Our Stories

Ellen_LeavittEllen Leavitt

I have been playing the flute since I was 9 years old. I first took lessons in grammar school, and had my first private lesson when I was 11 years old. I belonged to the local band and orchestra in Grammar School and at Jonathan Dayton High School, where I graduated in 1973. I then went to Glassboro State College, now Rowan University, but dropped out in 1975. I didn’t get back into music till 1980, where I enrolled at Kean University. I graduated with my BA in music in 1982, and a music certification to teach music in 1985.

But it was very hard to find a job in the music field, so I went back to doing bookkeeping jobs. In 1993, I joined the Union Municipal Band which is an amateur group of mostly adult players. Then I joined the New Jersey Intergenerational Orchestra in 1996, when flutes where allowed to play the string parts. About four years ago we became a full symphony and now have many woodwinds and brass instruments in the orchestra. It really is interesting how much the group has grown.

I also play with Joe Gluck and Mary Barbiarz’s Chamber Music String Workshop. Even though I play the flute, I can always play the first violin part if I can’t find a piece with flute. I have been with that group since 2005.

I lost my husband, William Leavitt, the summer of 2008. We were married 29 years. He was 59 years old. I am so glad to have my music groups to look forward to in the fall. All three groups give me much comfort and solace.

The NJIO is a very rewarding group to play with. It is very interesting to play with senior citizens, children and every generation in between while we make beautiful music together. This is a very unique experience, musically and personally.

Joe Gluck is a wonderful director. We are very lucky to have someone of his caliber as our conductor. I hope he is with us for many years to come. I think playing my flute or any instrument, for that matter, is a wonderful hobby. I hope everyone has such a rewarding place as NJIO to play their instrument.

—ELLEN LEAVITT  (Summer, 2008)

Lorie_FosterLorie Foster

My musical experience began at age 7 when my father taught me the mandolin. A year later he bought me a violin thinking it would be nice if we could play mandolin-violin duets. I started private lessons and became concertmistress of my grade school orchestra in Springfield. During my four years of high school, I played in the NJ All State Orchestra as well as the South Orange Symphony. Then, upon my high school graduation, I quit! I recall my violin teacher saying that someday I would regret that decision but, at age 17, I was convinced I had other priorities.

My violin stayed in its case unopened for 40+ years until my daughter’s father-in-law, who was in the final stages of battling cancer, implored me to “pick up the violin again.” His words echoed the same sentiments that my own father had expressed many times before he passed away. To honor both their memories, one day in late 2002, I “picked up my violin” and started playing. While it felt good to be back, I also had a strong desire to play with others in an orchestra or ensemble but wondered if I’d ever find a place where I could fit in after all these years.

In the spring of 2003, a friend told me about an “intergenerational” orchestra based in Cranford. She had been to a few of their concerts and thought I should look into joining. I followed up by calling the conductor, Lorraine Marks, who persuaded me to come to the next rehearsal. I recall walking into the rehearsal room that following Thursday with feelings of great trepidation. But those were quickly dissipated when I was greeted with such warmth and friendliness. Not only did I find NJIO to be a place where everyone is made to feel like part of a larger family but also one where they can fit in regardless of performance level.

Thanks to NJIO, I am able to enjoy the experience of playing in an orchestra with people of all ages and ability and also derive the personal satisfaction of bringing music to others through my participation in their Outreach Program. In addition to NJIO, I have attended several of the annual Summer String Workshops at Monmouth College in West Long Branch, hosted by the Simon Quartet. I also participate in the very popular monthly Chamber Music Workshops hosted by the current NJIO conductor, Joe Gluck, and his wife, Mary Barbiarz.

In retrospect, and with my violin teacher’s words still echoing in my ear, I would not have quit at age 17 if I could do it over again. But more importantly, I am deeply grateful for the opportunities that the musical foundation of those early years is making possible for me today.

—LORIE FOSTER  (Spring, 2008)

Alan_CampbellAlan Campell

Everyone else in the family was playing an instrument—piano, clarinet, drums, guitar – and at age 40 I couldn’t even read a note. I was a little bit jealous but figured the music genes had passed me by. But I was encouraged to hear from a friend that he had recently started playing violin for the first time in a parent-child program in Westfield. I had always loved the sound of the cello, so I decided to give it a shot. I called Shana Gaskill to arrange lessons and tried a 3 month instrument rental. Within weeks I was playing “Twinkle, Twinkle” and was very proud of my new found skill.

The big breakthrough came when I began playing with a small group in Westfield. I learned so much faster by playing with others. Pulling the cello out at home after work became much more frequent – motivated in part by the need to avoid embarrassment in the group rehearsal. We even performed in public so that spurred me to practice even harder.

During our lessons, Shana told me about a new orchestra that was forming for musicians of all ages and suggested that I give it a try. I was very nervous at the thought of playing in an orchestra but I found out that if I worked at it I could play most of the music. So I joined NJIO and became a regular in the cello section, making some good friends in the process.

When NJIO’s founder moved to Florida after 10 years at the helm, a few of us got together and decided that NJIO was too important to us and the community to let it wither away. We worked hard to figure out how to keep it running. Somehow the guy that couldn’t read a note a few years ago ended up as president of an orchestra.Who would have believed it!

