MusicaNova delights, inspires young and old alike - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

MusicaNova delights, inspires young and old alike

September 5th, 2019 development
MusicaNova delights, inspires young and old alike

By Coty Dolores Miranda

If you haven’t scheduled orchestral concerts on your fall/winter calendar, you might consider doing so with the Ahwatukee-based MusicaNova.

This is not your usual orchestra, whose motto is “We Play the Greatest Music You Haven’t Heard — Yet.”

And they prove it.

Case in point is their opening matinee concert Oct. 20 at Phoenix’s Musical Instrument Museum.

Titled “Beethoven to Tap Shoes,” it includes a tap dance concerto by Morton Gould performed by Jenefer Miller, a Desert Vista High School teacher and nationally-renowned tap dance performer and instructor.

“MusicaNova Orchestra introduces new, neglected and traditional music, along with some of the finest new artists, giving you the greatest musical experience you’ve never had — yet,” said MNO president/CEO Robert Altizer of Ahwatukee.

Alitzer, a 25-year Ahwatukee resident, said the MusicaNova Orchestra has achieved considerable respect for its unusual choices of music and strong commitment to encouraging young musicians.

Their annual Young Artists Concerts series features valley musicians 18 and younger performing in formal recital settings.

In addition, MNO aligns with area schools, providing visiting musicians and often joining orchestras.

The orchestra also is an artist-in-residence at Tempe High School, working with more than 150 student musicians in the orchestra program, and inviting scores of selected students to join the orchestra for two concert programs.

MusicaNova board member Jill Osbourne and viola player knows well how the orchestra impacts schools.

As the school’s Fine Arts Department head and orchestra director as well as Mariachi de Tempe instructor at Tempe High for nine years, she credits MusicaNova with the phenomenal growth of the school’s orchestral program.

“The program has grown 400 percent, and our success is partially due to the partnership with MusicaNova Orchestra,” Osbourne said. “Students have the opportunity to hear incredible music at two free community concerts each year; and in the second half of the concert, students join the professionals on the stage.”

The first such concert is Oct. 22.

“The partnership also includes opportunities for students to learn from professionals when they visit the orchestra class and share their expertise during rehearsals. My students are inspired by the incredible musicianship of the orchestra and by the kindness of the musicians,” said Osbourne, an educator for 36 years.

“By encouraging youth to enjoy music we are helping to keep a great musical tradition moving forward,” she added.

MusicaNova also partners with Connolly Middle School, where Chandler resident and school orchestra director Dorene Pool is herself an MNO musician who plays a variety of stringed instruments. She has played viola with MusicaNova for seven years.

A retired Mesa Public Schools orchestra teacher who still substitute teaches in the field, Pool said she is torn when deciding what she values most about MusicaNova.

“It’s difficult to choose just one thing that I most appreciate about MusicaNova,” she explained. “The new and neglected music we perform is certainly an important contribution to our society, but if forced to choose, I’d say bringing music into the lives and schools of young people who might otherwise have no such exposure has an even more profound and long-lasting impact” she said.

“We need organizations like MusicaNova so that our communities may experience the myriad of wonders that music can communicate, and especially so during these turbulent times.”

Peter Carlson, an MusicaNova board member and 17-year Ahwatukee resident, recalled how his early exposure to and love of music affected his life.

“When I was 5 or so, I’d get up early, turn on the record player and ‘conduct’ Tchaikovsky. A few years after my wife and I moved to Ahwatukee, I had the winning bid at a MusicaNova fundraiser, and got the opportunity to conduct a real orchestra,” he said, adding:

“It’s a lot harder than it looks — giving cues to the orchestral groups ahead of their entrance beat with one hand while keeping time, showing volume and shaping the music with the other.”

Carlson praised “our phenomenal music director,” Warren Cohen, also principal conductor.

“He gave me lessons and pointers, we marked up the score together, and I practiced for weeks with a CD. I guess the piece went over well because I was asked to join the board a few weeks later,” Carlson said.

He added that  “the classical war horses are great” but likes that MusicaNova plays music other orchestras don’t.

“Experiencing powerful new things keeps us all young,” said Carlson.

Former Tempe High School orchestra member Diana Gomez, now a freshman at ASU, said playing alongside the MusicaNova professional musicians as a student was empowering.

“Working with MusicaNova was such an inspiring experience for me,” Diana said. “The first time I played in the orchestra, I was intimidated, as I was only a high school student who wasn’t as experienced as the other players.”

Gomez, who earned a full-ride scholarship to Arizona State University partly on her musical abilities, recalled:

“The more I performed with the orchestra, I became less nervous and realized the amazing talent around me wasn’t something I should be afraid of, but rather it gave me a goal to work toward.”

Siara Habtewolde Lauro, a violinist with the Tempe High orchestra, recounted how MusicaNova put her in touch with new music.

“Although it’s rather hard, it’s also reassuring to have these professional musicians playing with me and leading me throughout the pieces,” said the high school junior.

“My experience with MusicaNova has been nothing but amazing I am grateful with our partnership with them and being able to participate with people who love playing music like I do,” Siara said.

As a MusicaNova board member since 2011 and board president for the past five years, Altizer is passionate about not only the unique music opportunities the orchestra brings to the public, but the educational aspect of their mission.

“Our artistic success helps us get involved in the community, and our dedication to young artists is unmatched,” he said.

“Our Young Artist Concerts series in Phoenix spotlights amazingly talented musicians under 18, many from the East Valley,” he added. “And our educational outreach and collaboration program works with local schools and other partners in underserved areas, through campus visits and hands-on workshops.”

He noted that “we frequently invite outstanding student-musicians to play with the professional orchestra at regular performances.”

“We’re educational partners with many schools, and with Harmony Project-Phoenix, doing outreach visits — assemblies, workshops and collaborative performances,” said Altizer, who became acquainted with MusicaNova when he auditioned and was hired by Director Warren Cohen in 2002 as bass soloist for Handel’s Messiah.

“Then when MNO was formed in 2003, I started attending concerts and occasionally performing with them,” he said.

For more information on the orchestra, their 2019-2020 concerts and their educational outreach see