No auditions required to join new Fermi Community Orchestra

When I was a fourth-grader, my instrument of choice was violin. When our orchestra director asked me to switch to viola in sixth grade, I did and loved the low mellow tone of the instrument.

I played all through high school, but when I went to college, I packed up my viola and put all my focus on choir. But I have always loved the sound of the orchestra.

That's why I was excited to learn about the new Fermi Community Orchestra.

“The idea for the orchestra came up during a lesson with one of my adult cello students, Anne Heavey,” said the orchestra's director, Andrea LaFranzo.

“It was something I had been itching to start for a long time. So I bit the bullet and made a website and started spreading the word.”

Conductor and cellist LaFranzo has quite an impressive resume. As a performer, she has played with major symphonies, including the National Symphony Orchestra, Boston Civic Orchestra, and the New England Philharmonic. She currently teaches cello and directs both the Fox Valley Youth Orchestra and Kaneland Youth Orchestra. She also is a member of the Fox Valley Orchestra.

LaFranzo thought this new orchestra could be a place where adult students and amateurs could play in an orchestra/ensemble without the pressures of auditions and the time commitments of bigger ensembles.

“Many students who started as adults are a bit apprehensive to play in public or with others,” said LaFranzo. “This group is a support system to those people and others who have come back to their instruments from a break, or who have been playing all of their lives and want an encouraging environment of other musicians to play with.”

That means LaFranzo is dealing with musicians who come to the orchestra with different levels of experience. How does a director deal with that?

“I bring in professional musicians to work with the individual sections in the orchestra,” she added. “It helps to work out specific instrument techniques, such as fingering, bowing, etc.”

Has the orchestra exceeded her expectations?

“I have to admit that the first rehearsal was tough. I looked at the orchestra members and saw a ‘deer in the headlights' moment,” said LaFranzo. “But I was amazed at how quickly the orchestra started to come together.”

The Fermi Community Orchestra is open to anyone, regardless of where they live or their affiliation to Fermilab. Members come all the way from Lemont to the east and Kaneville to the west. There is a $75 membership fee and that covers overhead.

At the orchestra's first concert in November, the group had 19 members. Now the orchestra has 31. The orchestra does not currently include brass or percussion.

“We are so grateful for Batavia's United Methodist Church, who is allowing us to use their space for our rehearsals and concerts,” said LaFranzo. “The church is a great community of people who are very interested in bringing more music and arts to Batavia.”

Batavia is so lucky to have musicians who are willing to share their talents with the community, such as this orchestra and the Batavia Community Band. It's also a great connection with members of the Fermilab Community.

Is it time for you to tighten that bow and dust off your instrument? Have you been looking for a place where an oboe can shine? There is a spot for you.

The orchestra rehearses from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Sundays at Batavia United Methodist Church, 8 N. Batavia Ave., Batavia.

At the very least, put the next concert down on your calendar. It's at 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24, at the Batavia United Methodist Church. For details, visit

Fermi Community Orchestra

What: An adult training orchestra for musicians in the Fox Valley area

Who: Adults who play violin, viola, cello, bass, flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and French horn

Rehearsals: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Sundays

Next concert: 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24

Where: Batavia United Methodist Church, 8 N. Batavia Ave., Batavia

Details: <a href=""></a>, (630) 638-0716 or email

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