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This Thanksgiving, Raise the Baton for the Long Island Vegetable Orchestra!

How about a hollowed-out pumpkin as a drum? What about a carrot as a flute? Brussel sprouts rubbed together as squeaky keepers of the beat. WRTI’s Meridee Duddleston learns about vegetables with a life beyond the table. Since its official debut in 2011, the Long Island Vegetable Orchestra has evolved, this year appointing its first music director.

Carrots are the number one vegetable that we use.

It was founded by violinist, conductor and teacher Dale Stuckenbruck, who began using vegetables as instruments to spark the imagination of his students.

Vienna has one. So does London. But music director Dan Battaglia says, as far as he knows, the Long Island Vegetable Orchestra is the first of its kind in the nation.

Listen to the orchestra play the opening bars of this staple of the classical repertoire on instruments made from two squashes, two cucumbers and a carrot. This is a recording made for WRTI at the Ridge Hill Sound Studio in East Setauket, NY in October, 2017.

Radio script:

Meridee Duddleston: How about a butternut squash as a trumpet, or a trombone? A carrot as a flute. Brussels sprouts to keep the beat. Raise the baton for the Long Island Vegetable Orchestra. Dan Battaglia is its first music director.

Dan Battaglia: Every year since I’ve gotten involved, which was 2012, we have developed the instruments each time a little bit more, and we finally, this year got to the point where we can play written music.

MD: Battaglia is a classically trained clarinetist. And at any given performance he and up to seven others play instruments fashioned from what’s in the produce aisle. He does the shopping.

DB: Carrots are the number one vegetable that we use.  We use lots of percussion instruments, so things like eggplant, cabbage. The pumpkins are big drums.  All that kind of good stuff. 

MD: The technical skills required of the members of the ensemble have gotten more complex.

DB: I started to pick up members and say, ‘you know what, you are now in charge of the brass section.  You are now in charge of the carrots.’ That way one person can develop the instrument to, pretty much perfection; trying to keep everything very consistent.

MD: The orchestra seeks classically trained players. 

DB: Believe it or we’re making that a requirement.

MD: The Long Island Vegetable Orchestra plays jazz, pop and classical music, mostly at schools and festivals, but its vision involves performing with a traditional orchestra. The lofty goal of an ensemble whose instruments often start with a kitchen knife and a drill.