19. December 2022 · Comments Off on National Open Youth Orchestra · Categories: Watch, Youth Symphony

Have you ever heard of the National Open Youth Orchestra? I hadn’t. Until yesterday. I was listening to a work by the computer Alexander Campkin, a name new to me as well, so I looked him up and learned about this group. Direct from the YouTube page is an explanation of the group:

The National Open Youth Orchestra is the world’s first disabled-led national youth ensemble. It’s a pioneering orchestra where 11-25 year-old talented young disabled musicians and non-disabled musicians rehearse and perform together.

And I’m so very moved and uplifted. So many get told they can’t play an instrument because of a disability. I had a student that, had her parents told me about her issue prior to teaching, I would have turned away (shame on me!). I just didn’t see how she could manage an embouchure when I first met her, but not willing to say something when she arrived at my door we just began lessons. (Never did her parents tell me anything about it, and only when she was with me for a number of years did I feel she and I were comfortable enough with each other to talk about it.)

That student ended up being a very good oboist. Her disability didn’t hinder her … she just formed her embouchure a bit differently.

Don’t tell a student they can’t do something until you know it is absolutely impossible. Even then, perhaps don’t say it: let them figure things out! Young people can do amazing things!

Here the composer talks about his own situation and the work:

And here is the work:

27. January 2019 · Comments Off on Youth Orchestra Conductors · Categories: Youth Symphony

For the record: Youth Orchestra Conductors should NOT berate and embarrass students. They should not suggest that a player slap another student. And they should not suggest that a player go find another orchestra when they are unhappy with the student’s playing.


If a conductor does any of these things the student(s) SHOULD go find another orchestra.

(If it sounds like I’m angry I’m okay with that. Because I’m angry right now.)

14. January 2014 · Comments Off on Youth Orchestra Auditions · Categories: Youth Symphony

Local youth orchestras frequently have auditions in the spring. If you are an oboist I highly recommend joining one. Band is great fun, but orchestra … well … we give the A! I mean c’mon now, we are important! Every time one of my students gets involved in a youth orchestra I witness tremendous growth.

Below are just a few links to some local groups’ pages:

California Philharmonic Youth Orchestra audition page

California Youth Symphony audition page

El Camino Youth Symphony audition page

Peninsula Youth Symphony audition page

San Francisco Youth Symphony

Of course there are a number of other youth orchestras, so just go to my Youth Orchestra page to check them out.

03. October 2013 · Comments Off on Youth Orchestra of San Antonio · Categories: Videos, Youth Symphony

… I like this. It works with the age group.

Now if those of us in my age group sang this … well … not quite the same, you know?

Read about it.

But wait! There’s more …

It’s that time of year when many students are auditioning for youth orchestras. I encourage all of my students to audition: every time a student starts participating in a youth group I hear significant growth musically. Besides, they can be fun!

I do have suggestions, though.

It’s really wise to attend concerts. There you can hear how the students play and see if the level is appropriate for you. You will get an idea of the music choices the conductor makes. You can also see how many “ringers” they have that are clearly years older than the published age limits for the group. You won’t be able to see if musicians are just a few years older, but when there’s a thirty year old on stage you can usually spot that.

If it’s possible, see if you can attend a rehearsal. How does the conductor behave? I don’t think conductors should merely say “good job!” all the time, and if conductors aren’t demanding they aren’t doing their job, but if there’s a lot of screaming you might want to reconsider the group. I remember being at a rehearsal for my daughter one year (not an orchestra, but another performing group) and the instructor made all parents leave because “You don’t want to hear what I’m going to say to your children!” Yes. He really said that. I was bothered but left. Now I’m sorry I did. If he wasn’t willing to say whatever he said in front of me he probably shouldn’t have said it. I believe parents should always be able to sit in on a rehearsal … silently, mind you! I don’t recommend parents always do that, but a few times might be a smart thing to do. (It’s possible I’ll hear back from youth symphony conductors and it’s quite possible they will disagree. So we’ll see if I can comments here.)

