Student-led Orchestra: From Inspiration to Reality

At the start of his junior year, music major Colin Roshak ’14 noticed something. He loved participating in small chamber ensembles at Walnut Hill and playing his clarinet as part of New England Conservatory’s Youth Philharmonic Orchestra, but something was missing. He wanted another chance to make music with the classmates he admired, in a larger ensemble, one solely comprised of “Walnuts”. Since the opportunity he envisioned didn’t yet exist, Roshak took it upon himself to be the one to bring it to life. As a result, the fully student-run Walnut Hill Chamber Orchestra was born.

In year one, the ensemble had some challenges to overcome. Due to the makeup of the department they lacked some key instruments, and creative choices were made to make the music work. But even when a viola had to serve the part of a bassoon solo, the group soldiered on. Roshak took on the role of conductor, after having taken a few lessons with the acclaimed Sean Newhouse (former Assistant Conductor to the Boston Symphony Orchestra) and teaching himself by watching podcasts and videos. The chamber orchestra performed their first concert in May 2013.

As a senior, Roshak took up the baton once more. “This year, everyone was even more dedicated,” commented Roshak. “It was a lot of fun, and we finally had a bassoon—which opened up the entire classical repertoire for us!” For their spring concert, the Walnut Hill Chamber Orchestra played a Mozart symphony, a movement of a Mozart piano concerto, and the overture to a Rossini opera—an ambitious program to rehearse on top of their other departmental concerts and obligations.

Now, Roshak is heading to Oberlin College for clarinet performance and hopes to apply for the fifth-year master’s program in conducting—we can’t wait to see what he does next!

Walnut Hill School for the Arts (boarding/day, grades 9-12) offers expert arts training and a rigorous college preparatory curriculum. Learn more at:

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