PHS Chamber Orchestra returns from NYC's Lincoln Center with a trophy

The Pittsfield High School Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Alla Zernitskaya, achieved its dream on Friday of playing at New York City's Lincoln Center for the National Orchestra Cup.

PITTSFIELD >> After months of early morning rehearsals, practicing and fundraising, 20 members of the Pittsfield High School Chamber Orchestra finally made it to the Lincoln Center stage in New York City this past Friday.

Their musicianship earned the ensemble distinctions of first runner up and "Most Original Song Choice" in the national Orchestra Cup championship competition.

PHS Orchestra Conductor Alla Zernitskaya received back in the fall an invitation for the orchestra to compete in the Orchestra Cup program. The catch was that the program fees, accommodations for a four-day and three-night stay, meals and group festivities was priced at $750 per participant.

While some students can afford their own cellos, violins and violas, others are furnished instruments by the school to support their practice. A trip such as this was not in the music department's budget.

So, the students did it themselves, immediately setting up a crowdfunding webpage, which raised nearly $5,500. They also did "dine to donate" and concert benefits to raise additional funds, in addition to what the teenagers and families paid out of their own pockets.

Together, the group and their chaperones took the train to the city and mingled with orchestras as large as 200 students, from the West Coast, Mississippi and New York.

On competition day, the PHS Orchestra members dressed in black and wore purple ties, hair bows and other accessories representing their school colors. The song that won the ensemble its award was composer Frank Bridge's "Three Idylls" arrangement for string orchestra by Lukas Drew, a piece once recorded by the Moscow Chamber Orchestra.

Pittsfield School Committee member Cynthia "Cindy" Taylor attended the program and raved about the performance. In an email from New York City, she wrote to The Eagle, "What our orchestra did today, with Alla as their teacher, was nothing less than miraculous. The twenty students made our city proud. It was a day I'll never forget. They also raised the money to get here themselves with communitywide support. What a gift. ... The quality of their playing was there and they played with such heart and expertise!"