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New Westchester Symphony Orchestra hired for Amazon's 'Mozart in the Jungle'

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Members of the New Westchester Symphony Orchestra are extras on Amazon's streaming series "Mozart in the Jungle," about the cutthroat world of modern Manhattan music makers. The 10-episode first season follows Lola Kirke's character Hailey Rutledge as she navigates rent, roommates, love and music.

Producers reached out to the Chelsea Symphony and New Westchester to fill out their on-screen orchestra.

"We didn't believe it was real at first," said Ben Niemczyk, New Westchester's conductor and co-founder. "We got an email asking us to be part of the pilot. And I told (co-founder Belinda Kan) it was just spam." But it was on the level.

"The clincher was she said we didn't have to actually play," Kan said with a laugh. "And I said, 'Oh, we are so there!' "

Kan hired 30 musicians to "play" – people who could reasonably mime to a soundtrack without making sound – including herself, Niemcyzk, and concertmaster Jesica Youngblood of Rye. Most of their scenes were shot in 2013 at the massive Concert Hall at Purchase College.

Youngblood had just joined New Westchester Symphony when she was cast in the pilot. There she is, on the stage at Purchase College, which might have been enough.

Then violin virtuoso Joshua Bell walked in for his scene, accompanied by actor Malcolm McDowell. Then Bernadette Peters strode onto the stage.

"It was an unforgettable experience, and a great bragging point," Youngblood said. "I got to hug Joshua Bell and we had a nice conversation."  SEE THE lohud/Journal News PAGE