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‘Joyful to work with’: Metro-Gnomes perform in first concert, form deeper connections within group

Photo credit: Caroline Fu
Cellist Serena Ho (‘29) performs “Allegro” from Serenade No.1 in D in the Winter Concert. Orchestra Director Susan Smith formed the Metro-Gnomes at the beginning of the 2023-24 school year, and this was their first concert. The quintet performed without a conductor. “I feel really accomplished. I’ve never really been in a group with just five people,” Ho said after the concert.

Donning double pom-pom beanies and with instruments in hand, a new group stepped out onto the stage in the Zeller Student Center at Archer’s annual winter concert: the Metro-Gnomes.

The small group is made up of five advanced middle school orchestra students. Orchestra Director Susan Smith formed the group this year. To join the Metro-Gnomes, interested students auditioned in the fall of last semester. The group contains a flutist, a cellist and three violinists.

“I wanted to expand the music program a little bit, especially in the orchestra world,” Smith said. “And two or three years ago — I think two-and-a-half years ago — I added an advanced ensemble in upper school: the Bach Street Girls. That’s been really enjoyable, I think, for the students and definitely for me, and so I wanted to give that opportunity to middle school.”

To audition for the group, Smith said, students had to play a prepared piece as well as showcase their sight-reading abilities: performing a piece without any practice and reading sheet music to know what their part is. Following this auditioning process, the Metro-Gnomes found five new performers from grades six through eight.

“Originally, I was thinking that maybe when I got to upper school, I could do Bach Street Girls,” violinist Malvika Ganapathy (‘28) said. “But when she announced Metro-Gnomes, I was really excited because I really want to do more advanced ensembles here at Archer.”

Thanks to the group’s small size, cellist Serena Ho (‘29) said she said she made much deeper connections compared to playing in the larger orchestra. Similarly, sixth grader Noe Spencer (‘30) said joining the quintet allowed her to form new friendships.

“It really gives me opportunities to meet new people who have the same interests as me, and now I know them better,” Spencer said.

The group performs without a conductor, so it is the students’ job to keep the tempo and remain in unison. After flutist Clara Lieberstein (’28) cues the group to begin, the students communicate with each other through eye contact. Due to the group’s small size, Spencer said, “you’re more out there” than in a larger orchestra, so keeping tempo is especially important, as mistakes cannot be covered as easily.

“We’ve really connected while playing,” Ho said. “We have to look at each other to make sure we don’t get lost. If you mess up, it’s more of a big deal. There’s less people.”

The ensemble played Mozart’s “Allegro” from Serenade No.1 in D in this year’s Winter Concert, “The Joy of Music.” Prior to the concert, the chamber music group had only performed for an audience once before at a middle school assembly.

“I’m just really proud of everyone because I know it’d be kind of scary being the first people in a group to perform ever at a concert,” Ganapathy said, “and I think everyone did really amazingly at everything.”

Following the concert, Smith said she admired the quintet’s fearlessness and ability to embrace challenges. She said she was especially impressed with their communication during their pieces, especially considering this is the group’s first year.

“They learn their music really nicely — they practice it, which is great,” Smith said. “They are just joyful to work with. They work really hard, and they seem to be proud to be in the group, which I love. So really it’s been so much fun.”

As second semester began, the Metro-Gnomes held a second round of auditions, allowing more students to join. Ho said she was excited about the group’s potential new members and said she hopes they will have the same positive experiences she and her fellow performers have had. Ganapathy emphasized the community found in the Metro-Gnomes due to everyone’s mutual passion for music.

“I really like, first of all, playing the music. And also everyone in Metro-Gnomes is just so amazing, so funny, so kind and really good at what they play,” Ganapathy said. “I just really, really love Metro-Gnomes.”

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About the Contributor
Charlotte Burnap, Staff Reporter
Charlotte Burnap became a staff reporter in 2023. At Archer, she sings in choir and the unaccompanied minors. In her free time, you can find her listening to music, reading, or hanging out with her friends.

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