CRLS Orchestra Overcomes Trials and “Treble”-ations

Laila Clarke, Contributing Writer

As two classes had graduated online, no one knew what the orchestra would look like or how many people would continue. Despite the extended period spent online, however, this year’s string orchestra is the biggest in CRLS history. With around 40 people playing, Ms. Laura Umbro, the conductor, is ecstatic for what’s to come.

When Ms. Umbro began teaching at Rindge in 2008, there were six members in the orchestra. She told the Register Forum, “The school schedule greatly hinders the growth of large ensembles, so I had to build the outside-of-school orchestra program in addition to the orchestra that meets during the day … I can say that I certainly didn’t expect this to be the year that we’d have over 40 strings, and I’m really hoping this is a trend that keeps going!”

Now, with the winter concert on January 13th approaching fast, the orchestra is hard at work. They’re rehearsing the third movement of Beethoven’s fifth symphony, themes from Memoirs of a Geisha, and themes from Ratatouille—to honor the life of CRLS alumnus NaJae Josephs, who passed away last year. NaJae Josephs was a former CRLS student and a dedicated member of the orchestra. He was one of the students who played Ratatouille a couple years ago. Ms. Umbro says, “I’ll never forget the way he held his violin and swayed to the music from Ratatouille.”

I’m really hoping this is a trend that keeps going!”

For people who have only participated in orchestra online, in-person has proven to be a new experience. During remote learning, many musicians could only practice solo pieces, since it was impossible to rehearse something together. Madeline Marinovich ’24 said that these solo pieces made it “much easier to improve on basic techniques,” she told the Register Forum. Taylor Scantlebury ’22, on the other hand, says she missed playing in-person together. She expressed to the RF that while online, “we focused more on playing solos but it wasn’t as fun as playing together.” Nicola Zaccagnini ’25 is one of the many high schoolers who hasn’t been able to participate in an orchestra for some time. He said that he’s “happy to return to an in-person orchestra and be part of the biggest ever in the school. It makes me feel like it’s made up for the year I just missed” to the RF.

Although the orchestra is now the biggest it’s ever been, other musical ensembles have decreased in size since the return of in-person learning. When asked why the orchestra has increased rather than other groups, Nicolas Woodward ’23 explained to the RF that, “People feel safer in orchestra where everyone is wearing a mask, over ensembles such as band where people are playing wind instruments.” Maddy Nohrnberg ’25 conveyed to the RF that she thinks “orchestra numbers have increased because once we went back in person, people really wanted to be part of a community again.”

Ms. Umbro told the Register Forum, “The moment my students first played notes together this year, in the same room, I felt like I came home after a long time away. I’m excited for my students to feel like they’re part of something again; part of making music together, part of working hard as a team, and part of our orchestra family.”

This piece also appears in the December 2021 print edition.