Westchester’s increasingly popular no-audition-required musical group, or RTO, is poised to enter 2012 with a new conductor, new repertoire and a group that is ever-growing.
The RTO welcomes conductor Nathaniel Chase to its team this January. Though the orchestra is meant for musicians who haven’t played in a while, Chase is far from out of practice. He holds bachelors and masters degrees in double-bass performance from the New England Conservatory of Music and Yale University, respectively, and has achieved international acclaim playing in the Lucerne Festival Academy in Switzerland and the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival in Germany.
“I was drawn to the RTO because I really love making music, so I love being around people who love making music too,” Chase said. “That’s exactly what the RTO is; a lot of people who love music, love playing it, love learning about it and love listening to it. That’s just the sort of person I want to be around.”
With Chase’s guidance, the orchestra enters its third year ready to tackle a new challenge: Instead of playing classical music rewritten for the high school level, the RTO has chosen to play original scores, in addition to some show music and medleys of popular tunes.
The Really Terrible Dixieland Jazz Band, an arm of the RTO, has also been busy. Their recent trail of activity includes a performance at the Ardsley firehouse for an audience of more than 80 people and a feature on a Scarsdale TV program.
Much like the RTO, the Jazz Band enjoys its growing membership. “I had been trying for years and years to get a Dixieland ensemble started here in Westchester,” said Norm Weiss, the band’s leader. “We started with a banjo, clarinet and an accordion; I couldn’t have imagined it would expand beyond that. We realized happily that, with a little publicity, there were people out there who were interested.”
The jazz band and orchestra are always welcoming new members. They enjoy their status as a community institution and feel like a little community themselves. “We’re a very happy group,” said Barbara Rosenthal, the orchestra's founder, ”A happy family.”
Chase shares the same sentiment, and encourages anyone interested to join in on the fun. “I want to get the word out to every person in Westchester who plays an instrument, wants to play in an orchestra and doesn’t feel like they’re good enough to play in one, that they can come to an RTO rehearsal, have a great time and realize they’re able to do a lot more than they thought,” Chase said.