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Stamford Ensemble Struggles to Offer Scholarships

This should have been a golden year for the Stamford Young Artists Philharmonic . It celebrated its 50th anniversary in May with a gala reunion concert that executive director Joyce DiCamillo described as “magical.” But the recession has been making it hard for the ensemble to offer scholarships, which are key to its viability.

“We’ve had a difficult time with this economy,” says DiCamillo. “There’s no one to underwrite the scholarships [for orchestra members].” The group also lost a $7,000 state grant this year. “It adds up,” she said.  Which is why winning Santa’s Wish List would be particularly helpful, said DiCamillo.

Even so, the ensemble has gotten a boost by an invitation to perform at Gov.-elect Dannel Malloy’s inaugural ball in January.

“The kids are very excited. He’s been on our honorary board for ages,” said DiCamillo. The performance probably will include at least one patriotic selection, and “Lord of the Dance” will be on the list “to celebrate his Irish heritage,” said DiCamillo.

Founded in 1960 by Juilliard graduate Salvatore Princiotti, the group has performed for former President George H.W. Bush, at the New York World’s Fair and on tour in Italy, to name a few engagements.

The orchestra’s ability to respond to such command performances is due to its members’ high level of expertise. The 50 young musicians in the philharmonic and offshoot ensembles must audition and, after acceptance, attend rigorous rehearsals to perfect their skills.

Historically, musical ability has been the only requirement since scholarships have been provided to those who need them. But difficult economic times have placed that in doubt.

Giving youngsters the opportunity to learn and perform music can have extended benefits, said DiCamillo. “It can impact their whole lives. For some, it’s a defining experience.”

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