We had the rare opportunity to visit with two exceptionally busy young musicians to talk about the Lehigh Valley Chamber Orchestra and its appearance among the important musical institutions of the Lehigh Valley. Ryan Pereira and Nicolás Gómez Amín along with their colleagues have given us a wonderful gift, and here they are to tell us more.

How did the founding of the LVCO come about?

Ryan: The idea for LVCO actually started during an orchestral audition. I was auditioning for a small regional position in 2021 halfway across the country. It was for very modest pay and, to be honest, wasn’t well-advertised. Nevertheless, over 50 musicians came to the audition. I was surprised to see this, and I also thought about how many musicians are out there needing a creative outlet. It was after that audition that LVCO formed and began plans for an inaugural season in 2022. Nicolás and I, along with Lawrence Perazza, Administrative Advisor and Sarai Dai, our Secretary undertook the leadership of the group.

Who are the musicians of the LVCO?

Ryan: Many of our members are local to the Lehigh Valley, but we also have members from quite a distance, as far as Wilmington. We filled our seats from a tree of connections via our founding members and grew from there. We’re proud to have a variety of performers from active professionals, music educators, musicians working with local colleges, and students majoring in music, among others.

Why are Allentown PA and the Lehigh Valley your home base?

Ryan: The Lehigh Valley is where my musical roots are. Although I grew up in the Pocono Mountains, nearly all of my musical experiences came from the Lehigh Valley, including being part of the Young People’s Philharmonic, taking private lessons in Bethlehem, and seeing various concerts here as a teenager. Aside from this, we felt the Lehigh Valley needed a chamber orchestra that performs the various styles and settings that we do.

Nicolás: The Lehigh Valley is rich in talent and opportunities for musicians to create and share art. During the 2022-2023 academic year, I worked as a schoolteacher in Allentown, so the Lehigh Valley and its people became a second home to me.

How do you choose your programs?

Ryan: We’re fortunate to have our Music Director, Nicolás Gómez Amín, provide his valuable input for our programs. However, we form our programs as a group. As a musician-run ensemble, players have the opportunity to provide a “wish list” of repertoire before a season begins. It must follow the proper instrumentation for our group, of course. Then, the board assembles four full-ensemble concerts along with one or two chamber music concerts to fulfill our season. The selected repertoire ends up covering an array of musical periods, includes composers from underrepresented communities, and has balance stylistically to make for appealing and exciting concerts for our audience.

How do you cover expenses for the ensemble?

Nicolás: LVCO was self-sustained through its inaugural season by our board members. Between music and hall rental fees, website and mailbox maintenance, additional musicians, and other costs related to starting a non-profit, the first season cost around $6,500. Every penny was worth it for the experience it provided. Towards the end of the summer, we plan to run a crowd-funding campaign to raise funds for the 2023-24 season and will also apply for various art grants as we continue to grow. Our goal for this fundraising cycle is $13,000, which will provide some financial stability over a longer period of time and be allocated to additional concerts, diverse concerts venues, and personnel costs in the future. We also run homemade bake sales provided by our talented bassoonist, Silagh White!

What are your backgrounds, and what future plans do you have?

Ryan: My musical journey began in a similar way as many wind players - in the 5th grade concert band. Around the 8th grade, I knew that music would have a place in my life for the long haul as I enjoyed taking part in PMEA events, youth orchestra, marching band, and doubling on saxophone with my school’s jazz band. I was enamored with clarinet and its pedagogy, listening to artists like Anthony McGill, Charles Neidich, Sabine Meyer, Eric Mandat, among others. I went on to earn my Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Performance and tried to be open-minded about the music I play. I felt that learning orchestral and solo literature, working with composers and premiering new works, performing chamber music of all eras, etc. helped me grow as a musician and gain an understanding of diverse musical styles and settings. This was invaluable as I took on responsibilities as a founding member of LVCO. Looking into the ensemble’s future, we are working to provide the Lehigh Valley with a wide repertoire of orchestral and chamber music, programming both traditional and underrepresented works. We also plan to incorporate community outreach events into upcoming seasons.

Nicolás: I started playing violin when I was seven and studied under various teachers in my native Santiago. In 2018, I moved to the United States to study violin performance at the Kutztown University of Pennsylvania under Kurt Nikkanen, concertmaster of the New York City Ballet Orchestra. As a student, I played extensively as a chamber musician, recitalist, soloist, and orchestral concertmaster. However, conducting has always been my dream. I started my conducting path in 2021, leading the Kutztown University Chamber Players, the Kutztown University Orchestra, and the Kutztown University Choir. Currently, I am the Music Director of LVCO, and guest conductor at Berks Sinfonietta, and I have been admitted into the Graduate Conducting program at Bard College in New York.