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Young Musicians Bring Classical Greats to Sanders

By Alice S. Han, Contributing Writer

Courtney Lewis’s Discovery Ensemble sets out to prove that classical music is not just for the old and dead. The 28-year-old composer and co-founder will lead an ensemble of 50 young adult performers at Sanders Theatre this Sunday at 3 p.m. The performance promises to offer a fresh, new spin on Schoenberg, Beethoven and Schumann.

Co-founded in 2008 by Lewis and artistic director David St. George, a musicologist, the Discovery Ensemble is unique in that many of its performers are in their 20s. “It’s the only orchestra that I’ve worked with where everybody is my age or younger,” Lewis says.

Lewis has experience conducting at the New England Conservatory and the Minnesota Orchestra. With the Discovery Ensemble, he hopes to match high technical abilities with a unique level of collaboration among players. “Aside from the technical element, there is a certain transparency and clarity to the performers,” Lewis says. “You realize how different everything is because of the synergic energy of the stage.” The ensemble will perform Schoenberg’s Second Chamber Symphony, Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 with soloist Michael McHale, and Schumann’s Symphony No. 4.

The Discovery Ensemble is also distinctive in its focus on social action initiatives within the Boston community. Adopting the educative mission of the Venezuelan organization El Sistema to spread enthusiasm for classical music to children, Lewis and St. George were inspired to translate the thriving educational model they saw in Caracas to Boston. “We are heavily involved in an outreach mission to bring musical experiences to kids in the really deprived areas of Boston—Dorchester and Roxbury—where they have little to no contact with music or any cultural things,” St. George says.

Lewis acknowledges the support of the Sanders Theatre space in creating a unique acoustic experience. “It’s my favorite place to pay in Boston…. The room is really great for a chamber orchestra because it lets the sound bloom.” This Sunday, the ensemble will share music with fans of all ages.

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