MC Orchestra Brings Elegance and a Bit of Christmas Cheer to Campus 

By Karen Flores, Asst. Features Editor

Musicians wishing to serenade the campus community from Mozart to Christmas carols, or even students who want to hear some music after a stressful semester, should look out for the Manhattan College orchestra. 

An ensemble formed by string, brass and woodwind musicians, the MC orchestra meets on Monday nights from 7p.m. to 9p.m. in the Chapel of de La Salle and performs a concert at the end of each semester. New members are welcome at the beginning of every semester. 

Orchestra director Gwendolyn Toth, Ph.D, told The Quadrangle about the repertoire the orchestra and string ensemble have been working on throughout the semester. 

“We have two pieces for the string section. One is ‘The Sonata No.5’ by Handel which has a solo violin part that our concertmaster, George Lee, is playing,” Toth said. “The second piece is called ‘Palladio’… The orchestra’s main piece is Mozart’s quintet in C minor. We’re playing an arrangement where both strings and winds play together. One of the movements has a solo being played by our principal clarinet player, Amaya Hill. The last piece that the orchestra is playing is a set of miniature pieces named ‘The Romanian Dances’ by Bela Bartok.” 

Ava Cruz, junior biology major, is vice president of the orchestra and is a violinist. She says that the violin has been a significant part of her life and the orchestra has been a way for her to keep it in her life as well as share her passion with other musicians. 

“I have been playing violin since I was five,” Cruz said. “I can’t really remember a time where I wasn’t playing it and my family is also very musical. My grandfather was a physician but he also was a really good pianist. Being in the orchestra is a way for me to connect with him and stuff. I’ve always enjoyed music and it’s something that brings me peace and calmness, especially with taking on such a stressful major.” 

Grace Dillon, sophomore digital media arts major, is a piccolo and flute player in the orchestra. She is also the social media manager and secretary of the group. 

Dillon explained that being  in the orchestra allows her to take a break from academics and helps her relax after a stressful day. 

“It’s kind of like a little break from whatever stressful work might be going on or anything else,” Dillon said. “It’s like, I have these two hours for the orchestra and I can just fully immerse myself in the music.”

Manhattan College offers a performing arts scholarship to incoming freshmen and according to the MC website, scholarship recipients must enroll in two performing arts ensembles as one of the criterias.  

Richard Divirgilio, a senior double major in psychology and sociology, is a french horn player for the MC orchestra. He received the performing arts scholarship and was involved in the pep band and the Manhattan College Singers. He auditioned for the orchestra separately and was able to transfer his scholarship over. 

“I come from an area where most of the schools had bands and orchestras,” said Divirgilio. “I’m normally used to playing with winds, other brass instruments, and percussion. I only really played with orchestras in an honors band or in an all state band. Coming here, it was definitely a different experience for me because I essentially represent the whole brass section for the group. I feel like I’m playing a solo every time and it’s a good challenge that I think helps me grow as a musician and forces me to really stay on top of my craft.” 

Divirgilio believes that the orchestra is a great place to meet new people and hopes to see the number of members grow within the group. 

“I think it’s a really great way to meet people and to do something outside of school and to stay involved on campus. I would love to see more numbers in general. We’re a relatively small ensemble, but I would love to see more wind and string players and maybe a greater variety of instruments,” said Divirgilio. 

Amaya Hill, a freshman pre-physical therapy major, plays the clarinet for the orchestra. She said she has enjoyed her first semester in the group and that the members and directors are very helpful when she has questions or needs help. 

“I mean, they’re super helpful and are always there for you if you have questions. They always try to help you out and just always make it a good time,” said Hill. 

Toth encourages all students interested in creating music to join and those who wish to listen to classical music to support their peers at concerts. The orchestra is performing at their Fall concert on Sunday Nov. 20th at 4:00 pm.

“It’s a great chance to hear classical music, live and free, and it’s also a great chance for students to support their fellow peers who work really hard to play this music,” Toth said. “The kids work really hard to pull it off. And we’re always looking for more players for the orchestra. Come, listen to some live instrumental music and really listen to it. The rewards are so great.”