How the APEX Ensemble, Formerly Montclair Orchestra, is Leaving Its Mark

The Montclair Orchestra, now known as APEX Ensemble, has been performing in Essex County since 2016. The mission of APEX Ensemble, which was developed as a community program, is to provide advanced, developmental, side-by-side playing programs for students at conservatories and music schools in the region as well as prepare student Fellows to become the leaders in the orchestral industry of the future. We had a chance to connect with Founder and Executive Director, Andre Welker and Student Fellow Aurora Mendez, to learn more. Read on to learn more about the latest from this Essex County ensemble. 

(Photo credit: @apexensemble)

Getting Started

APEX Ensemble has always kept the community top of mind throughout its existence, providing opportunities to students in the area. Andre shared more about the initial founding of the organization.

The organization was founded as The Montclair Orchestra in 2016, with the goal of providing paid Fellowship opportunities for university and conservatory music students from places like Juilliard, and the Cali School of Music (Montclair State University) to play alongside professionals from MET Opera, New York Philharmonic, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, and other premier institutions in the region.”

By giving students the opportunity to learn alongside some of the best musicians in the country, APEX Ensemble has earned its tagline, which Andre says is “The orchestra of the next generation.”

The Next Generation

Andre continued to share more about how APEX Ensemble works to live up to its mission. “We are working to fulfill [our tagline] by demonstrating a more diverse, progressive orchestra which will be the future of the music industry.”

The program is truly like no other and the students who have the honor of participating are highly successful. Andre went on to describe its unique nature. 

“It’s the only program of its kind in the country, and our Fellows have gone on to win professional positions with National Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, San Diego Symphony, MET Opera, and NJSO.” To further fulfill its mission, APEX Ensemble will be offering youth music programs. Youth programs will begin in fall 2022 and Andre says anyone with children who have an interest in music should sign up.

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Student Fellows

Students who have the chance to play with the ensemble are able to gain the experience of a lifetime. Aurora shares that sitting side-by-side with the best musicians is an unmatched experience. “Playing side by side with these musical titans is a masterclass in and of itself, that is, we learn from them in a way we cannot learn alone in a practice room.”

This side-by-side learning was impacted by the COVID-19 Pandemic. “During the pandemic, rehearsals, concerts, and all live events were instantly wiped off of our calendars. As you can imagine, many of us yearned to play together again,” she shared. However, thanks to technology and the genius of Music Director David Chan, the orchestra was able to play together while apart.

“Thanks to our music director, David Chan, and the rest of the amazing APEX/Montclair Orchestra team, we were able to stitch together remote recordings that resulted in several wonderful performance videos that were shared via social media. Aside from that, we also held several smaller outdoor programs, and hosted online seminars for Fellows that addressed everything from remote recording to injury prevention.”

(Photo credit: @apexensemble)

Experiencing the Ensemble

For those who have never been to an orchestra performance before, Aurora ensures that this will be different than what you may have heard about other, similar organizations.

“This isn’t a big formal occasion with a black tie, it’s just an unforgettable performance that offers something for everyone.” She went on to share that the audience will have a bit of guidance throughout the performance for an even more intimate show. “Our Music Director David Chan is the Concertmaster (lead violinist) for the Metropolitan Opera in New York, and he does a great job of talking to the audience about the music throughout the performance.”

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Upcoming Shows

With in-person events in full force, APEX Ensemble is excited to welcome concert-goers back to the orchestra. Andre shared more about the upcoming concert on November 5th.

“We are very excited to be returning to live performance on November 5th in Montclair, where a 65-member ensemble will be performing an array of music including “Sound and Fury” written in 2019 by New York-based British composer Anna Clyne, and featuring MET Opera soprano Leah Hawkins, who will be joining us between performances of “Fire Shut Up In My Bones” and “Porgy and Bess” at Lincoln Center. The program will be finished off by Antonin Dvorak’s 8th Symphony.”

Tickets are currently on sale and can be purchased here.

(Photo credit: @apexensemble)

Supporting the Ensemble

APEX Ensemble is a non-profit organization that runs through the generosity of community supporters. Andre says those who want to support the ensemble should, “come to a concert and experience an orchestra in a new way!” For those looking for hands-on experience or to make a monetary donation, Andre shares this is extremely helpful to the organization.

“We have volunteer opportunities for all ages, plus community events where people can hear smaller groups and support us. We are a 501c3 nonprofit, so having strong donor support is a big part of what makes this program possible here in Montclair.” To learn more about how to get involved directly, click here.  

APEX Ensemble is a staple here in Essex County allowing the community to experience an orchestra like no other while engaging students in unforgettable opportunities. To keep up with the latest on APEX Ensemble, be sure to follow on Facebook and Instagram


Written by:

Jordan and Joelle have ties to Montclair starting even before they were born. Both of their parents are graduates of Montclair State University and they knew they would be back at some point in life. Originally hailing from down the shore in Hazlet, NJ, they are true Jersey girls at heart. Outside of their 9-5 as senior publishers in NYC, the twins can be found baking cookies, reading the latest books, or walking their yorkie-poo Chica. Like many 20-somethings, Jordan and Joelle are balling on a budget and know how to score the best deals around town!