There are so many fine youth orchestras in our area, but do your homework. It’s just a good idea.

And hey, you can check out groups on YouTube! Here’s my friend Byung-Woo Kim’s group, the California Philharmonic Youth Orchestra …

Yesterday I attended the California Youth Symphony concert, led by Leo Eylar. I have two students in the group, one of whom is a senior, so I wanted to be sure and hear him before he heads off to college next year, and I’m not sure I’ll have another opportunity due to my own performance schedule.

The program consisted of Stravinksy’s Circus Polka, Paganini’s Violin Concerto No. 1, La Valse by Ravel and, finally (and my fave of the day), Richard Strauss’s Suite from Der Rosenkavalier.

Ah, Paganini. Sigh. May I rename him PagaNoNo? It’s not that the performance was bad. I just don’t care for Paganini. He and Pasculli are, for me, just show off fluff without substance. Call me grumpy when it comes to those two. Still, the soloist did fine work, and I think everyone else in the audience was enamored by the work. I guess it’s just my problem!

I thought the orchestra was especially good with the Ravel and Strauss.

There are things that disturb me about audiences, and I try to be patient, but once again I was reminded about how rude some can be. I had to be the instigator of the applause when the concertmaster came out. I would have thought parents of the musicians would know that they applaud then, but I guess not. And I know, I know, I shouldn’t care about applause between movements. But it really was awkward, because about half of the audience applauds so it sounds very half-hearted. After the first movement of the Paganini some kids ran up with flowers for the soloist, thinking it was over. That was awkward too. Ah well.

But the worst and most aggravating thing? The number of people who left after the soloist was finished on the first half. C’mon, folks, do you know how disheartening it is to performers when they look out and see that so many have deserted them. It’s one thing for us adults — we do get sort of used to this behavior — but I think we owe it to these young performers to stick around. Besides, you missed the best half!

Okay, grump and gripe over ‘n out. Good job, CYS!

22. March 2011 · Comments Off on Love It! · Categories: Youth Symphony

“By gosh darn”, this is sweet …

… and yeah, I’m a wee bit jealous. Never in my life will I get to work with SFS or MTT and these kids are incredibly blessed.

I don’t frequently get the honor (and yes, I mean honor) of attending a student’s concert. My schedule so often conflicts directly with students’ concerts that I rarely get there. Today would have been another of those days. I was originally scheduled to play a Symphony Silicon Valley concert. But plans change. Sometimes guest artists cancel. And sometimes that means a change in program. The change this week meant that I had a week off (with no pay, of course, but that’s how this biz works if you aren’t salaried). This was a time where I was actually very pleased to have been released; I could attend the California Youth Symphony concert, under the direction of a friend I haven’t seen in eons, Leo Eylar.

I have two students currently in the senior group there (Hi Vincent! Hi Timothy!). Timothy is playing English horn in the orchestra and they had DeFalla’s Three Dances from the Three Cornered Hat and Respighi’s Pines of Rome on the program. That’s a mighty fun English horn program! Also included was Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto (with a very talented 17 year old Palo Alto High School student, Stella Chen, as soloist) and Higdon’s wonderful Blue Cathedral.

I tell my students, “If you don’t go to hear other people play concerts, why do you think anyone would come to hear yours?” I try to encourage them to attend concerts. If I’m going to push that, I really need to practice what I preach, yes?

But mostly, it’s just a joy to go hear my students play. Timothy was wonderful on English horn. Vincent did a great job. Truly, the entire orchestra was so impressive. So I say a loud, “Bravi tutti,” to the group. I look forward to more!

10. March 2010 · Comments Off on Youth Orchestras · Categories: Links, Youth Symphony

San Francisco Classical Voice has an article about youth orchestras. The writer doesn’t cover all the orchestras in this area, of course (there are quite a number!), and doesn’t touch on anything in San Jose. But do check it out. I think youth orchestras are wonderful for students, and I usually see a great improvement in their playing after they’ve spent time in one.

Here are the orchestras that SFCV covers:

And here are some more:

Please check out my Choosing a Youth Symphony blog entry.