Glissandos and rubber chickens: Cub reporter discovers the Discovery Orchestra, at PBS taping in Morris Township

Morristown Green cub reporter Laurily Merzatta, left, her friend Diya, and violin instructor Margaret Roberts study their programs before a PBS taping of the Discovery Orchestra.


Editor’s note: The Discovery Orchestra specializes in demystifying classical music. How good a job does the orchestra do?  We asked a 9-year-old violinist for her critique.

By Laurily Merzatta

The Discovery Orchestra performed The Firebird by Igor Stravinsky at the Fine Arts Center at the Delbarton School in Morris Township last month.  It was filmed for a PBS special to be aired next Spring!  How exciting!  It’s not that often that you get to attend an event being filmed live for a television broadcast!

I attended with Margaret Roberts, my violin teacher, her dad, and my friend Diya, who is also a violin student of Mrs. Roberts.

A rubber chicken on a camera is a good luck charm. Photo by Laurily Merzatta

Once we found our seats in the balcony, Diya and I took photos of the orchestra warming up and the catwalk above, and even a rubber chicken that was tied to one of the TV cameras.  Apparently in theater it’s good luck to bring a rubber chicken backstage on opening night.  I read that in a book series called The Ellie Mcdoodle Diaries.

The conductor, George Marriner Maull came out right before the performance started and scanned the audience.  He announced that he needed some people to fill up the seats below.

Diya and I thought our pictures might come out better from below, so we were excited when the conductor picked us as some of the audience to come down to the third row.

We opened our program and we could tell this was going to be different than a regular concert.  There was a listening guide inside with pictures to help us understand what we were about to hear.  There was a glossary of lots of musical terms!  There were 88 musicians on the stage and we couldn’t wait for them to start.

Harps await musicians and audience at Discovery Orchestra special concert. Photo by Laurily Merzatta

Many times throughout the performance the conductor interrupted the music!  At one point conductor George Marriner Maull asked the audience to raise our hands every time the trombones, clarinets, and strings played a loud chord.  He had the percussion section play a phrase of music showing the difference with accompaniment versus how it sounds alone.

Another time, Mr. Maull said that they were going to repeat the music again.  He said, “This time especially pay attention to the glissando that the trombones are about to play again.”

He proceeded to explain that a glissando is like a musical slide, going either up, down, or both.  A glissando is more common for piano and harp, but more unusual for the trombone.  Luckily, we could refer to the musical glossary in our program to remember all the new vocabulary we learned.

Camera boom above the Discovery Orchestra, recording a PBS special, at the Delbarton School. Photo by Laurily Merzatta

The Discovery Orchestra was founded in 1987 as the Philharmonic Orchestra of New Jersey.  The first Discovery Concert was in 1996 and the group’s name changed 10 years later.

Now, all programs feature interactive instruction and Artistic Director George Marriner Maull has been running Discovery Orchestra for 23 years.

Discovery Orchestra’s mission seems to be to get people interested in classical music and they sure do a great job of it. The conductor said, “The more you know about something, the more interesting it gets.’’  And wow is that ever true!

I cannot wait to see the The Firebird by Igor Sravinsky performed by The Discovery Orchestra as a PBS special on television next Spring!

Laurily Merzatta, 9, is a 4th-grader who plays violin, and sings in the choir at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Morristown.

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  1. Interesting- I learned what a glissando is and that a rubber chicken is good luck. Who knew! Looking foreward to seeing the PBS special. Thanks for the scoop on this event, Laurily!

  2. What a interesting and informative article! Keep up the good work Laurily! We hope to read more from you soon!

  3. Laurily, Fascinating, well written article. You made me feel like I was at the concert with you. Thank you for that, you excellent photos, and all the interesting, informed details about the orchestra and the piece they were preforming. Rubber chickens…who knew?

  4. Great article. Well-structured, full of insight and author’s personal touch. Looking forward to reading more articles from you, Laurily. Congratulations!

  5. What a great article! Congrats, Laurily, on starting your journalism career so young! Great photos, as well! Ask your parents for an iPhone.

  6. What an informative article! I wish I was in NJ to experience such a cool Orchestra. Thanks for t heads up that it will be able to be seen in PBS. My boys and I will watch for sure! Nice work Laurily!

  7. Laurily,
    This is so exciting for me to read for so many reasons. I, too am studying music and I learned a lot just from reading your article (i.e glissandos and rubber chickens). I am thrilled to know an actual cub reporter. Keep it up – you have great journalistic instincts. And finally, George Maull was my 7th grade music teacher! I am sending this link to another former teacher of mine who knew Mr. Maull. Thanks for bringing me so much fun and excitement as I read this at 5 in the morning!

  8. What a fantastic article! It was full of facts, but at the same time very entertaining. I hope I get to attend a future live performance by The Discovery Orchestra – your cub reporter knows how to get people excited and engaged. Great job!