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Prelude to a JP Symphony

Maestro William Shoucair has plans to start a local orchestra

Ask any local musician about the music scene in Jamaica Plain, and they’ll tell you it’s a hotbed. Rock, jazz, blues, folk, classical...it’s all performed here in clubs and churches and parks. And more often than not, the players also live here.

Former JP resident William Shoucair, who currently lives in Dorchester, has, over the past few years, founded, and currently conducts, both the Boston Repertory Orchestra and the Dorchester Symphony Orchestra. Shoucair, 60, is a conservatory-trained trumpet player—and still performs in different ensembles—but his main passion these days is conducting. His current dream is to put together the Jamaica Plain Symphony Orchestra. We spoke by phone about some of his ideas.

Why is Jamaica Plain right for an orchestra?

I think it’ll really thrive there. Because I used to live in JP, I know the community. And I was pretty surprised that, with the musical interest that the community has, they don’t already have a symphony.

How will the JP Symphony differ from the other groups you work with?

I don’t think it’ll differ all that much from the Dorchester Symphony. The repertoire would be standard classical pieces: Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn, Mendelssohn, Schubert. We don’t do much modern stuff. But I believe there’s a bigger pool of players in Jamaica Plain than in Dorchester.

So how does one actually start a new orchestra?

There are pretty straightforward steps. First you incorporate, then you begin contacting musicians to see who would like to play.

Where does funding fit in?

That’s a big challenge. We really want to put together an organization—of volunteers, board members—and speak to people who know the community well, and know something about fundraising.

Where will you perform?

I don’t know yet, but it definitely will be in JP.

Were you always strictly a classical guy, even as a kid?

I did listen to rock ’n’ roll as a kid, but I just really took to classical. I’ll give you an example. When I was about 13, we went to see the movie “Help!”  In the movie, there’s an orchestra playing Wagner’s “Prelude to Act III of Lohengrin.” And I left the theater humming that music. I knew the Beatles songs, and could sing all of them. But what stirred me was listening to Wagner.

So you’re probably hoping there will be young listeners at the JP Symphony.

I teach brass part time at different schools in Cambridge. I’m really into music education, and I think growing up in a community that has its own orchestra will be fantastic for the children. One of the audiences we’ll target for sure is families and children. I think there’s quite a collection of standard pieces that are very accessible to children. Some of the Beethoven symphonies, the Rossini overtures—you do “William Tell Overture” for kids, and they’ll be hooked.

When would you like to see this up and running?

By the early fall. It’ll be tough, but I’ve put orchestras together in two weeks. Of course, by the end of it, I’m a dishrag, but I’ve done it quite often and will do it again.

For information on how to volunteer with the Jamaica Plain Symphony Orchestra with Website design, advertising, promotion, fundraising, etc., visit the group’s Facebook page or e-mail William Shoucair at jpsymphony.org. 

Andris Vizulis June 22, 2012 at 03:19 PM
Kudos to people like Bill who want to keep local classical music alive. The challenges are enormous, but if noone exerts the effort on a local level, most people's exposure to classical music will be limited to subliminal effects of background music in movies, commercials, and online greeting cards. Jamaica Plain, please support Bill in his efforts!
Donna Garverick June 23, 2012 at 11:22 PM
Kudos to Bill, for sure! I've known Bill since we were kids on Long Island, and music has always been in his blood. How fortunate are you, residents of Jamaica Plain, who have him in your surroundings, to nurture not only your children but all you adults as well. Once classical music is in your soul, there's no going back. It really is fundamental to all music past and present. How very lucky you are. Wish I was there to celebrate this from it's inception. Congratulations in advance, Bill. And as Andris states above, please support Bill in his efforts...it's for all of you!

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