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Kendall Square musicians bring their orchestra to Symphony Hall

Mayors stump for help on Beacon Hill; Bank of America promotes their head man in Massachusetts; Artists don’t love Related’s big plans along Fort Point Channel

Elena Spencer, CEO of the Kendall Square Orchestra.Chris Morris

Elena Spencer likes to joke that her orchestra goes from the mall to Symphony Hall.

Only she’s not really joking.

The Kendall Square Orchestra, which Spencer leads as its volunteer CEO, played two gigs at the CambridgeSide mall last year, near the Bath & Body Works store. On May 23, the orchestra returns to Symphony Hall in Boston for the second time — and the first since the pandemic hit. More than 600 tickets have been sold so far; the proceeds will go to the Science Club for Girls.

The night should be a triumphant return to form for K2O, as the group calls itself, after COVID-19 busted up its original schedule. The pandemic put a damper on live performances but the orchestra’s membership grew steadily anyway. K2O held two pop-up performances outdoors: once in September 2020, when strict gathering limits were in place (the musicians moved to a different spot if the crowd got too big), and then again in May 2021. The group subsequently held two performances at First Church in Cambridge, too.

“We play in all sorts of unexpected places,” said Spencer, whose day job is chief of staff at Pfizer’s inflammation and immunology unit. “We don’t really constrain ourselves to the ‘what should an orchestra do?’ concept.”


This somewhat unorthodox group of classical musicians — the vast majority work in tech or life sciences — was launched more than four years ago with funding from Pfizer. By early 2019, it had spun off as a separate nonprofit. This year, it has the financial backing of more than a dozen companies with a Kendall Square presence.

Spencer, a violinist, started K2O with her friend Kelly Clark, a pianist and former Pfizer employee who now leads project and portfolio management at Dewpoint Therapeutics. Their goal: create a different kind of networking organization for people who work in Kendall Square. (Clark acts as the group’s chief financial officer.) K2O originally rehearsed at Pfizer’s offices on Main Street, but the musicians now practice at a storefront dance space in a BioMed Realty-owned building at 650 East Kendall St. (with shoes left at the door, so as not to scuff up the floor). K2O’s budget runs around $100,000 a year.


“The magic that happens when people come together and form something greater than the sum of the parts is really exhilarating,” Spencer said. “[And] when you’re bringing people together for something like music, and they step away from the experiment they were doing all day, they come back to it refreshed.”

Mayors make their case on Beacon Hill

The hottest gathering place for Massachusetts mayors last week was a State House hearing room, where members of the Legislature’s economic development committee accepted testimony about the economic development bill that Governor Charlie Baker filed in April. Much of the testimony was delivered in person, but some mayors beamed in by videoconference. So did Senator Eric Lesser, the committee’s cochairman, who was remote because he was recovering from a bout of COVID-19.

Baker’s bill would spend nearly $3.6 billion, a mix of federal recovery funds and state bond proceeds. Baker, who testified in person on behalf of his bill, included earmarks totaling hundreds of millions of dollars for local projects. And the mayors — a long procession of them, in fact, ranging from Ruthanne Fuller of Newton to Domenic Sarno of Springfield — are eager to see the funding come their way.


The testimony started to get repetitive over the course of the four-hour-plus meeting. Melrose Mayor Paul Brodeur, a former state representative, joked that, “’Everything’s been said, but not everyone has said it,’ might apply here.”

Agawam’s Bill Sapelli did offer one unique twist: an amusement park. After Sapelli pleaded for help with local stormwater projects, Representative Jerry Parisella, the committee’s other cochair, asked if people are returning to Six Flags New England after a pandemic-induced downturn.

“They’re back, wide open again, so come and join us,” Sapelli said. “Come and visit. Spend some money in Agawam. We need some amusement today.”

Amen to that, Bill.

Bigger job for B of A’s Boston boss

As Bank of America’s chief executive, Brian Moynihan is obviously the most prominent person at the bank from Greater Boston. Given Moynihan’s travel schedule, and the fact the bank’s headquarters is in Charlotte, N.C., there’s another executive who is usually more visible locally: Miceal Chamberlain.

Chamberlain has long been the Massachusetts president of Bank of America, a role that has made him a near-ubiquitous presence on Boston’s business-group event circuit. But now he has another job at the bank: Northeast region head for global commercial banking. He most recently balanced the state president role with a management job in global markets, serving the city’s investment community on behalf of B of A. In his new position, Chamberlain will lead a team that provides a range of banking services for mid-sized and larger companies — up to $2 billion in annual revenue — in the Northeast. He’ll still make the rounds wearing his Massachusetts market president hat.


“We cover such a wide swath of industries and clients,” Chamberlain said, noting that companies are dealing with everything from labor shortages to inflation to rising interest rates. “The exciting part is really getting to know these clients and seeing how we can help them.”

In your face in Fort Point

Here’s the thing about rubbing artists the wrong way: Don’t be surprised if their frustration ends up in a piece of art.

That’s exactly what happened at 249 A St. in Fort Point, a brick building that is home to an artists’ cooperative. The building faces a vast parking lot along Fort Point Channel that Related Beal is scheduled to redevelop — a 6.5-acre project known as Channelside — with two new commercial buildings and one residential structure. The artists who live at 249 A recently hung two banners on the side of their building, emphasizing their desire to retain the quirkiness of the brick-and-beam neighborhood, with the sayings “We are Fort Point” and the other, “Not Another Seaport.” Also featured is a drawing of a woman flexing her arm, a mashup of Wonder Woman and Rosie the Riveter.

Domingo-Martin Barreres, president of the 249 A Street Artists Cooperative, designed the 20-foot by 10-foot banners. He said his organization is particularly concerned about the size of two of the three Related buildings, which would be significantly taller than what existing zoning allows. He fears they could irrevocably change the fabric of the Fort Point community.


Related executive vice president Stephen Faber said the firm has enjoyed a “very engaging process” with the neighborhood. He notes that the project will bring several community benefits, including a new park. Two of the three buildings will feature brick exteriors, though the third, will feature a façade made mostly of glass (similar to all the other new buildings in the adjacent Seaport area).

“We do recognize there is a desire for this to be cohesive and to react well from a design standpoint with the neighborhood,” Faber said. “We fully expect our development is going to execute on that.”

Whether Barreres can be convinced of that remains to be seen. For now, the banners are staying up, though Barreres will briefly take them down on Thursday to give them a face lift before they are rehung. This piece of art, it seems, is still a work in progress — like much of the South Boston waterfront.

Jon Chesto can be reached at jon.chesto@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.