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The New York Mandolin Orchestra is celebrating its 100th anniversary, bringing together professional and amateur musicians who practice together once a week. Established in 1924, the orchestra was originally affiliated with the Jewish community newspaper Freiheit and consisted of Eastern European immigrants who used music to connect with their roots in the New World. Today, the orchestra has members from various backgrounds and locations, mostly retired professionals including composers, lawyers, doctors, and teachers.

As membership in mandolin orchestras declined in the ’80s, the New York Mandolin Orchestra expanded its repertoire to include different genres like bluegrass, jazz, and folk music. Despite the changing landscape, the orchestra has remained one of the oldest continuously performing mandolin orchestras in the country. The group faced a challenge during the pandemic, suspending live rehearsals for the fall of 2021, but they persevered and continued to gather weekly to play music.

The orchestra members include individuals like Harvey Weitzner, who has been with the group since 1986, making him the longest-standing member. Coming together for weekly rehearsals has served as a form of stress relief and comfort for many members, with the group providing a supportive environment filled with great people. For other members like Michael Resnick, who joined the orchestra later in life, playing music has been a fulfilling and enriching experience that has allowed him to connect with his family and share his love of mandolin.

The orchestra, led by conductor Dr. Yuanlin Chen, is known for its stylistic evolution and the dedication of its members, who span generations from parents’ and grandparents’ eras. As they prepare to celebrate their centennial, the New York Mandolin Orchestra is hosting a special concert on April 28th, where they will commemorate 100 years of music-making and community-building. The event is free and open to the public, welcoming all to join in the celebration of this historic milestone.

The New York Mandolin Orchestra’s rich history is a testament to the power of music in bringing people together across cultural and generational divides. From its origins in the early 20th century to its continued existence in the modern world, the orchestra has provided a space for musicians to come together, share their passion for music, and create lasting connections. As they mark their 100th anniversary, the orchestra serves as a reminder of the enduring joy and community that music can bring to people’s lives.

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