A History of the Metropolitan Orchestra of New Jersey

The Metropolitan Orchestra of New Jersey was formed in 1972 as the "Y" Chamber Orchestra by the Music Committee of the institution that is now known as the Jewish Community Center of West Orange. It was conceived as a musical resource for amateur musicians to be able to play together and to add to the musical programs for the public at that community center. The first conductor was James Sadewhite, who remained for three years and, sadly, recently passed away.

Since that time, we have had several outstanding conductors, including Gerard Schwartz (1977), Brad Keimach (1977-1980), Gabriel Banat, a member of the violin section of the NY Philharmonic (1984) and Amy Larkey-Emelianoff (1985-1989). Camilla Kolchinsky was conductor during 1990, followed by Gary Fagin (1991-1998). Other conductors include Ariel Rudiakov, Yuval Waldman and Michael Stratechuk, our present conductor since 2003. Each of these talented musicians has left a mark of professional discipline and musicianship on the orchestra, and their contributions are gratefully acknowledged.

Our concerts have consisted primarily of the classical genre, but we have tried to present music for popular, family and children's tastes. Today's concert contains perennial classical favorites.

Numerous well known and prestigious soloists have appeared with this orchestra, including Carmit Zori, violin; Paul Tobias, cello; Ann Lieberson, violin (concertmaster, 1977); Peter Winograd, violin; Philip Myers, horn, in two appearances, and Philip Smith, trumpet, both principals at the New York Philharmonic; Pegeen Fitzgerald, narrator; Guillermo Figueroa, violin; Joseph Kalichstein, piano; Andre Emelianoff, cello; Yuval Waldman, violin; Ariel Rudiakov, viola; and Maxim Anikushin, piano.

The Liberti family contributed to the musical quality of our organization, with Thomas Liberti, cello, of the New York Philharmonic, playing horn with us. His wife, Pearl, was first violist, his brother, Dr. Dante, was in the first violin section, Paul Liberti played horn and Frank Liberti played trumpet with this orchestra.

Two prominent local physicians who played with this organization were Dr. Eugene Parsonnet and Dr. John Winslow, whose memories we hold dear for their contributions to this orchestra. We also remember Robert Cahn, violin, our past president and generous contributor to the orchestra.

There are three members who have been in the Orchestra since its inception: Rose Feldman (violin) and Bertram Levinstone, MD (clarinet), who are still playing, and Eleanor Kostant (viola), who has recently retired. We are proud of their contributions and long association with the orchestra.

Over the summer of 2009, the executive committee of the orchestra decided to seek a wider audience and greater sponsorship. This resulted in the decision to relocate from West Orange to Millburn-Short Hills. The orchestra was greeted warmly by the local community with an over-capacity crowd at our first concert. Since that time, we have held concerts at the Community Congregational Church, the Hartshorn School, Millburn Middle School and at Millburn High School with the goal of improving the quality of our presentations.

Recent History

Over the summer of 2014, the executive committee of the orchestra decided to affiliate with The Adult School of the Chathams, Madison and Florham Park. As a result, the orchestra is now able to rehearse in the state-of-the-art Chatham Middle School band room. Not only is the space more suitable for our needs, but it has enabled us to attract a number of new players.

Additionally, our Adult School affiliation has provided us with a new performance venue that offers a host of amenities to concert-goers, such as improved accessibility, convenience and comfort for our audience, while being more available and beneficial for our organization. Thus, as shown on this program's inside front cover, our 2015 Winter and Spring concerts will be held in the nearby, acoustically-vibrant Chatham High School auditorium. We will continue to keep you informed about the Metropolitan Orchestra via our website, flyers and publicity.

We hope that you have enjoyed our concerts at the Millburn High and Middle Schools; however, moving our rehearsals and concerts to the Chathams is consistent with our goal of improving the quality of our presentations. The orchestra will continue to adhere to the founding principles of providing a venue for amateur musicians to hone their skills and to present musical programs of interest to the local community.


© Metropolitan Orchestra of New Jersey