ALBANY — It’s no secret that the Empire State Youth Orchestra hosts some of the most impressive youth talent in the music scene. Not only is there a rigorous audition process, but the environment is dedicated to producing some of the best performances from students who eat, sleep and breathe music.
ESYO is back — this year with a different format. Because of the pandemic, the orchestra will perform eight concerts (dubbed “Tutti!”) showcasing 12 chamber ensembles. The first concerts took place from Dec. 3 to 6; the second part of the show will be showcased from Dec. 10 to 13.
To purchase tickets and view showtimes, visit https://esyo.org/tickets.
Members of the advanced Symphony Orchestra are set to perform several masterworks by Mozart, including the Overture’s “To the Marriage of Figaro” and the whimsical opera “The Magic Flute.” ESYO Symphony Orchestra will also rediscover “Dance in the Old Style” by Hollywood composer Erich Korngold, “The Serenade for Strings” by Irish-American composer, Victor Herbert and Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos’ homage to Mozart’s “Sinfonietta No. 1.” On Saturday, Dec. 12, members of the ESYO Jazz Orchestra will take the stage with “Milestones” by jazz legend Miles Davis and a jazzy take on the holiday favorite “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”
Carlos Agreda, ESYO’s music director, said he was impressed with how excited the young musicians were to play after a hiatus from the pandemic.
“We knew that playing online was not sustainable, so we were able to come up with strategies to make sure we could play in person,” Agreda said. “These smaller chamber orchestras allow us to space out a bit more but still maintain the integrity of playing together.”
Agreda added it’s been incredibly rewarding to watch the musicians work so hard, with the students making sacrifices to allow them to be there. He said there are no bathroom breaks so people aren’t moving around. People now have their own music stands, where in previous years many musicians who played the same part were sharing. They’re masked up as much as humanly possible. Despite the different feel, Agreda said the development of the students virtually made it such a joy to unite under one roof.
Georgia Burtt is a violin player who is homeschooled in Berne. She’s excited to see what her fellow musicians are doing and feels like the family unit that ESYO provides has only grown since the pandemic forced them in.
“ESYO is my outlet for everything going on in the world,” she said. “I’ve made so many friends here and I’ve learned so much about music. It’s truly like a family.”
Jared Lamson, a senior clarinet player from Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk High School, agreed with Burtt. When he first tried out over two years ago, the orchestra gave him a community of people who loved music as much as he does.
“ESYO has truly shattered all of my expectations,” he said. “Everyone is equally dedicated to playing beautiful music and it’s something I hold close because it means so much to all of us.
“It’s going to be exciting to hear the finished product of something we didn’t believe was possible,” Lamson concluded.