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Anthony Finley, a British barrister now serving as a senior associate at Thacher Proffitt & Wood and principal violist of the Lawyers’ Orchestra of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, admits he has been the butt of a “double whammy” of put-down jokes regarding his career and instrument of choice. Yet he blocks them out of his mind when rehearsing his part in Mozart’s “Sinfonia Concertante for Violin and Viola,” in preparation for tonight’s performance at Good Shepherd Church, the orchestra’s final concert this season. Teasing aside, Finley and co-soloist Linda Chang, a violinist from upstate New York who trained with Dorothy DeLay and now works as an associate at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, say the Lawyers’ Orchestra provides them with an opportunity to fraternize with a group of people who share a passion and a profession. Finley said that for him, law and music are “different intellectual challenges requiring different intellectual approaches,” but are also “great complements.” “Leaving work to play refreshes me and is a good release that is both mentally and physically challenging,” he said. The orchestra has allowed Chang to resume playing seriously after some down time during law school and her early years as an associate at Mayer, Brown & Platt. “Before I didn’t have lawyer friends involved in music with time to commit to amateur playing,” she said. “Through the orchestra, I have met people who love music and are serious hobbyists,” but who also “understand each others’ professional schedules.” There are, of course, a few members of the Lawyers’ Orchestra who could not resist the opportunity to get involved with music in their professional lives. Judith Prowda, a violinist and attorney in private practice, said she was drawn by her love of the arts to intellectual property law specifically related to literature and music. And some members of the orchestra with legal backgrounds have turned to music full-time: violinist Jeff Baker graduated from law school but works at a conservatory, and former assistant district attorney Barbara Thomashower, who plays the flute, now teaches music. Even Finley admits that he handles legal work for some of his musician friends. PRESSED FOR TIME But most orchestra members leave music to their free time. For big-firm associates, who make up one fifth of the 50-member orchestra, this is especially difficult. Deal-making sometimes takes priority over weekly rehearsals. “I’m lucky to have a supportive group at the firm,” Chang said. According to Finley, it is particularly hard for “treadmilled youngsters busy billing hours” to pull away from the office to practice their pieces. Perhaps that is why many of the orchestra’s members, Finley suggested, are not those on the pathway to partnership, like the retired National Labor Relations’ Board Administrative Law Judge who plays the clarinet, the Stroock & Stroock & Lavan law librarian who plays double bass and the three foreign attorneys, all string instrument players, who work for the United Nations. Concert audience members, Finley said, are also more often firm support staff or older folks. Associate culture in this country, he lamented, does not foster fans for home team musicians as it does young athletes on firm sports teams. But according to flautist and assistant corporation counsel Andrea Berger, chairwoman of the Lawyers’ Orchestra committee, there are lots of lawyers out there who have had some musical training and want to play, but just need to get organized. Berger, who last year took over the management of the Lawyers’ Orchestra from its founder, Assistant U.S. Attorney and oboist David Greenwald, has gotten many lawyers to tune in by advertising at major and midsize law firms and New York law schools. In the past year, Berger said, the orchestra has grown by about 35 percent and has expanded its activities to include a Friday night chamber music series and collaborations with students from the LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts, where James Minenna, conductor of the Lawyers’ Orchestra, teaches. The Lawyers’ Orchestra’s regular season includes three or four public concerts, each usually paired with a public service performance at a nursing home or hospital. Berger said her plans for this summer include playing chamber music at City shelters and seeking out grants to boost the orchestra’s funds. As of now, the Lawyers’ Orchestra is supported by the City Bar Fund, members’ dues, ticket sales, and the contributions of individual lawyers and friends. What the orchestra needs most, Minenna said, is a home. The orchestra has far outgrown the City Bar, though its members occasionally play chamber music at the bar association’s receptions. Currently, the orchestra practices at City Center, but it is looking for an affordable and convenient place to settle down and to store its equipment, including a newly purchased set of professional timpani. A permanent residence would also bolster the Orchestra’s internal cohesion and strengthen its identity in the eyes of the pubic, Minenna said. At the orchestra’s dress rehearsal at Good Shepherd on Tuesday, the horns were a bit cramped in the back. And the lights and the acoustics were on the live side. But the players began practicing promptly, quickly transforming the chapel to a concert hall with Brahms’ “Academic Festival Overture” and Dvorak’s “Symphony No. 8 in G Major.” [Minenna admitted that he typically chooses traditional and well-rounded repertoires that are "real crowd pleasers."] Minenna worked out kinks, telling the orchestra’s members to pick up the pace, look up from their sheet music or “give it some umph with a little more left hand.” He says he does not treat his lawyer-players any differently than other musicians, though he acknowledges that a lawyer orchestra, by its very nature, must be accommodating of the professional obligations of its members. Minenna believes the Lawyers’ Orchestra has attracted a serious bunch and claims to hear sounds of improvement at each rehearsal. And like Chang and Finley, he avoided generalizations about affinities between music and the law. “There are no stereotypes,” he said of the orchestra’s members.

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