Through NYO-USA’s experience recording an episode of From the Top and engaging children in an interactive performance at Carnegie Hall, the musicians of the orchestra got a taste of community-minded musicianship. Apprentice Orchestra Manager Josh Davidoff explores what it means to bring audiences into the world of classical music.
After the taping of our episode of From the Top last week, we freshly minted alumni of the show got to participate in an arts leadership session led by From the Top’s educational team. While there were many thought-provoking questions and a lot of insightful input from musicians, the workshop focused on one issue in particular: whether classical music is dying in America.
This is an extraordinarily difficult topic for NYO-USA’s seasoned and dedicated players, many of whom are considering or actively pursuing a career in this art form that may or may not be endangered. For most lovers of classical music, the default answer is a reactive “no way, we’re doing just fine.” Generally, the evidence towards the affirmative tends to be overlooked because it’s just too scary.
My personal opinion on the matter is about as internally consistent as the intonation of a sixth-grade orchestra (i.e., not very), but in the past I’ve typically gravitated toward the less popular pole: Classical music is dying, albeit slowly. However, I don’t mean this as a condemnation. Rather, I see it as a call to action.
Classical music is laboring under the weight of a lack of access. Entry consists of a series of technical and intellectual hoops and hurdles to be overcome before anyone will be accepted into the culture. In my experience, it is difficult or impossible for someone who doesn’t know how many symphonies were written by Dmitri Shostakovich (15) to earn the trust or the camaraderie of someone who has known Shostakovich since preschool. It’s akin to a kid on the playground being excluded because he doesn’t watch a certain TV show. His family doesn’t have cable.
Here at NYO-USA, those traditions of exclusion and elitism are difficult to find. The overwhelming majority of these young musicians are happy to talk to anybody about the many joys contained within a Beethoven symphony, whether the conversation is on topics of complex music theory or simply emotional response. At the interactive performance for children that we participated in last week at Carnegie Hall, I saw many musicians connecting with young kids who had absolutely no musical background. Many players (including myself on tenor sax) were not afraid to employ familiar pop songs and even “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” to demonstrate their instrument and make a connection. When music is used effectively, it is humanity’s common language.
So, is classical music dying in America? Frankly, it’s irrelevant. If we continue as a musical society to treat outsiders with a measure of disrespect or a lack of interest, then I firmly believe that we have nowhere to go but down. However, there exists hope, a lot of which can be found in the hearts and minds of young musicians. It’s a phrase we’ve all heard a hundred times: “You guys are the future.” Inclusion across boundaries truly is our decision to make.
As we continue our cross-country tour, the future looks bright.
Learn more about the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America.
If you missed the spellbinding broadcast of the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America lead by David Robertson, you can now listen to the entire broadcast. The program featured Bernstein's Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, Samuel Adams's Radial Play (commissioned by Carnegie Hall), Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition (orch. Ravel), and Britten's Violin Concerto with violinist Gil Shaham.
This concert is part of our Carnegie Hall Live series, a partnership with WQXR and American Public Media.
Throughout the 2014 NYO-USA Residency and Tour, we will be featuring these weekly round-ups on the blog. Use these posts to get back up to speed on any blog entries, photos, videos, or social media posts that you may have missed over the past week. This week, we're highlighting the Orchestra's video postcards, a birthday surprise for David Robertson, reviews, and photo albums from the tour.
Teton Village, Wyoming | Walk Festival Hall
Rohnert Park, California | Sonoma State University's Green Music Center, Weill Hall
Los Angeles, California | The Music Center's Walt Disney Concert Hall
Watch the Orchestra's video postcards from each stop along the tour.
For David Robertson's birthday, NYO-USA gave the conductor a surprise. While rehearsing Britten’s Violin Concerto with Gil Shaham, the orchestra suddenly burst out in a rendition of “Happy Birthday.”
Carnegie Hall, New York CityThe New York Times: "The Thrill of a Lifetime, Tinged by Teary Respect"Tanglewood, Lenox, MAThe Berkshire Eagle: "Tanglewood: National Youth Orchestra of the USA a special event in Ozawa Hall"Millennium Park, Chicago, ILThe Sun Times: "National Youth Orchestra makes grand Chicago debut at Grant Park Music Festival"
Learn more about that National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America.
This summer, join us for our Summer School series of video blog posts. School may be out, but you can continue learning with our vast library of master class and professional training workshop videos. Each week, we will post a new playlist focusing on an instrument or performance topic.
The Summer School series continues with a Carnegie Hall trombone master class, in which Berlin Philharmonic principal trombone player Thomas Leyendecker coaches Carson King-Fournier and Amanda Logue. Leyendecker coaxes greater emotional connection and feeling out of the students, as they play through Wagner's well-known Ride of the Valkyries and symphonic works by Mozart and Schumann.
Last week, during the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America’s training residency, the orchestra taped an episode of From the Top. Featuring incredible young musicians in performance and conversation, this radio show is broadcast on NPR stations across the country.
