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An Idea Born of Travel Fatigue

A story of coincidences and learning on the fly

by Leila Zogby

I took up the cello some 40 years ago as a college student. At least half of those years have been spent lugging my instrument around to play in community orchestras, many of them miles from home. By 2006, I was tired of it. "Why," I asked myself, "couldn’t the Northport community support its own orchestra? After all, we are blessed with an educated, sophisticated population and a school district that values – and funds - music and art."

So, who better to approach about the possibility of starting a community orchestra right here at home than Izzet Mergen, Northport-East Northport School District Music Director.

"Why," I asked myself, "couldn’t the Northport community support its own orchestra?"

Mr. Mergen greeted me warmly, heard me out, and said, “Funny that you come in today. Only a few days ago two members of the Northport Chorale approached me about the very same thing. Let me put you in touch with them.”


A few weeks later in July of 2006, Richard Hyman, then music director of the Chorale, and the group’s president, Su Ronneberger, were gracious enough to meet with me. Their enthusiasm and commitment were obvious, and a plan was hatched by the end of our meeting. Auditions were set for the following September and plans were made for a debut at the Chorale’s May 2007 concert.

I make it sound simple, but it certainly was not. If it had not been for the drive, passion and dedication of many, NSO would not have made it to its FIRST birthday, much less its tenth!

Richard Hyman initially offered his services pro bono to get us off the ground musically, an unparalleled act of generosity.

The Northport Chorale board agreed to serve as our “parent” while we organized legally.

We needed money, so we organized a CD sale in the Spring 2007 at the Chorale’s “Garage Sale” fundraiser in Northport Park. We netted $60 and proudly opened a bank account.

Next, we had to learn how to write grants and seek support from local businesses. We wrote by-laws, formed a board of directors, became a 501(c)3 non-profit, visited state and local politicians, put up posters, licked envelopes – in short, did EVERYTHING in order make the Northport Orchestra a reality. And it worked!

And we actually did get those grants!

In July 2014, my husband and I left our East Northport home of 32 years and returned to living in New York City. As you might imagine, leaving NSO was hard. I am grateful every day for how this orchestra has improved my life. For openers, there is the joy that comes from making music with others, from creating something beautiful through teamwork. There is also all of the wonderful music I’ve come to know and appreciate at a deeper level. More important, though, are the friendships that distance and time cannot diminish. There is also the gratification of knowing that I leave behind something valuable.

The Northport community was very good to me and my family. We landed in Suffolk County by happy accident and will always consider ourselves lucky. That I helped create something of lasting value that enriches the lives of my neighbors is a wonderful feeling!

Here’s to the Next Ten!

Leila Zogby / NSO Founding Member