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When New York’s Chelsea Symphony was approached in 2013 to be part of a television pilot for a comedy show on Amazon, “Mozart in the Jungle,” conductor and Connecticut College faculty member Mark Seto didn’t know what to expect. Original programming was new to Amazon, the musicians didn’t know what the plot was or who would be part of the cast, and many of the musicians—including Seto—had no experience in television.
“We thought it could be a fun opportunity for our musicians,” Seto admitted.
It was when the musicians arrived on set and started rubbing elbows with actor Gael García Bernal, who portrays a conductor of the show’s fictitious “New York Symphony,” and musical theatre legend Bernadette Peters that Seto realized it could be more than an opportunity.
The pilot was picked up for a full season—and then a second season, which recently won the Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series, Comedy and earned Bernal the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Television Series, Musical or Comedy.
The show, a half hour comedic drama, looks at “finding yourself and finding love while conquering New York City,” according to IMDB.
The Chelsea Symphony is one of the orchestras that provides on-screen musicians for the show. (Musicians from the New Westchester Symphony Orchestra are also included.) Seto said that musicians from his orchestra have also coached the show’s actors on how to “play” the instruments; one of his oboists, he said, oversees the “oboe playing” of Lola Kirke, the actress who plays the show’s main character.
Seto said The Chelsea Symphony also performed at the red-carpet series premiere at New York’s Lincoln Center. He and a colleague conducted the performance which, of course, included a lot of Mozart.
“It has been exciting to be part of this show about classical musicians that’s generating so much pop-culture buzz,” said Seto. “I think ‘Mozart in the Jungle’ does a great job of humanizing musicians and what we do.”
Seto has been an assistant professor of music at Connecticut College since 2011. He also conducts the Connecticut College Orchestra, and has conducted music for the New York Youth Symphony, Yale Symphony Orchestra and Columbia University Orchestra.