Philadelphia Orchestra musicians serenade new U.S. citizens at naturalization ceremony

Posted on: March 26, 2021

Philadelphia Orchestra musicians (from left) violinist Julia Li, cellist Yumi Kendall, and violist Che-Hung Chen perform at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in Philadelphia on Thursday. Photo by Alejandro A. Alvarez


“An additional welcome awaited a few dozen newly minted U.S. citizens Thursday at three naturalization ceremonies in West Philadelphia—a musical one played by members of the Philadelphia Orchestra,” writes Peter Dobrin in Friday’s (3/26) Philadelphia Inquirer. “Thursday’s ceremonies … were presided over by U.S. District Judge Joel H. Slomsky … a Philadelphia Orchestra fan. It was during another naturalization service, in 2018, that one new citizen, Julia Li, mentioned that she was a violinist with the orchestra, and the judge’s ears perked up. Later, he met Philadelphia Orchestra president and CEO Matías Tarnopolsky, who had himself recently become a U.S. citizen. Slomsky invited Tarnopolsky to speak at a naturalization ceremony, which he did…. Each of the pieces played Thursday was chosen for a reason. Music by a living American composer was important, said Kendall, hence ‘Great Day’ from Adolphus Hailstork’s Three Spirituals. Dvořák was represented with the ‘Cavatina’ from Miniatures, with the composer an example of someone who came to America from elsewhere and absorbed its sound…. Tarnopolsky promises that when the pandemic is over, the orchestra will work to bring a naturalization ceremony to the Kimmel Center…. ‘It would be a wonderful tradition,’ he said.”