Garage Orchestra shines at Concerts in the Park

By Deanna Frances

When music by Queen is played live, most people don’t expect it from violins and cellos. This was not the case when the Garage Orchestra performed classic rock at The Sycamore Park District’s “Concerts in the Park” on Thursday.

The Garage Orchestra, directed by Amanda Nelson, of Dundee, performed more than an hour’s worth of classic rock tunes on string orchestra instruments. The orchestra performed classics from bands and artists like Led Zeppelin, Queen, Green Day, The Beatles and Eric Clapton.

The Garage Orchestra is made up of students ages 10 to 18 from the Dundee area. It was created in summer 2008, said Nelson, who teaches middle school orchestra.

“I had the idea for a summer orchestra camp to keep kids practicing over the summer,” Nelson said. “When our location became unavailable, my husband suggested that I run something out of our garage, kind of like a garage band but an orchestra.”

Nelson said she began speaking to her students’ parents about the idea, their immediate response was, “How do I sign my kid up?”

Since the summer of 2008, the Garage Orchestra has performed two to 10 concerts with only four rehearsals per summer. Its performers have learned 40 pieces for performances over the years. Some of the songs are played by the entire orchestra and some are directed toward a smaller, more advanced group of instrumentalists.

The Garage Orchestra made an appearance at Sycamore Park District’s Battle of the Bands last year where it earned second place. Some concert-goers were impressed by the student orchestra Thursday.

“It’s really cool what they do,” said Brittany Hearn, of Sycamore. “I’ve never seen anything like this.”

Various locals appreciate that they have an opportunity to support the young musicians.

“They’re absolutely wonderful. They put their hearts into it, and it’s really great that we’re able to support them,” said Lynne Dirienzo, of Sycamore.

Nelson not only directs the orchestra over the summer, but also teaches private music lessons and is the general manager of the Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra. Jill Misitano, of Sycamore, said she admired Nelson’s dedication. Nelson said she enjoys working with the young musicians.