Kimon and Constantine Vontas recently took the stage at Lincoln Center’s Allice Tully Hall to perform with the Children’s Orchestra Society. The identical twins, seniors at Plainview-Old Bethpage’s John F. Kennedy High School, got to flex their cello prowess in a truly breathtaking display of young talent.
This year, the Children’s Orchestra Society presented their 29th Discovery Gala Concert at ATH, which combined the excellence of young musicians alongside special guests. This year’s performance included 24-year-old Yung Li, an internationally recognized pianist; alumni of the Young Symphonic Ensemble; New York City based conductor Yoon Sang Timothy Cho, a faculty member of the Children’s Orchestra Society; Taiwanese-American violinist and conductor Kevin Shue; and of course, the Vontas brothers.
The brothers have been students of the Children’s Orchestra Society since 2017, and Kimon rose through the ranks of the Junior Symphonic Orchestra to become the Principal Cellist of the Young Symphonic Ensemble. His awards are numerous, and he has gotten the opportunity to participate in LISFA, NYSSMA, and All State auditions.
Kimon entered and won the Society’s prestigious Discovery Competition and got the chance to perform a solo in front of an audience of hundreds. Holding to its principles of “Teaching Children the Language of Music”, this annual competition provides students an additional incentive to learn to work towards a standard of excellence, giving them the opportunity to grow immensely through its preparation. Motivated students are encouraged to enter, in fulfillment of the Society’s philosophy to help children grow musically and mature as performers. Constantine Vontas did not enter the competition, but accompanied his brother onstage as a member of the Young Symphonic Ensemble, sitting front row and in arms-reach of one another.
The concert was led by Michael Dadap, the Children’s Orchestra Society artistic director since 1984 and an accomplished composer, guitarist, conductor educator and folklorist. Over the years the orchestra has grown from 35 string players to 125 students, with four orchestras and over six chamber groups.
After months of preparation, the experience still exceeded the twins’ expectations. “Honestly, every year I feel like I’m surprised by our performance,” Kimon said. “I don’t know what it is. When you’re in the performance it feels like you get an extra boost. And I feel like this performance being our last, it was kind of bittersweet.” The twins are now officially alumni of the Children’s Orchestra Society. Kimon says he’ll miss the family he’s been with for so long. “With everyone on stage together there’s a big feeling of camaraderie. But I think this was just more special, especially since one of our best friends since kindergarten, my stand partner, was performing too.”
The orchestra played a plethora of works, from Bedrich Smetana’s dynamic Vltava (The Moldau) No. 2, to Robert Schumann’s vibrant Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54. Kimon says his favorite piece to play was the Moderado in Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85. “We played that a long time ago in our school orchestra, so it brought me back to those memories,” he said.
The twins are excited for what the future has in store for them, both on their way to Cornell University next academic year. Kimon will be majoring in French, and Constantine in mathematics. As for music, the world is truly their oyster. Kimon added, “We’re not sure where it’s going to take us, but we are sure that we’ll stick with music, come back for all of the alumni concerts.”
About the Children’s Orchestra Society:
Founded in 1962 by Dr. H T Ma, COS is a not-for-profit organization which has dedicated itself to “teaching the language of music” to children and teens. Since 1984, COS has been under the leadership of executive director Dr. Yeou-Cheng Ma and music director Michael Dadap. COS’s mission is to cultivate and nurture children and teach them teamwork and life skills through music-learning and performing in orchestral and chamber music settings. Members of COS receive excellent training in classical music and opportunities to perform in concerts with their peers as well as with well-established musicians. Ensemble playing is the core of COS; it fosters a valuable work ethic plus a healthy balance of team spirit and pride in personal achievement. With several levels of orchestral groups, students can work toward progressively more demanding music repertoire, limited only by their motivation. Advanced students at the COS often set high goals for themselves – to be in the Majors Program or as contestants in the Annual Discovery Competition.
—Additional information provided by the concert playbill at Lincoln Center