Musicians admired Cooper’s dedication to Leonard Bernstein and savored working with Yannick Nézet-Séguin

Fans and followers of the National Repertory Orchestra who saw Bradley Cooper’s Maestro likely appreciated the film’s broad gamut of authentic musical talent and may have also recognized some familiar faces.

Several NRO alumni played roles in the film, which documents the career and relationships of legendary composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein. Cellist Sara Page, who made her NRO debut in 2018 and returned to perform in the Alumni String Quartet in 2022, recently graduated from The Orchestra Now ensemble, a masters/certificate program at Bard College in Upstate New York. Along with several of her colleagues, she was selected to appear in a scene that features a masterclass performing at Tanglewood.

“The most rewarding aspect of the experience for me was being immersed in the filmmaking process,” Page says. “It was so incredible to see how many people and skills are involved for even a few seconds of film. It was amazing to work with Bradley Cooper. You could tell he was really passionate about the film and the artistry involved.”

Page added that Cooper enlisted the help of the Philadelphia Orchestra’s Yannick Nézet-Séguin to advise him on technique.

“We were lucky enough to rehearse and record with him on the morning of the day we filmed. The experience of working with such a renowned conductor for the film was extremely rewarding for me as well,” Page says. “He was fantastic and a true inspiration throughout — an incredible artist and human being. He was so helpful, encouraging, and patient while advising Bradley Cooper during the scene.”

Because the scene involved doing what she has known and loved nearly her entire life, it didn’t feel like too much a departure from Page’s everyday existence. Still, she marks it as one of the most memorable experiences of her career to date.

“It was so cool to me that it felt as natural as it did to be in the scene. We’ve all played in conducting masterclasses before, so the ‘acting’ for us wasn’t really acting. We were just doing what we do,” she says. “I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity, and even more so because of the people I was surrounded by, and the greats I was able to work with. Having the opportunity with some of my closest friends and wonderful colleagues, to do what we do and love every day, to be showcased and encapsulated forever in a beautiful film was a truly special thing.”

Bradley Cooper in character

Violinist Adrienne Harmon, who was Adrienne Watkinson when she came to Breckenridge for her fellowship with the National Repertory Orchestra in 2007, also performed in the Tanglewood scene. What she found fascinating about the experience was “how many people it takes and how much effort it takes to create what turns out to be even a brief moment on screen.” Although she isn’t visible in the final cut (“the shot was a tight one of the front of the orchestra”), she spent ample time getting her hair and makeup done and relished the filmmaking experience.

“For me, the coolest was to see Bradley Cooper walk into the room at 7:30 a.m. in full makeup – I guess he had been in the makeup chair for hours already that morning – and in character the entire time,” Harmon says. “It was like seeing Bernstein enter the room. He was there to watch us rehearse the piece with maestro Yannick Nézet-Séguin first, to learn from how musicians work together in actuality. Then it was really neat to watch the process of [working] with the maestro in sort of a lesson format to get it more accurate. I really appreciate his dedication to making his conducting as authentic as possible and his respect for this art form.”

Bassist Luke Stence (NRO ’12,’13) was also intrigued with Cooper’s dedication to the character, but did indeed feel as though he was acting himself, since the scene involved a struggle to nail the number.

“I found it very interesting seeing behind the scenes of a major film production,” Stence says. “Bradley Cooper stayed in character as he was directing in between cuts, which created a highly engaging and entertaining atmosphere. I think the most difficult part of the experience was trying to purposely play badly so that the orchestra sounded like it was falling apart as the student conductor tried to navigate Beethoven’s 8th.”

Hey, we know that concertmaster

Violinist Sabrina Parry, (NRO 2017, Alumni String Quartet 2022) ended up with a prominent appearance in the role of concertmaster in an orchestra tuning scene.

Eight NRO alumni took part in the film: Sabrina Parry, Sara Page, Kyle Davis, Eva Roebuck, Luke Stence, Milad Daniari, Judith Kim and Adrienne Harmon.

“This was an incredibly surreal and memorable experience for me,” she says. “Bradley actually chose to film the tuning process only after seeing us go through our normal routine. It didn’t seem to be something he had intended to film beforehand. Because of this, it was extra special that it made it into the film and to see myself stand up and tune the orchestra. Bonus moment was when he very humbly and so down-to-earth asked my name and introduced himself. It could not have been as fun without my amazing colleagues such as Sara [Page], who was sitting across from me, which made the downtime between takes and first-time filming process such a breeze.”

A great admirer of Bernstein, cellist Eva Roebuck (NRO ’18) was overjoyed to offer her own talent in immortalizing him.

“Leonard Bernstein is one of the great titans of the music world and getting to contribute our craft to a film about a man who has shaped so many of us was truly an honor,” Roebuck says.

For Kyle Davis (viola, NRO ’18), working with Nézet-Séguin was one of many highlights.

“It was also a great musical experience working with conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin, a leading figure in our career field,” he says. Not only did we get the opportunity to play for the film’s soundtrack, we got to work on a live movie set under Bradley Cooper’s direction. Working on the film was a special experience.”

Fellow NRO alumni to appear in the film include 2014 bassist Milad Daniari and 2022 violinist Judith Kim.

If you haven’t yet seen Maestro, find it on Netflix, where it is currently one of the platform’s most popular films.

Lead photo: Screengrab from the film’s Tanglewood scene shows Sara Page front and center and Eva Roebuck back right, courtesy of Eva Roebuck.