PITTSFIELD — Can the Pittsfield High School Chamber Orchestra go from performing the Berkshire Athenaeum on Tuesday to New York City's Lincoln Center by spring?

It's a real possibility, but the students are looking for community support to help them get there.

Alla Zernitskaya, the orchestra director for PHS and Herberg Middle School, said she received earlier this fall an invitation from the Orchestra Cup program, which hosts a national school orchestra championship performance program annually in Lincoln Center.

She announced the opportunity to the group with some hesitance regarding the orchestra's size, the amount of rehearsal required and also associated cost of getting 22 high school students plus chaperones to New York City.

"I asked them what they thought and they immediately said, "Alla, we'll do it! We'll practice so hard,' " Zernitskaya said.

Promptly after the announcement, one student, junior Myles O'Brien, left the classroom. A class period later, the orchestra director received an email from the school's principal — O'Brien had begun an appeal to the school for its support.

"Myles was a moving vehicle to getting things going," Zernitskaya said. "The other kids and parents were also committed. I was excited by their enthusiasm."

O'Brien told The Eagle before a Monday morning rehearsal that the Orchestra Cup presents "a once in a lifetime opportunity" for him and his classmates. "It looks good on a college resume too. I really think it will be a really fantastic experience that could pay dividends for us in the future."


Parent Tammy Cracolici, whose son Joseph, a freshman and a cellist, plays in the orchestra, said the students are just as disciplined as their athletic counterparts, and some are also sports players.

A core group of 11 students arrive to the school each day to begin rehearsal at 6:30 a.m., on top of the group's scheduled daily meeting time. The orchestra includes violin, viola, cello and bass players across all grades, some who have been training with Zernitskaya since Herberg; others began playing instruments at an even younger age.

"It's a commitment, but the kids and parents are fully behind it," Cracolici said.

Zernitskaya noted that the students are also exceptionally skilled. Nine of the orchestra's members qualified in the senior district auditions on Saturday for the Western District Festival of the Massachusetts Music Educators Association.

The cost of the trip is about $750, with the most of the group's registration fee being supported by the group's appearance at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the city library's auditorium, which is sponsored by the Friends of the Berkshire Athenaeum.

Pittsfield High School orchestra student rehearse Monday morning. The students will perform a concert Tuesday night at the Berkshire Athenaeum, and are
Pittsfield High School orchestra student rehearse Monday morning. The students will perform a concert Tuesday night at the Berkshire Athenaeum, and are preparing to play a competition concert in New York City's Lincoln Center in March. (Jenn Smith — The Berkshire Eagle)

The performance will be representative of the orchestra's range and repertoire. The program spans the 18th through 21st centuries, including works by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, Vivaldi, and contemporary pieces like "Lyric Metal: Legend of the Phantom Pirates" by Brian Balmages and Movement No. 1 of "Palladio" by Karl Jenkins.

How to help ...

Donations can be made to the PHS Orchestra Student Activities Fund online via gofundme.com/g572rc4k. More information and upcoming shows will be posted at facebook.com/PittsfieldHSOrchestra. Director Alla Zernitskaya can be reached at azernitskaya@pittsfield.net or 413-499-9535.