By Merle Exit
Fresh Meadows resident Yeou-Cheng Ma has been playing the violin since she was 2 years old and the piano since she was 3.
Born in France of Chinese descent, she and her brother, Yo-Yo, moved to the United States in the early ‘60s. That is when Ma’s father started the Children’s Orchestra Society.
“After my father retired, my husband, Michael Dadap, and I took over the orchestra after a seven-year dormancy and started it from scratch,” Ma said.
Dadap is both the principle conductor and artistic director of the group. His love for music is obvious, further enhanced by his hobby of collecting and playing stringed instruments from the Philippines, where he was born. He also composes and one of his compositions will be performed at the 24th Annual Discovery Gala, scheduled for May 24 at Hunter College’s Sylvia Kaye Playhouse.
The gala — a concert followed by a reception — is in celebration the group’s 49th year. Performing at the concert will be the Young Symphonic Ensemble, featuring Tomoya Aomori (marimba) and Pei-Wen Liao (violin). The group will be conducted by Dadap.
Ma and Dadap don’t do everything by themselves, though. Their daughter, Laura Dadap, is a big part of the society as well. An accomplished cellist, she manages the orchestra and has been touring with the show, Voca People. She also performs with a group known as Macabre Americana.
In December 2016, Laura stepped in to sing with the Children’s Orchestra Society at its 48th Annual Winter Concert to help the group prepare for its Carnegie Hall performance with Margaret Keys.
The mission of COS, a nonprofit organization, is to teach children and teens the language of music.
“Our 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,” Ma said. “Our members receive excellent training in classical music as well as opportunities to perform in concerts with both their peers and well-established musicians.”
At a recent trip to Shanghai, China, the COS performed at Shanghai Symphony Hall. Ma said the children in the group were able to communicate using the language of music despite the language barrier, adding that it was a great experience for the kids in the group.
Ma, a practicing pediatrician, also teaches the violin in her spare time.
“I try to encourage my students to join the orchestra so that they can experience other children doing similar things,” she said.
There are four orchestras within the COS. The Young Symphonic Ensemble is the senior orchestra, which is the most advanced in the society. Then there is the second orchestra, the Sinfonia, and the Junior Symphonic Ensemble. Ma said the is no rule to how young you can join and that a younger performer can move up to one of the more advanced orchestras based on merit.
Two of the young members of the group reside in Queens. Johann Li, 14, of Little Neck, is a rising star on the violin, as is and 10-year-old Jeffrey Yang, of Bayside. They are both currently performing with the Young Symphonic Ensemble.
CSO is based in Flushing at 65-03 180th St. For more information, call (718) 888-0635 and for tickets to upcoming performances, call (212) 772-4448.