By JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
winters@montclairlocal.news

The group known until now as Montclair Orchestra is rebranding and expanding to give bigger opportunities to its students, and to audiences throughout the Garden State area.

The orchestra will now be known as the APEX Ensemble.

“Accompanied by a new logo and visual identity, the organization’s change of name reflects its growing scope and aspirations, which now transcend its geographic roots,” the orchestra announced in a press release earlier this month. 

With Montclair’s lack of a dedicated space to house a full orchestra, the ensemble has been playing at churches such Central Presbyterian Church of Montclair on Park Street and St. Luke’s Episcopal Church on South Fullerton Avenue with about 65 musicians. This limited student opportunities and performances themselves, according to the group.

Founded five years ago by Andre Weker, the goal of the Montclair Orchestra, as a development orchestra, is to provide a learning environment for top music conservatory students through fellowships, training and performance alongside professional mentors from some of the world’s leading orchestras.

Montclair Orchestra founder and president Andre Weker.
FILE PHOTO
Montclair Orchestra founder and president Andre Weker.
FILE PHOTO
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In 2019, the orchestra caught the eye of the New York Classical review: “It’s been in existence just a year and a half. Its ranks include some members of top orchestras, but also students and local amateurs. The Montclair Orchestra shouldn’t be that good. Sunday afternoon, performing music by Olli Mustonen, George Walker and Mozart under the direction of David Chan in Montclair’s Central Presbyterian Church, the Montclair Orchestra was that good.”

The review gave the ensemble accolades for its “pinpoint coordination, mature musical insight, and irresistible esprit that would be the envy of many a big-city symphony.”   

The Montclair Orchestra has only continued to grow in popularity, with its performers seeking a spot on the stage, fellows who come from schools such as Juilliard School in Manhattan and the John J. Cali School of Music at Montclair State University, and the professionals from Metropolitan Opera and New Jersey Symphony orchestras. With now more musicians than Montclair venues will hold and up to 100 fellows a season, the orchestra wanted to branch out to other tri-state venues that accommodate a 100-person orchestra, Weker said. 

Chan said the orchestra remains committed to the Montclair community and the audiences that have faithfully supported it from the beginning.

“We have grown to a point where a single geographic location is no longer sufficient to fully convey our goals and aspirations as an organization,” Chan said. “Rebranding ourselves as the APEX Ensemble opens up the true possibilities of our mission, which aims for the pinnacle of artistic achievement through mentoring gifted musicians of the next generation.”

David Chan conducting the orchestra.
COURTESY APEX ENSEMBLE
David Chan conducting the orchestra.
COURTESY APEX ENSEMBLE
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The APEX Ensemble is scheduled to give its next concert in Montclair at Central Presbyterian Church on Nov. 5, marking its first appearance under the new name.

APEX provides a unique pre-professional training experience, Weker said.

Since its founding, the orchestra has awarded fellowships to more than 150 musicians, the organization said in its announcement. In addition to Juliard and MSU, the fellows have come from the Manhattan School of Music, Mannes School of Music, New York University, Rutgers University “and other leading conservatories and university music departments,” according to the release.

“These student fellows perform side by side with experienced professional mentors drawn from such eminent ensembles as the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and Orchestra of St. Luke’s,” the group said in its announcement.

The new identity also sets the framework for new programs such as youth programs in the coming year. Weker said the program would create three orchestras for musicians in second through 12 grades to “broaden the pipeline for diverse young musicians developing a lifelong passion for music.”

The Nov. 5 concert, the first in 18 months, will feature soprano Leah Hawkins from the Metropolitan Opera, singing works by William Grant Still, Francesco Cilea and Giacomo Puccini. It will also perform “Sound & Fury” by British-American composer Anna Clyne, and Antonin Dvorak's “Symphony No. 8 in G Major.”