Arts & Entertainment

Sparta Middle School's Andrea Santora Takes Part in a Special Performance

Mari Sugawa is Sugar Plum and Leonid Flegmatov is her Cavalier. On thrones in red, Andrew Notarile as the Nutcracker Prince and Alison Ivan as Clara.  Credits: VAM Productions
Left to right: Seated Eric Schaberg and John Furia cello Standing Ruth Zumstein, violin, Lucy Corwin viola, Effie Yeun, viola, Andrea Santora, viola, Karen Camp, violin, Jordan Tarantino, viola, Amy Soto, violin, Nancie Whiting, violin

MORRISTOWN, NJ - Between Sunday’s matinee and evening performances of New Jersey Ballet’s The Nutcracker ten members of the string section of the orchestra will take their instruments and quietly slip away from The Mayo Performing Arts Center. These musicians, including Sparta Middle School Orchestra Director Andrea Santora, will be bringing the magic of Piotr Iliac Tchaikovsky’s holiday masterpiece to a very special audience.  

The seniors of Spring Hill Assisted Living in Morristown will be treated to an exclusive concert by ten daring members of the New Jersey Ballet Orchestra. The concert will feature Tchaikovsky’s 1892 composition The Nutcracker Suite which originally took place under the composer’s baton at an assembly of the St. Petersburg Musical Society months before the famed ballet premiered.

The impetus for this special concert began with the reminiscences of the musicians, all longtime friends, who had played in New Jersey Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker for decades. How ironic it seemed to them, that ever since 1971 when New Jersey Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker debuted with world renowned dancer Edward Villella, tens of thousands of people have had the chance to see and hear Tchaikovsky’s magical work as the company toured the state.  Despite living only minutes away from the Mayo Performing Arts Center, Santora’s 92 year old father Norbert Dembinski, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, was physically unable to attend.

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In the spirit of the holidays and with the blessing of New Jersey Ballet orchestra conductor Gary Fagin, a plan was conceived.  The string players, would donate their time taking off during the break between performances to surprise Andrea’s father and the residents of Spring Hills with a unique holiday gift; a concert performance by Mr.Dembinski’s daughter and her colleagues.

The concert will include holiday favorites Greensleeves, Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire, White Christmas and Auld Lang Syne.  In addition they will perform Tchaikovsky’s abbreviated musical rendering of the famous ballet with selections Mother Ginger, the March, Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies and the Trepak or Russian Dance.  The program leaves plenty of time to return to the theatre before the next performance. When the proposal for the concert was presented to Spring Hill’s Executive Administrator and Events Director the idea was joyfully received and a date was set.

And while the concert version of The Nutcracker Suite will be an exclusive performance at Spring Hills Assisted Living this Sunday, theatre goers to the Mayo Performing Arts Center, may glimpse the intrepid string section in between Sunday’s performances or listen to their music making throughout the Nutcracker Ballet now until December 24. For further information on all remaining New Jersey Ballet Nutcracker performances visit

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