Behind the Album: CB West Orchestra Edition

Covid-19 causes Orchestra to Push Boundaries

With the holiday season among us, the CB West and Lenape Orchestras would usually be preparing for a traditional winter concert. However, the circumstances of the pandemic challenged them to create a new way to unite the community and share their pieces. The conductor of both ensembles, Mrs. Tosti, formed an idea that would provide a way for music to be shared, while avoiding the risks of the coronavirus. Thus, the orchestra’s album was introduced to its members and the preparation for a release was under way.

Practice began in early November, and the orchestra announced that the album will be released on Monday, December 21st. There will be winter songs featured on the album, but there will also be other genres making an appearance. ‘Sunflower’ by Swae Lee and Post Malone will appear alongside traditional holiday songs. On this track, drums played by orchestra members accompany the arrangement of strings. Additionally, Lenape’s version of ‘White Winter Hymnal’ by Pentatonix will be featured. Besides the West and Lenape complete orchestras, there are songs played by smaller West chamber groups: the West chamber strings, soloists, and the Lenape string ensemble. In addition to this, there is a student-composed piece and student artwork being displayed.

I met with Mrs. Tosti in a virtual meeting to discuss the dedication going into this project. She said that when putting together this year’s agenda, the album was not something she had planned, explaining that “…it seemed to me that with all the recording that we were already doing, we should put it in an album.” This year posed a very different problem for the orchestra, challenging them to explore the different ways they could continue to play together as a group. Virtual learning is another obstacle, as only few students play in the orchestra room depending on if they are hybrid 1, 2, or virtual. So, with the concerts being postponed, the album presented a means to keep students excited and motivated to make music even though they had not played together since last school year. “It grew organically out of the necessities of the situation that we are in,” said Tosti. 

With the pandemic presenting new hardships, the album provides a new perspective for the general audience to understand the work that the orchestra does. As a member of the orchestra, I understand the disconnect that COVID-19 has created. However, Mrs. Tosti and the orchestra members have dedicated their online experience to connecting the students at CB West and Lenape Middle School with a broader audience. I highly encourage you to listen to the album and experience the new ways the orchestra broke boundaries when confronted with the new challenges of this year. You can follow the orchestra on their Instagram, @cbw.orchestra, for more information on how to access the full album.