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Premier cellist helps SPAC give back

August 1975 was the summer that changed Robert Cafaro's life. That was the year he spent four weeks at SPAC's school of orchestral studies during the summer before his junior year of high school.

Summer at SPAC was the first time I ever heard an orchestra play. I was impressed; spellbound, said Cafaro.

Now, Cafaro has the chance to pay it forward and give back to the program that served as the launching pad for his career. A cellist with the Philadelphia Orchestra, he spent a week in late March visiting area schools as part of SPAC's "Classical Kids" program. On Thursday, March 25, he presented a lecture and demonstration to students at Maple Avenue Middle School in Saratoga Springs where he does a mixture of teaching, demonstrating and inspirational speaking to expose young students to music.

"The idea is that I can basically illustrate to students how grateful I am for the opportunities SPAC and the orchestra gave me and how those programs changed my life. I feel it's my mission in life to enlighten these students to this opportunity that is right there in their backyard," said Cafaro.

Cafaro starts with a brief introduction about who he is and why he's there. Then he talks about the program he and the rest of the Philadelphia Orchestra will be playing at SPAC on Friday, Aug. 6. He uses music examples that date back as far as 1936 and explains how these great works are supported by characters in plays or have been developed into film scores with recognizable themes, which he plays and the students can easily identify.

"I demonstrate on a cello and take questions and answers from all the kids. They have so many great questions about how I became a member of the orchestra, what inspired me, how much do I practice and what kind of music do I listen to," said Cafaro.

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