Meet the orchestra that plays vegetables

- If you've ever considered a cabbage cantata, wondered what pitches one might persuade from a pumpkin or devoted any degree of thought to the timbre of a tuber, know that on Long Island there lives a man who is way ahead of you.

"There are people on YouTube who put a clarinet mouthpiece on a carrot," Dale Stuckenbruck said, Wednesday. "That's not the real deal."

Born and raised in Germany until the age of 14, Waldorf-educated and classically trained on the violin, Stuckenbruck founded Long Island's Vegetable Orchestra in 2005 after studying the instruments in Vienna's vegetable orchestra in videos online.

"You can transfer this mouthpiece idea to an asparagus, to broccoli or a radish," he said.

Stuckenbruck's various instruments delighted students at the Waldorf School in Garden City, but he knew he needed help if he hoped to scale his operation and so he partnered with the finest vegetable-instrument craftsman he could find.

"In the United States? Probably. I'm not going to lie," orchestra member and master veggie-instrument-maker Daniel Battaglia said. "I don't know anyone else who's come up to me saying: 'Oh, I do the same thing.'"

"He's also a piano technician," Stuckenbruck said, "furniture-builder, the perfect person for this group."

With Battaglia harvesting a bumper crop of seasonal sounds from the region's farm stands and produce aisles, the orchestra grew.

"Oboes and shawm out of daikon radishes," Battaglia said.

"I had a film session with broccoli once in New York," Stuckenbruck said.

And for that film session -- like with so many other veggie gigs -- the maestro's flawlessly tuned instruments wilted overnight, sending Stuckenbruck scrambling for some fresher florets and new methods to prolong the lives of his instruments.

"I would say close to two weeks if we keep [them] in water, ice water and constantly change that water to keep [them] from deteriorating," Battaglia said.

Once their instruments inevitably decompose to a point where they no longer produce musical notes, the orchestra recycles them into carrot cake, squash soup or compost.

"It's one thing to carve it," Stuckenbruck said, "but to know, in any profession, what to do when something goes wrong? That's the secret."

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