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No strings attached, only played

Northeast String Orchestra. Photo Submitted.

Northeast String Orchestra. Photo Submitted.

— Ubaldo Valli has been the orchestra’s music director for five years. He is also director of the SUNY Cortland College Community Orchestra and others. The passion he has for music and teaching others is reflected in the fact that he lives in Ithaca, and commutes to Clifton Park every week in a three hour trip.

His philosophy is to have the kids learn through a “positive experience” and expects mistakes in rehearsals. “I tell them to make the mistakes here, not at the concert,” he said. This encourages the kids to take on more challenging parts of the music and grow as musicians.

“I work very strongly to provide a learning environment in which people can try things, and sometimes they’ll succeed – and sometimes they won’t succeed. I try to provide a positive environment so that when they succeed, great. When they don’t succeed, they just try again and they learn from that,” said Valli.

One of the unique aspects of the Northeast String Orchestra and Prelude Strings is that the students don’t have set “chairs” or positions held in the orchestra – they get to experience all of them.

Valli said that the concert master, or person who tunes the orchestra before a performance, is by tradition the best player in the orchestra. The person sitting next to him is the second best, or second chair. The next musician is third best, or third chair - all the way down the line to the back of the group.

“It’s a real skill to play up front, but it’s also a real skill to play in the back of the section and all of the places in between. …What’s the logic of having your weakest player play in the back? I don’t get it,” said Valli.

In this spirit, Valli gives each musician the opportunity to play in all of the positions.

“Every player in every concert plays both first violin and second violin. …That’s not typical at all. In every rehearsal, strings are rotated,” he said.

As far as Valli getting back and forth to Clifton Park every week, he relies on a 1998 Toyota Corolla – a vehicle with over 400,000 miles on it.

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