Show No. 293, featuring NYO-USA, is now available for streaming online. You can also find the radio broadcast schedule for an NPR station near you. The episode will air in markets across the country through Monday, July 28.
NYO-USA performs on From the Top with David Robertson on the podium.
Under the direction of David Robertson, the orchestra performed Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story and an abridged version of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess: A Symphonic Picture (arr. Bennett). The orchestra also performed the world premiere of Radial Play by Samuel Adams, which was commissioned by Carnegie Hall for NYO-USA.
The show also featured solo and chamber music performances by members of the orchestra. Silvio Guitian, a clarinetist from Baltimore, Maryland, performed the first movement, from Saint-Saëns's Sonata for Clarinet and Piano in E-flat major, Op. 167, with pianist and From the Top host Christopher O’Riley. Three returning members of NYO-USA performed the fourth movement from Fauré's Piano Quartet No. 1 in C minor, Op. 15. Violinist Soyeong Park from Princeton Junction, New Jersey; violist Martine Thomas from Rochester, New York; and cellist Kartik Papatla from Mequon, Wisconsin were joined by O’Riley on piano for this performance.
Silvio Guitian performs Saint-Saëns with Christopher O’Riley at the piano.
The episode also features the voices of David Robertson, Samuel Adams, and the musicians themselves in conversation with host Christopher O’Riley. The young musicians relived the moment they received an acceptance e-mail from Carnegie Hall. Some members of the 2013 orchestra told the audience what it was like to play at the BBC Proms in London as part of NYO-USA’s tour last summer. The audience even got to hear the application tapes of some musicians along with a few other special surprises. Don’t miss this sneak peek inside NYO-USA.
NYO-USA taped its episode of From the Top in front of a live audience at Purchase College, SUNY.
Throughout the 2014 NYO-USA Residency and Tour, we will be featuring these weekly round-ups on the blog. Use these posts to get back up to speed on any blog entries, photos, videos, or social media posts that you may have missed over the past week. This week, we're highlighting videos of NYO-USA playing American songs, last week's From the Top recording, the Orchestra's New York City postcard, and the latest musician blogs.
Lenox, Massachusetts | Seiji Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood
Boone, North Carolina | Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts
Chicago, Illinois | Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park
Click 'Playlist' in the upper left-hand corner to browse through the videos.
The Orchestra performed Prologue and Mambo from Symphonic Dances from West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein, Radial Play by Samuel Adams, and Porgy and Bess: A Symphonic Picture by George Gershwin. Eighteen year-old clarinetist Silvio Guitian from Baltimore, Maryland, performed the first movement, Allegretto, from Sonata for Clarinet and Piano in E-flat major, Op. 167, by Camille Saint-Saëns, with pianist Christopher O’Riley, and the NYO-USA Piano Quartet, again with Christopher Riley, performed the fourth movement, Allegro molto, from Piano Quartet No. 1 in C minor, Op. 15, by Gabriel Fauré.
The Summer School series continues with Dealing with Performance Problems, featuring Christian Tetzlaff and Emmanuel Pahud. Tetzlaff and neurologist Stephen J. Frucht discuss effective ways to practice, while Emmanuel Pahud imparts his advice for overcoming problems with focus and nerves during performance.
Tune in and join us on Tuesday, July 22 at 8 PM live from Carnegie Hall, featuring the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America in its Carnegie Hall debut. The electrifying program will be lead by David Robertson and will include Bernstein's Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, Samuel Adams's Radial Play, Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition (orch. Ravel), and Britten's Violin Concerto with Gil Shaham.
The concert is part of our Carnegie Hall Live series, a partnership with WQXR and American Public Media.
Join the conversation. #CHLive
National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America
David Robertson, Conductor
Gil Shaham, Violin
BERNSTEIN Symphonic Dances from West Side Story
BRITTEN Violin Concerto, Op. 15
SAMUEL ADAMS Radial Play (commissioned by Carnegie Hall)
MUSSORGSKY Pictures at an Exhibition (orch. Ravel)
Trey Sakazaki, NYO-USA’s inaugural apprentice orchestra librarian, hails from Bellevue, Washington. Trey spends his days at NYO-USA working with Orchestra Librarian Paul Beck.
In the music industry, the main goal is to deliver wonderful music to the audience. However, the delivery of great music doesn’t just involve the talented musicians on stage—equally as vital are the people who support the behind-the-scenes operations of the orchestra.
As the apprentice orchestra librarian of NYO-USA, I am involved on the music preparation end of orchestra management. My day starts before—and ends after—almost everyone else’s. I arrive an hour before the downbeat of rehearsal to make sure that all of the music is prepared and set out for the orchestra. After rehearsal, I account for all of the parts and look over any changes in the music. If a bowing was edited, I make sure that all of the parts have the change clearly marked. If a note was found to be wrong, I edit the music to make it correct. Music preparation is a task that takes hours to complete, even for just one selection on the program. The job requires a keen attention to detail and a lot of patience, as one may imagine the monotony of copying bowings onto nearly 40 string parts.
