07. July 2009 · Comments Off on Choosing A Youth Symphony · Categories: Ramble

The San Francisco Bay Area has a good number of youth symphonies from which to select. I highly recommend the youth symphony experience to students, but I also recommend doing some research before you join one.

Here are a few suggestions for now:

  • Make a list of groups you are interested in and attend concerts. You will hear different levels of musicianship, and you might decide a particular group isn’t the right fit due to what you hear.
  • Check out websites and see how many levels of groups are offered. It’s possible you won’t make it into the top group to begin with, so you want to have options.
  • Does the group use “ringers”? (Ringers are musicians who aren’t members of the group, but are called in at the last minute.) Ask! If so, find out if they will be moving the students down while a 30 or 40 year old gets to the solo parts. If so, do not join this group! Ringers should sit in the back of sections only, and I prefer they hire younger musicians. (I won’t play in youth symphonies; I believe it’s not appropriate to have professionals in a youth symphony!)
  • How does the conductor present himself or herself? Is his/her image that which you’d like to emulate? (I’ve seen conductors who aren’t at all shy to exhibit questionable behavior and I can’t recommend a conductor or youth orchestra in that case.)
  • What kind of music is chosen? Is the group at an appropriate level for the music? If you don’t know, ask your teacher. I’ve frequently seen conductors choose music because they want to put the works on their repertoire list, rather than choosing music the group is capable of playing. The music should be challenging, but shouldn’t require ringers or be so hard it’s impossible for the group.

    One good way to learn about orchestras is to search out pages online. Google an orchestra, visit Facebook … do some research! You can find photos that might give you an idea of what the conductor or group is like. If you are turned off by smoking or underage drinking, you will at least know that you want to avoid certain organizations. If you see a lot of adults in the group, you’ll know that you might prefer a group that is truly a youth group.

    And feel free to ask me! I know about some of our local orchestras. Others I would need to check out, but I’m willing to do that if I have the time.