The White Plains Examiner

The New Westchester Symphony Orchestra to Hold Gala

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Screen shot of the New Westchester Symphony Orchestra with Benjamin Niemczyk conductor.
Screen shot of the New Westchester Symphony Orchestra with Benjamin Niemczyk conductor.

It’s been nearly a year and a half since the New Westchester Symphony Orchestra began in November 2011, the inspiration of Benjamin Niemczyk (conductor) and Belinda Kan (an adult-beginner bass player), who wanted to create an ensemble where instrumentalists of any age and ability could play the greatest works of music history in a supportive, non-competitive setting, free of the auditions and scrutiny of traditional orchestras.

On June 9 they will hold their first fundraising gala featuring members of the orchestra who will play well-known and traditional musical pieces.

In an interview with the founders last week, The White Plains Examiner discovered that true to their mission to provide a supportive environment for musicians, the orchestra has attracted many local players and has at least one of every instrument represented.

“We have a fair number of retirees and senior citizens in the group, explained Kan. “Our oldest payer is 85 and the youngest is 14 and still in high school.”

By keeping the requirements light, those musicians who have joined are playing for the sheer fun of it and for the love of the music itself.

The number of players has doubled in size since they debuted and after playing together for over a year, the quality of the performances has improved significantly.

As conductor, Niemczyk said he wanted to go deeper into the traditional symphonies and work with the unedited versions, to play the pieces as the old masters had written them.

It is a challenge to work with musicians who may not have picked up their instruments for decades, but Niemczyk has patience and the players have proven they have staying power are willing to “do the work.”

Niemczyk asks the orchestra members to play the notes as written, though he acknowledges that not all musicians can read sheet music and that “reading the music can be more than simply following written notes on a page.”

Musicians play with and learn from each other,” Niemczyk said.

As a pianist, Niemczyk recently decided to learn to play the violin, an experience he claims has given him a level of empathy for the musicians he works with. “It has been quite humbling,” he said. “I’ve learned that you really cannot take yourself too seriously.”

The orchestra was formed for the purpose of allowing people who want to play music to join with others and experience the music together in the moment. Both Kan and Niemczyk say the orchestra has matured and they are happy with the ongoing results.

One unexpected outcome has been the joining of a number of members who have terminal illnesses. “We have four members now who are terminally ill. They play for the sheer pleasure,” Niemczyk said. “This is something I had not expected, but it is a wonderful turn of events for everyone involved.”

The New Westchester Symphony Orchestra Gala will be held Sunday, June 9 at 3 p.m. at the Dobbs Ferry Woman’s Club, 54 Clinton Ave, Dobbs Ferry. Tickets are $25 (free for children under 12) at the door or online at

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