Profile:A peek into POCO, with conductor Nick Platoff

Alyssa Clough

“It has taken up the majority of my time this year. But it’s a labor of love, I’m really happy doing it”, sophomore Nick Platoff said of his involvement in the Player’s Operation Chamber Orchestra. Although the word “involvement” might be a understatement. Platoff created the idea of a student-led orchestra, followed through with his idea, and is now the conductor and main organizer of POCO. The 19-year-old trombone player has been a lover of music since the beginning. His first instrument was the recorder, as most of ours was, but his ambitions did not end there. After spending the summer before his junior year of high school in North Carolina at the Brevard Music Center summer program Platoff had made up his mind. “It was life changing. From that day forward I decided that was what I wanted to do,” said Platoff. Even though Northwestern has one of the best brass programs in the country, Platoff now has his sights set on conducting, a career change he can thank an old girlfriend in high school for. “Well, in high school I was dating a French horn player… I started listening to music differently since I knew she played horn and I always noticed that the horn players have much better and more interesting parts in orchestra than the trombones do…I started thinking maybe trombone wasn’t the only thing I wanted to do,” said Platoff. Platoff called his first attempt at conducting “terrible,” yet just two years later he is conducting a flexible group of 45 students that just wrapped their third and final concert of the year. Each POCO concert was themed. The fall concert focused on Mozart, the Winter Quarter show was love-themed in honor of Valentine’s Day and the most recent was this past Tuesday and covered music written through the centuries. The concert, titled “Old and New: a concert celebrating music from 1717 through 2012!” featured student-written pieces by Jivin Misra, Samuel Suggs and Conner Vanderbeek. Platoff said, “We’ve been getting more and more ambitious ever since [the first concert], more soloists and more diverse repertoire. It’s really just been a hit on campus I think. We’ve really enjoyed playing and the audience has been getting bigger and bigger, so I don’t know exactly what the future holds but I think more things for POCO.” Running rehearsals, booking practice venues, finding places to perform, checking availability of group members and choosing songs to perform leaves Platoff with a hefty to-do list. Thankfully, he has help in the form of Anna Cooksey. “My God! I don’t know how any of this would be possible. She’s a magician,” Platoff said. Cooksey, a junior and co-manager of POCO, has nothing but amazing things to say about her colleague as well. “He’s a great networker, so everyone who helps out with POCO is an example of the friendliness and kindness he shows his fellow musicians,” she said. “Without the musicians, there wouldn’t be any music to make. I think it is these qualities that make someone well-suited for conducting a student group. It’s not like he has any extra time or any less to do than the rest of us.” After finishing a busy four years at Northwestern, Platoff plans to take a year off to play freelance trombone and conduct in Evanston while he focuses on auditioning for graduate school with the intent to earn a Masters degree in orchestral conducting, hopefully in New York. But for right now, he is still very much focused on the present. “I think this is only the beginning for what’s possible with an enthusiastic and talented bunch of music students… POCO has been pretty much my baby this year,” said Platoff. And a successful baby at that. -Alyssa Clough