From left: bass players Michael Chaffin, David Tapia, '19, and Timothy Raub, private bass instructor, play on Friday, Feb. 24, 2017, in Baker Hall at Zoellner Arts Center. In addition to pieces from Star Wars, the orchestra also performed a piece from Sparticus. (Vincent Liu/B&W Staff)

The New York Philharmonic to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Zoellner Arts Center


The New York Philharmonic will perform in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Zoellner Arts Center. 

This will be the third time Lehigh has welcomed the New York Philharmonic. The philharmonic first performed to inaugurate the center in 1997 and then again to celebrate Zoellner’s 10th anniversary. They will return on Oct. 1 to commemorate 25 years. 

Paul Salerni, professor of music and conductor of the Lehigh Philharmonic, said Lehigh has a good relationship with the famed orchestra because of Ron Ulrich, former chairman of the development committee of the New York Philharmonic, who was a supporter of Lehigh’s music department.

Mark Wilson, Zoellner’s executive director, said the center has spent the past year working on their event programming for the anniversary season.  

Wilson said he spoke to members of the orchestra in preparation for the event, discussing potential dates, seating arrangements and their repertoire.

According to Zoellner’s website, the New York Philharmonic will perform Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, including Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 and Symphony No. 4 by Florence Price. 

In addition to their performance, the New York Philharmonic also got involved with the Lehigh community by teaching a “masterclass” on Sept. 28. 

“We try to have our guest artists interact with our students so that they have an enriching experience,” Salerni said. “This was a great idea (because) we are bringing in people who do this at the highest level and telling our students and giving advice on how to do this well.”

The Lehigh Philharmonic is composed of Lehigh students, faculty and local community members.

At the event, Salerni said the Lehigh Philharmonic will split into three groups, separated into different rooms: the brass players, the woodland players and the string players. He said members of the New York Philharmonic will coach the individuals before they gather on stage to perform a movement from Brahms’ No. 2, the same symphony they played during Zoellner’s inauguration. 

After additional coaching, Salerni said the Lehigh Philharmonic will perform the piece a final time. 

“During this workshop, we are going to get tips on how to perform better with each other (and) how to keep in tempo,” said Jessica Vogel, ‘23, president of Lehigh Philharmonic. “I assume that the workshop is going to be centered around the entire orchestra instead of singling out specific people how to play.”

According to Zoellner’s website, the event is open to middle and high school students to observe the process. 

Salerni said the Lehigh Philharmonic has been rehearsing this for the last couple weeks to get guidance beyond the basics from the artist in the New York Philharmonic. 

“I’ve been playing violin for 13 years, but I guarantee that at (the) workshop, I’m going to learn something new about myself that I didn’t know before,” Vogel said. “It’s the New York Philharmonic — it’s one of the greatest Philharmonics on planet Earth — so it’s very cool to be in the presence of people like that and getting to perhaps even play with them.” 

Before the New York Philharmonic performance on Oct. 1, Wilson said there will be a pre-show lecture to discuss Florence Price, the creator of the pieces the philharmonic will be performing. 

“She is an important woman of Black African heritage,” Wilson said. “She is someone if you look at early classical music, she was not recognized back then but a lot of her work is being recognized now.”

Zoellner will be providing free tickets for the event to Lehigh students. 

Wilson said they market performances to the community through various local radio, television and media outlets. 

He said over 750 people have bought tickets and are hoping to attend the performance. 

“Most of my friends are going, and most of them are not in the philharmonic,” said Erin Klus, ‘23, a violinist in the Lehigh Philharmonic. “In my opinion (it will be) one of the most exciting performances at Zoellner this year.”

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