I have learned over the past week that for an orchestra librarian, applause is self-generated. We don’t perform on stage, we aren’t broadcast on national television, and the audience doesn’t applaud for us after an exhilarating performance. In fact, we know that we have done our job the best when our work goes unnoticed by anyone. If a rehearsal doesn’t stop because of a wrong note, if a concert starts on time because all the parts are correctly distributed, we’ve done our job properly. The job of an orchestra librarian isn’t about the glory of the audience filling a concert hall and applauding for us at the end of a concert. It’s about making everything run smoothly, and smiling when a page turn that we fixed takes away the concerned face of a musician on stage.
However time-consuming the work is, and however little glory there is in the job, I enjoy this work because I know that I am helping to get the composer’s message across to the audience. I started in band when I was in fifth grade and have picked up music composition and arrangement on my own. As a composer myself, the composer’s message is something that I truly value in any musical work. Even after so many years, I still can’t describe why a particular progression of chords, rhythms, and notes, in just the right order, can evoke a certain emotion, or express a certain message. However, I know that each articulation, dynamic, and expression marking add specific nuances to the music that help get the message across to the musician, and then to the audience. Music is a journey. It starts with an inspiration, which gets composed into a musical work. Then, the music is prepared by the orchestra, and finally, performed for an audience. The greatest fulfillment for me comes when I know that I have done my best to make the starting inspiration come alive through the orchestra, and no detail is ever too little.
My apprenticeship with the NYO-USA to date has been nothing short of incredible. I’ve learned much more about music preparation, I’ve gotten to meet the finest of today’s music realm, and I’ve gotten to listen to the nation’s top 120 young musicians play together. The coast-to-coast tour starts in less than a week, and every day only increases in excitement and anticipation.
Violinist Kevie Yu was born in Taiwan and now lives in Edmond, Oklahoma. She writes about the experience of coming together as an orchestra in the first few days of NYO-USA.
I stepped onto the Purchase College, SUNY, campus carrying not only my luggage but also high expectations for this journey. Like everyone else (or so I assume), I had been anticipating the most magical month of my life since the fateful day of my acceptance: February 7. Months before, I had stared hard at my laptop, my incredulous brain refusing to comprehend what the word congratulations implied. The excitement stayed alive in following months, always bubbling just beneath the surface. The key I received upon arrival unlocked not only the fancy NYO-USA swag in my room, but also the whirlwind of activities I soon plunged into. From the welcome dinner to the scavenger hunt to the orientation, the staff kept us busy with the painstakingly planned schedule (which, like everything else here, is available on a smartphone app for the orchestra).
Raised in Taiwan and now living in Oklahoma, my world has been relatively small. I knew NYO-USA, an orchestra composed of some of the nation’s finest young musicians, would open my eyes to a world of talent much bigger than what I was used to. The level of discipline and dedication to music I encountered was higher than I knew was possible for people just like me. However, I was surprised at how easy, how natural it was to strike up a conversation with anyone here, especially after learning how accomplished everyone was. With a standard inquiry of another’s name and hometown (and, if you’re feeling adventurous, future plans), a friendship is formed almost instantly. For me, it was inspiring to meet people for whom schools like The Juilliard School and Curtis Institute of Music were not naïve dreams but instead pending realities. What was even more incredible, however, was discovering the humility, passion, and conscientiousness beneath the overwhelming amount of talent. Although I met the musicians, I became friends with the people. After several conversations, it was obvious that my new colleagues and I shared not only our love for music but also our nervous anticipation for the first rehearsal. It was fun to get to know each other through games and meals, but ultimately, we came to make music.
NYO-USA rehearses with Orchestra Director James Ross
When it was finally time for our first full rehearsal, I was ready to hear the “first sound of NYO-USA.” As the maestro’s baton dropped, the beautiful trumpet solo echoed throughout the concert hall, signaling the start of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. I looked around and found grins mirroring my own across the stage. To me, that moment was when this adventure truly started. From there, we explored the following movements and dived into Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story. Sitting in the middle of the violin section, I was amazed as I observed the equal contribution to the rich sound of the orchestra from both the front and the back of the section. It was like nothing I had ever experienced before. No, it was not a perfect first rehearsal. We played wrong notes and missed entries and tripped over each other in our eager rush to play the Baga-Yaga movement (much to the faculty’s amusement). Although the flaws of the first reading may have been disappointing to some, it only reminded me of how real this experience is. As Dr. Seuss so wisely penned, “It’s not about what it is; it’s about what it can be.” That first rehearsal was a promise of our potential, of what NYO-USA can be. After a week of hard work with Maestro Ross and a first rehearsal with Maestro Robertson, I now see that the promise has been fulfilled.
Not everything was how I expected it would be at NYO-USA, but I learned that not meeting the expectations is not always a bad thing. Sometimes, it is just different, and sometimes, that’s even better.
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