When professional conductor, composer and musician Silas Huff decided to settle down in New York City last year, he chose a neighborhood in Queens as the place to hang his baton.
is such a “cool little neighborhood,” Huff said. “It has so much art
and culture packed into a small spot. It has great little restaurants and
shops. It’s just a cool place.”
as much as Huff loved his new home, he admitted that the “cool place”
was missing something.
didn’t have a music group.
he wanted to see a concert, he would have to hop on the N Train and go to
Brooklyn or Manhattan, or take a drive to Flushing Town Hall. “I would
need to go over the river or to Flushing to see shows, and Flushing isn’t
really that close to Astoria . . . Astoria is this unbelievably artistic
neighborhood, but for some reason, there wasn’t a music outlet there.”
decided to change all that.
founded a non-profit music group known as the Astoria Music Society, which
will kick off its first season on Oct. 26. It includes four separate music
groups: The Astoria Jazz Orchestra, The Astoria Symphony, The Kids’
Symphony and an avante garde modern group called The Lost Dog New Musik
Huff, who will act as Musical Director of the Society, is looking for
players for the orchestras.
said, “Anyone who can get there can sign up. I wish there was something
like this for me when I was younger. Exposing classical music to young kids
is an important thing. It enriches their lives.”
The launching of the group has been “strenuous,” but Huff said his ideological beliefs make it all worth it. “I am a musician, and I believe music is one of the values that make humans human. So I’m kind of starting a grassroots movement to bring music to Western Queens.”
Huff said he is “really excited” about the children’s orchestra, which will give kids ages six to 17 the chance to play in a “high quality orchestra” and get free music lessons from staff at the Variety Boys and Girls Club.
an incredible thing. Lessons can be so expensive, but with this program,
they are free of charge. The only requirement is that the kids have to be
members of the Boys and Girls Club, which charges a whopping $12 a year.”
will receive group lessons from Boys and Girls Club staff members after
school and occasionally on Saturdays. Huff said, “The after-school music
lesson program will group all kids together, but eventually we may do
subgroups based on the different levels and so on.”
is expecting between 50 and 60 kids to participate in the program. “Kids
of all abilities are invited to participate,” he explained. “The Boys
and Girls Club actually already has a flute teacher, so the flutists are
going to be a little more advanced, but that’s OK. We want as many kids as
possible to join in.”
orchestra will play traditional favorites and put on two recitals a year,
one in December and one in June. Huff said, “It’s amazing what kids can
do when they put their minds to it. They really take pride in their work.”
Huff, the fact that Astoria didn’t have its own symphony orchestra was
shocking. He said, “There are so many artists who live nearby. How could
there not be an orchestra for the neighborhood?”
dreamed of starting a professional orchestra in the area, and said, “Now
that it’s happening, it’s just really exciting. To bring a
professional-quality performance group to Astoria is like a dream come true
who currently works with the Greenwich Village Orchestra, will conduct the
Astoria Symphony, which he hopes will have between 40 and 100 members.
said about half of those slots have been filled and that auditions are
currently being held for the rest.
is primarily looking for string players, and said, “We’re going to play
traditional classical music, mostly. Bach, Vivaldi, Schubert, things like
that. We’re going to have Christmas concert, and on Feb. 22, we’re going
to have a show called ‘The Greek Masters,’ with all Greek music. That
will be cool, and should go over pretty big in Astoria.”
The Astoria Symphony will play the Astoria Music Society’s first show on Oct. 26. “We’ll probably have food afterwards and everything. It will be a big part to kick off the whole program. It should be really nice,” Huff said.
addition to The Kids’ Symphony, the Society will include a 22-member Jazz
Ensemble led by Director Chad Bloom. Huff said he is currently looking for
brass players to participate. “We have filled some slots already. We have
some musicians from the area and some not from the area. We’re reaching
out to everyone,” he added.
jazz group plays it’s first show on Nov. 15, while the Lost Dog New Musik
Ensemble begins on Oct. 30 with a Halloween concert complete with costumes
and face painting. The experimental group predates the Astoria Music Society
and has already performed several times. “For each performance, we have a
different number of players. For the first performance, we will have four,
but we usually have been four and five players,” Huff said.
He added, “We like to get a little funky.”
Huff is looking forward to bringing music of all types to Astoria, there are
a few obstacles and he needs the public’s help. He said with a laugh,
“Did I mention it’s a non-profit? Did I mention we take donations?”
first thing he needs is a donation of instruments to help the Kids’
Symphony and the after-school lessons program get off the ground.
someone has an instrument in pretty good condition, they should let us know
and donate it. It’s tax deductible and everything, and a child gets to
play. It’s a win-win situation,” he said.
addition to instruments, Huff said the group is looking for charitable
donations to help bring as many shows to Queens as possible. He said,
“People can call us and find out how to make a donation. It would be truly
can contact the Variety Boys and Girls club at (718) 728-0946 or the Astoria
Music Society at (718) 204-9034 about donating instruments. Huff said,
“We’re looking for anything that you would find in a traditional
added that tickets to each event are $8 per person, or $5 for students, kids
and seniors, and said, “When people tickets, they’re not only supporting
us by being there, but they are supporting the group and its efforts, so we
invite everyone to come out and see our shows.”
group does offer money saving ticket packages, like the $40 Symphony Pass
for all six Astoria Symphony shows of the 2003-2004 season, or the $50
Astoria Music Society Gold Pass for all six Symphony shows, two jazz shows
and two Lost Dog events.
are also opportunities for corporate sponsorships, Huff said, adding that
people interested should either call the Society or go to its website at
www.astoriamusic.org for more information.
Huff said the Society is still in negotiations with several churches and elementary schools in Astoria for space to give performances, and he added, “I don’t want to say anything until the space is settled. But we’ll have space to play, and it will be in the area.”
was born in Texas and he developed an interest in music during high school.
He said, “I was going to be a rock star. I was sure of it. I though that
would be great.”
learned guitar, and although he said he was jealous of his sister because
she could play the more “complex” flute, he joined a rock band in high
school with his buddies. After he joined the choir and took a music theory
class, Huff’s view of music changed somewhat.
said, “Classical music affected me like I never thought it could . . . I
decided guitar wasn’t really an orchestra instrument, so I took up the
cello, then the viola and then the violin.” He also plays piano and sings.
“I just love music. It’s an amazing thing,” he explained.
the course of his career, Huff performed in New York, California, Texas,
Indiana, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, France, Italy, Germany, and
Russia. His compositions have also been performed by university and
professional musicians in Texas, California, New York, Italy, Spain and
has won several awards, including the 2000 California State University
Conductor of the Year and the 1998 Los Angeles Valley Symphony Composition
Currently, he teaches music on the Upper East Side, but his focus is on his new group. He said. “I’m kind of a baby for this business. I’m really proud of what I’m doing. Hopefully, people will get to me and my group really well.”