Adelphi Goes InsideOut With The Massapequa Philharmonic

Consider David Bernard to be the Johnny Appleseed of classical music. Given his role as conductor of the Massapequa Philharmonic, a position he’s held for six years, it comes as no surprise. The zeal he has for this genre of music has led him to find unorthodox ways of spreading the gospel of Beethoven and Mozart. He’s teamed up with Dr. Jackie Faherty of the American Museum of Natural History and Hayden Planetarium for a February 2020 performance of Gustav Holst’s “The Planets” at the Madison Theatre at Molloy College. And during the pandemic, he entered into a unique agreement with the Nassau Museum of Art to present live music at the mansion and on the 145-acre grounds of the former Frick Estate located at One Museum Drive in Roslyn Harbor.

Conductor David Bernard in action with the Massapequa Philharmonic
(Photo courtesy of the Massapequa Philharmonic)


His latest endeavor is far more direct—having the Massapequa Philharmonic make its Adelphi Performing Arts Center debut on Sunday, April 3, via the “Slavonic Serenade,” featuring special musical guest, Gold Medalist and international cello soloist Zlatomir Fung. But as is usually the case with Bernard, he offers a unique twist for potential concert-goers—the opportunity to purchase a number of InsideOut seats, which place audience members onstage with the musicians. It’s something the Great Neck native developed and is regularly featured by the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony in New York City and other symphony orchestras including the Greenwich (CT) Symphony and the Danbury (CT) Symphony.

It’s a crucial part of Bernard’s classical music outreach for both children and adults. And while he recently led an InsideOut concert for third-graders at Massapequa’s Berner Middle School this past Sunday, he feels its just as important a tool to use in providing that connection with grown-ups.
“One of the things that is critical in the schools is trying to recruit students to take up an instrument and play it in an ensemble, which [InsideOut concerts] are really effective at doing,” he said. “For the music world, the most important thing you do is for the adults. I just did an InsideOut concert and had an amazing testimonial from this fellow who said, ‘I’ve attended concerts all over the place, but this experience was life-changing to experience this on stage.’ The interesting thing about it is it doesn’t matter if you’ve been to a lot of concerts or haven’t been to any concerts. If you have an InsideOut seat in a concert, it’s incredible and it can turn somebody into a classical music fanatic who has never been to an orchestra concert. It’s that experience that causes musicians to become fanatics over classical music.”

Cello soloist Zlatomir Fung
(Photo courtesy of the Massapequa Philharmonic)

Recruiting Fung to play at the Massapequa Philharmonic’s Adelphi debut was also a major get for Bernard, who is overjoyed that audiences will get to hear the youngest winner of the prestigious XVI International Tchaikovsky Competition (“…that’s like having the best play the best”). All the more so given the “Slavonic Serenade” program features Brahms’ “Variations on a Theme by Haydn,” Liszt’s “Les Preludes” and Dvorák’s “Cello Concerto.”

“[Zlatomir] has been on my radar for quite a while,” Bernard said. “The story of him being the youngest person to win the Tchaikovsky Competition is legendary. It was very exciting because I was finally able to arrange to get him to do this concert. I was looking for something like this for Adelphi. The Adelphi Performing Arts Center is a beautiful venue. The acoustics are top-notch and it deserves something like Zlatomir. That’s where it comes from.”

Bernard is not shy about using his access to Fung in a way that young people can benefit. In addition to the Berner Middle School InsideOut concert, the conductor had the Bulgarian-Chinese musician take part in the Massapequa Philharmonic Masterclass at Massapequa High School the following day. It was here that three Massapequa High School students were coached by Fung on specific pieces they were working on. The Massapequa Philharmonic Masterclass Program was established with the Massapequa Schools as a way of expanding the orchestra’s impact on the community and its students. Events like these all play into Bernard’s mission to convince people about the accessibility of classical music, despite all the high culture trappings that might be associated with it.

Recent concert-goers taking part in an Inside Out listening experience with the Massapequa Philharmonic
(Photo courtesy of the Massapequa Philharmonic)

“There is nothing inherently intimidating about classical music,” Bernard explained.
As someone who admittedly got his start with classical music through Looney Tunes and Bugs Bunny, the Juilliard-trained musician used this inspiration to start learning how to play piano when he was around five and later added clarinet to his musical arsenal when he was nine. Through it all, Bernard never saw his learning more about classical music as his having to go down some insurmountable path. Instead, he embraced this genre as music that’s been baked into our collective pop culture DNA via its extensive use in film and television. It is a sensibility that fuels his desire to have people fall in love with classical music the way he has.

“There is nothing intimidating about classical music or about coming to a classical music concert—there shouldn’t be,” he said. “Part of it is that we all think, ‘Do I know enough or have I been trained enough to appreciate this kind of music?’ The point is you are perfectly fine as you are to appreciate the music given how it is everywhere. The music, the performers and concert itself—if its doing its job, you are going to have an amazing time just taking all of this in because the key is that it’s really about the visceral experience of the performance and the musicians.”

Cello soloist Zlatomir Fung will be performing with the Massapequa Philharmonic on April 3 at the Adelphi Performing Arts Center, 1 South Ave., Garden City. Visit https://sforce.co/3pVjzMV to purchase tickets. Visit www.massphil.com for additional information.

Dave Gil de Rubio
In addition to being editor of theNassau Observer, Dave Gil de Rubio is a regular contributor to Long Island Weekly, specializing in music and sports features. He has won several awards for writing from Press Club of Long Island (PCLI), New York Press Association (NYPA) and Fair Media Council (FMC).

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