to figure out how to keep it running.
Somehow the guy that couldn’t read a note a few years ago ended up as
president of an orchestra.Who would have believed it!
Seeing NJIO grow into what it is today has been a source of great
satisfaction for me— even though it has cut into my time for much
needed cello practice. When I think about NJIO’s future I know it
will never have a problem finding members because it is an
organization that fills a need across the spectrum of ages and
But I do
worry about finding the resources required to run an increasingly complex
organization. But with a core of people dedicated to helping NJIO because
they love what it does, NJIO will continue to grow and do even more in the
community. Please let us know if you want to help shape NJIO’s future.
I encourage anyone with an interest in starting an
instrument from scratch or picking up where they left off years ago to get
moving right now. Its never too late to start. You will open up a whole new
world for yourself—new challenges, new friends, and a lot of satisfaction.
CAMPELL, NJIO Treasurer (Fall, 2007)
The New Jersey Intergenerational Orchestra has added an
additional dimension to my life, and my playing skills have improved a great
deal over the years. It’s interesting to see how music can be a great
equalizer (or common denominator) between children and adults. Playing with
musicians who are at so many different levels is a wonderful learning
experience. I have also been impressed with the number of adults who have
more recently learned to play their instrument and the great pleasure and
pride we all feel as a group. I especially enjoy having my children and
grandchildren see their mother and grandmother perform and appreciating the
mixture of young and old(er). My only regret is not finding out about the
orchestra much sooner!
Although I’m the only one from my family to play in the New Jersey
Intergenerational Orchestra, music has truly been a “family affair” for me.
So a group that “bridges the generations through music” seems like a perfect
I started playing music in grade
school at the earliest age I could, fifth grade. But what to play? Flute?
Trombone? Saxophone? Bass drum? Although any number of instruments would
have been fun to try, I decided on the trumpet. After all, that’s what my
dad could play, and his brother and father could play instruments, too.
But as any student of music--or
their parents--can tell you, studying music brings you into a whole new
world of learning experiences. Basic school band and private instructors
came first. As I grew older and more experienced, all-state, jazz, football
and pep bands in high school were complemented by a pit orchestra experience
in my high school’s production of “The Princess and The Pea.” One year, my
mother put our house in her garden club’s holiday house tour, and I
serenaded the many guests who took in the floral styles of the ’70s. My
college playing experience was mostly in sports-related pep bands. I lived
in Oregon at the time, and enjoyed band trips to Washington State and to San
Meanwhile, my dad, who was born
in Switzerland, brought the family there several times to visit relatives.
How exciting it was for me to play in his hometown band, marching through
the local streets for a festival; and hearing my trumpet notes echo in the
towering halls of the huge stone church--more than 1,000 years old--in the
center of town.
After moving to New Jersey, my
trumpet fell silent for a few years while I worked the evening shift. As
soon as I landed a day job, however, I was playing again, first for a
concert band and a community orchestra in southern New Jersey, and now for
the New Jersey Intergenerational Orchestra as well as a Jersey Shore-based
As in other places I’ve lived and
played, performing with NJIO in the three-and-a-half years I’ve been a
member has brought a number of memorable experiences, including performing
on the plaza outside Lincoln Center and playing a couple of compositions
written by Peter Schickele at a reception featuring him at the orchestra’s
2005 gala. I was so happy that my parents and other family members could
attend that event.
Peter Schickele and Colette Doudin
I lost my father to cancer over a
year ago, and my mom lives in a senior facility, where her memory is fading
but her ability to remember the words and melodies from songs from her youth
remain remarkably sharp. I consider their efforts to give me a good musical
education one of the best gifts they ever gave me.
Playing in the NJIO gives me many
opportunities to see that musical gift—parents bringing their children for
rehearsals, and in several cases, playing themselves—being given again and
again. No matter what your age, music has a place for you. NJIO’s talented
musicians and staff are working hard to make sure that the gift of music
continues to be passed down in our community for many generations to come.
DOUDIN (Spring, 2005)
One evening at dinner our daughter Laura, a third grader at the time,
said out of the clear blue sky that she wanted to learn to play the cello.
She also said that the music teacher at her school offered to teach one of
the parents in a separate evening class. I decided to give it a try,
thinking it would be fun to play duets with my daughter. So we encouraged
her to take up the cello and I went to the evening group lessons.
There were about six
parents that participated in the free lessons. It progressed rather rapidly
for us parents. Unfortunately my daughter’s lessons were too boring for her
and she quit within 6 months. I, on the other hand, was enjoying the
experience and continued with the lessons. Then our teacher informed
everyone that we could now play in an orchestra. With only 9 months of
lessons I found it hard to believe that I could ever play in an orchestra
knowing only first position.
It was in the fall of
that year that a few of us in the cello class heard about a new orchestra
was forming in Cranford, The New Jersey Intergenerational Orchestra. It
sounded like the best way to see whether I could play in an orchestra. I
arrived that Thursday evening in early September along with 60 other
musicians of all ages and sat in the back of the cello section. Even the
easy pieces were challenging to me, but the experience was wonderful.
Hearing the sounds of all of those instruments was exciting. I felt that
with practice I could handle most of the music.
Now, 14 years later, I feel I have accomplished so much. I am comfortable
(after some practice) with all of the music that we play in the orchestra.
I now take private lessons to help me improve my technique. Fellow cellists
get together for sectionals and to play ensemble music. I also have a group
of friends that gets together regularly to play quartet music. It has been
a most rewarding experience and I look forward to many years of musical
—LEN AVDEY, NJIO