By Donald Rosenberg, The Plain Dealer
Nothing, apparently, stands in Rachel Waterbury's way when she puts her mind to something -- neither braces nor illness nor other challenges that most teenagers face.
Rachel, a 13-year-old trombone-playing seventh-grader at Kenston
Middle School in Chagrin Falls, is the brains behind "Bones for
Bones," a charity concert for a girls orphanage in Israel. She presented her performance, with a host of local music luminaries, this past sunday in Shaker Heights, Ohio.
The program's sassy title refers to the torrent of trombones that will resound during the concert and to instruments Rachel hopes to collect for Lev La Lev (Hebrew for "Heart to Heart"), the orphanage in Netanya, Israel.
The Bainbridge Township teen has studied trombone for nearly two years with Massimo La Rosa, principal trombone of the Cleveland Orchestra, who says Rachel is "a little girl with a big project." La Rosa is taking part in last Sunday's concert, as did the rest of the orchestra's trombone section -- Shachar Israel, Richard Stout and Thomas Klaber.
These musicians shared the stage in works by Mahler, Purcell, Rossini, Beethoven and friends with La Rosa's students from Cleveland Institute of Music, trombonists Paul Ferguson, Jason Smith and Ed Zadrozny, violinist Mari Sato and institute faculty pianist Sandra Shapiro -- Rachel's mother.
Shapiro's enterprising daughter hatched the idea to buy trombones and raise money for orphaned and disadvantaged girls in Israel as a service project for her bat mitzvah, which Rachel celebrated last month. She had plenty of time to begin shaping the event last fall, when she was home recuperating from mononucleosis.
"I knew I wanted to do something that I was good at," says Rachel, smiling through braces that have adorned her teeth since last summer. "I decided to do a concert. I came up with a name and asked Massimo to help."
La Rosa was delighted when Rachel asked him to assist with the project.
"She's a lovely, lovely girl," says La Rosa, who played in the orchestra at Venice's famed opera house, Teatro La Fenice, before coming to Cleveland in 2007. "She has a lot of patience for music. In Italy, I never had a girl student. It's not common for a girl to have a brass instrument. Rachel's good. She makes so much improvement."
Rachel and La Rosa have had ample input on the project from assistant principal trombone Israel, the newest member of the orchestra's "bone" section, and La Rosa's friend Daniele Morandini, principal trombone of the Israel Philharmonic.
Technology has been key to Rachel's managerial skills. She used Google to find the orphanage in Israel. She's in frequent touch by e-mail with Morandini, who plans to donate trombones to Lev La Lev. In addition, he'll take his trombone colleagues in the Israel Philharmonic to Netanya, a resort city on the Mediterranean, to perform for the girls.
Shapiro says she's been blown away by the generosity of the seasoned trombonists who work with her daughter. Rachel takes weekly lessons with Anthony Hopkins, a La Rosa master's student at the institute, and every two months with La Rosa himself.
"Trombonists are very unpossessive, unlike piano teachers," Shapiro says. "It seems like they don't mind if students play for each of them. They've been so OK with going back and forth. Shachar offered to hear [Rachel] when she needs another pair of ears."
Rachel, it turns out, doesn't have ears only for trombone, which she plays in the Cleveland Youth Wind Symphony. She's also a violist who studies with Laura Shuster.
"I usually practice trombone an hour or so after school," Rachel says. "Viola I do after dinner."
Music is just one of her accomplishments. Rachel's a soccer goalie and award winner of the writing program Power of the Pen.
Still, trombone remains her first love.
"I love the sound," says Rachel, who'd like to study at the Juilliard School in New York. "It's just really a fun instrument to play. In band arrangements, it's pretty boring and it has limited repertoire. But it's really beautiful."
And challenging, especially for a growing teenager.
"I can do all the positions," Rachel says of the placement of the trombone slide for pitches. "Sometimes when it's a really fast passage, I have to work to get from all the way out to all the way in."
Rachel and her mom plan on personally delivering the trombones and money raised from Sunday's concert to the girls at Lev La Lev. It will be Rachel's first trip to the country from which Shapiro's family hails.
"Ultimately, the most important thing is to get these girls what they need long-term," says an extremely proud mom.