Bard College’s TON Orchestra Is Featured in New Film “Maestro”

Bard College’s pre-professional graduate orchestra The Orchestra Now (TŌN) was chosen to perform in Bradley Cooper’s Netflix film "Maestro."

In Annandale-on-Hudson, Bard College is a private institution with a reputation for academic excellence. The college is committed to enriching culture, public life, and democratic discourse by training tomorrow’s thought leaders, and its The Orchestra Now is no exception. Known professionally as TŌN, the pre-professional graduate orchestra is comprised of a group of vibrant young musicians from across the globe who are making orchestral music relevant – never more so than in Netflix’s new film Maestro, starring Bradley Cooper.

The film, which became available for streaming on the platform on December 20, follows the life of renowned composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein. For many of the students involved in TŌN, Bernstein served as something of an inspiration throughout their young careers. Double bassist Milad Daniari is a 2018 TŌN graduate who affirms that the experience of working on Maestro was a huge highlight of his life.

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“Like most classical musicians, I grew up surrounded by Leonard Bernstein’s iconic recordings and videos. I even have a framed print of him conducting the Boston Symphony at Tanglewood hanging above my desk,” he says. “To film this once-in-a-lifetime scene for Maestro, at Tanglewood no less, remains one of the most incredible moments of my career. The second Bradley Cooper came on set in full makeup, it truly felt as if Leonard Bernstein was in the room with us.”

TŌN was originally approached by the film’s orchestra casting agent in April 2022. “They told us they had considered all of the major pre-professional young orchestras on the East Coast,” notes TŌN executive director Kristin Roca. By the end of the month, Cooper and the casting director had selected TŌN for the role, tasking the orchestra with perfecting a replica of a 1989 Tanglewood performance by Bernstein. By May, the TŌN musicians were at the Tanglewood Music Center in Massachusetts as they prepared for their performance with Cooper.

 

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Following the weeks of being cast in Maestro, TŌN students squeezed costume fittings in New York City into their already busy concert schedules. Not only was attire important for the film’s accuracy to true life, but also Roca needed to ensure that all instruments involved in the performance would be correct for 1989.

“We arrived in Tanglewood to shoot our performance on May 21,” Roca recalls. “After going through hair and makeup, the students headed onto the stage, where they worked for several hours with the Metropolitan Opera’s Music Director Maestro Yannick Nézet-Séguin, rehearsing and recording Beethoven’s Symphony No. 8.” It wasn’t until after the recording was complete that the orchestra was joined on stage by Bradley Cooper and, together, they filmed the full performance for the screen.

 

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Founder and music director of TŌN and president of Bard College Leon Botstein says, “I’m so terribly proud of TŌN and that it was invited to participate in this fabulous project. The combination of Bernstein and Beethoven is hard to beat. It’s an experience the musicians won’t forget.”

Maestro had a limited release in theaters on November 22 and is available for streaming on Netflix as of December 20. The film’s original soundtrack album including the TŌN performance was released by Deutsche Grammophon digitally, on CD, and on vinyl.

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