SEVEN HILLS SYMPHONY
Students Mackenzie Melemed, at piano, and Christopher Coyne, playing oboe, rehearse with members of the Seven Hills Symphony.
A cellist who loves science, MD/PhD student Joanna Chaurette pursued a double major as an undergraduate at UMass Boston and has always sought ways to combine the two. “Music is a release from the intensity of medicine and research, and it’s nice to be part of a group of like-minded people,” she said. But when Chaurette began her studies at UMass Medical School in 2005 and found no community orchestra to join in Worcester, she started one herself. Now in its fourth year, the Seven Hills Symphony showcases the talents of the many musicians within the Medical School community. The current roster of 33 members includes students and faculty, several of their family members and UMass Memorial employees, as well as musicians from surrounding communities.
As it provides a creative outlet for amateur musicians, Seven Hills Symphony also offers the community access to free or very affordable world-class music. (When admission fees are charged, the funds are used to support future performances and community outreach, including educational scholarships.) Under the direction of Chaurette’s husband, bassist and conductor Scott Chaurette, Seven Hills has presented two concerts annually since 2006. They’ve been held at the Medical School campus and at other area venues, including Worcester Technical High School.
With the help of Associate Vice Chancellor for School Services Deborah Harmon Hines, PhD, Chaurette forged a partnership with then Worcester Public Schools Superintendent James Caradonio that allowed Seven Hills to perform in the auditorium at the new Worcester Tech facility. While the general public was charged a small admission fee, all Worcester Public School students were admitted for free, as were their guests. “We wanted to encourage as many students as possible to experience live classical music in a comfortable environment,” said Chaurette. The concert produced the biggest turnout ever for Seven Hills.
In another undertaking to capture the imagination of young and aspiring local musicians, Seven Hills sponsored a Concerto Competition for area students. The prize was a scholarship to fund further musical study as well as an opportunity to perform at an upcoming Seven Hills concert. “The committee of judges was so impressed with the quality of the young musicians, they were unable to choose just one winner,” said Chaurette. In the end, Storrs, Connecticut high schooler Charles Colwell and Paxton, Massachusetts eighth grader Mackenzie Melemed tied for fi rst place, with Christopher Coyne, a junior also from Paxton, receiving the fi rst runner-up prize. All three will perform with Seven Hills at the spring 2009 concert.
The competition itself was a remarkable experience for the students, many of whom treated the opportunity to audition as a recital for friends and family. The competition was held at M. Steinert & Sons in Worcester and would not have been possible without their support. “I loved it,” said Coyne of his fi rst competition. “I’ve always believed that music was something to be shared and it was great to have the chance to do that.”
Seven Hills plans to continue to grow and to connect with the larger community. In addition to their annual concerts, they plan to participate in the St. Paul’s Music Festival, part of the Cathedral Music in Worcester series, and will sponsor the Concerto Competition annually.
Seven Hills Symphony
This information appears in the UMMS 2008 Annual Report. PDF available.