Seeing NJIO grow into what it is today has been a source of great satisfaction for me— even though it has cut into my time for much needed cello practice. When I think about NJIO’s future I know it will never have a problem finding members because it is an organization that fills a need across the spectrum of ages and musical abilities.
But I do worry about finding the resources required to run an increasingly complex organization. But with a core of people dedicated to helping NJIO because they love what it does, NJIO will continue to grow and do even more in the community. Please let us know if you want to help shape NJIO’s future.

I encourage anyone with an interest in starting an instrument from scratch or picking up where they left off years ago to get moving right now. Its never too late to start. You will open up a whole new world for yourself—new challenges, new friends, and a lot of satisfaction.

—ALAN CAMPELL, NJIO Treasurer  (Fall, 2007)

Muriel_EagleMuriel Eagle

The New Jersey Intergenerational Orchestra has added an additional dimension to my life, and my playing skills have improved a great deal over the years. It’s interesting to see how music can be a great equalizer (or common denominator) between children and adults. Playing with musicians who are at so many different levels is a wonderful learning experience. I have also been impressed with the number of adults who have more recently learned to play their instrument and the great pleasure and pride we all feel as a group. I especially enjoy having my children and grandchildren see their mother and grandmother perform and appreciating the mixture of young and old(er). My only regret is not finding out about the orchestra much sooner!

—MURIEL EAGLE  (Winter, 2006)

Peter_Schickele-and-Colette_DoudinColette Doudin

Although I’m the only one from my family to play in the New Jersey Intergenerational Orchestra, music has truly been a “family affair” for me. So a group that “bridges the generations through music” seems like a perfect fit.

I started playing music in grade school at the earliest age I could, fifth grade. But what to play? Flute? Trombone? Saxophone? Bass drum? Although any number of instruments would have been fun to try, I decided on the trumpet. After all, that’s what my dad could play, and his brother and father could play instruments, too.

But as any student of music–or their parents–can tell you, studying music brings you into a whole new world of learning experiences. Basic school band and private instructors came first. As I grew older and more experienced, all-state, jazz, football and pep bands in high school were complemented by a pit orchestra experience in my high school’s production of “The Princess and The Pea.” One year, my mother put our house in her garden club’s holiday house tour, and I serenaded the many guests who took in the floral styles of the ’70s. My college playing experience was mostly in sports-related pep bands. I lived in Oregon at the time, and enjoyed band trips to Washington State and to San Francisco.

Meanwhile, my dad, who was born in Switzerland, brought the family there several times to visit relatives. How exciting it was for me to play in his hometown band, marching through the local streets for a festival; and hearing my trumpet notes echo in the towering halls of the huge stone church–more than 1,000 years old–in the center of town.

After moving to New Jersey, my trumpet fell silent for a few years while I worked the evening shift. As soon as I landed a day job, however, I was playing again, first for a concert band and a community orchestra in southern New Jersey, and now for the New Jersey Intergenerational Orchestra as well as a Jersey Shore-based concert band.

As in other places I’ve lived and played, performing with NJIO in the three-and-a-half years I’ve been a member has brought a number of memorable experiences, including performing on the plaza outside Lincoln Center and playing a couple of compositions written by Peter Schickele at a reception featuring him at the orchestra’s 2005 gala. I was so happy that my parents and other family members could attend that event.

I lost my father to cancer over a year ago, and my mom lives in a senior facility, where her memory is fading but her ability to remember the words and melodies from songs from her youth remain remarkably sharp. I consider their efforts to give me a good musical education one of the best gifts they ever gave me.

Playing in the NJIO gives me many opportunities to see that musical gift—parents bringing their children for rehearsals, and in several cases, playing themselves—being given again and again. No matter what your age, music has a place for you. NJIO’s talented musicians and staff are working hard to make sure that the gift of music continues to be passed down in our community for many generations to come.

—COLETTE DOUDIN  (Spring, 2005)

Len_AvdeyLen Avdey

One evening at dinner our daughter Laura, a third grader at the time, said out of the clear blue sky that she wanted to learn to play the cello.  She also said that the music teacher at her school offered to teach one of the parents in a separate evening class.  I decided to give it a try, thinking it would be fun to play duets with my daughter.  So we encouraged her to take up the cello and I went to the evening group lessons.

There were about six parents that participated in the free lessons.  It progressed rather rapidly for us parents.  Unfortunately my daughter’s lessons were too boring for her and she quit within 6 months.  I, on the other hand, was enjoying the experience and continued with the lessons.  Then our teacher informed everyone that we could now play in an orchestra.  With only 9 months of lessons I found it hard to believe that I could ever play in an orchestra knowing only first position.

It was in the fall of that year that a few of us in the cello class heard about a new orchestra was forming in Cranford, The New Jersey Intergenerational Orchestra.  It sounded like the best way to see whether I could play in an orchestra.  I arrived that Thursday evening in early September along with 60 other musicians of all ages and sat in the back of the cello section.  Even the easy pieces were challenging to me, but the experience was wonderful.  Hearing the sounds of all of those instruments was exciting.  I felt that with practice I could handle most of the music.

Now, 14 years later, I feel I have accomplished so much.  I am comfortable (after some practice) with all of the music that we play in the orchestra.  I now take private lessons to help me improve my technique.  Fellow cellists get together for sectionals and to play ensemble music. I also have a group of friends that gets together regularly to play quartet music.  It has been a most rewarding experience and I look forward to many years of musical enjoyment.

—LEN AVDEY, NJIO Vice-President (2008)