ALBANY — The Empire State Youth Orchestra announced another year of its Young Leaders program last week.
The elite orchestra comprised of gifted high school musicians is known for its high-level requirements and advanced arrangements. One reason for the success is the organization’s pairing of young musicians and mentors. Mentors are “committed to empowering the next generation of leaders and inspiring a life-long love of music-making,” according to the press release.
Master Sergeant Brian Sacawa is one of the mentors in this year’s program. The senior musician and media relations director for the U.S. Army Field Band is an ESYO alum and has performed all over the country.
“ESYO opened up a new world for me because I performed with some of the best musicians around,” Sacawa said. “I was able to get to know others who were just as passionate about making music as I am.”
Sacawa’s experience in the Army’s music branch lends itself well to his mentorship abilities. Despite it being his first year in the program, Sacawa is drawing on his knowledge of bridging the gap between groups of people to create a lasting bond with his mentees.
“Because of what the army field band does, it’s my responsibility to keep that connection with the American population,” Sacawa said. “ESYO creates so many connections between its members and allows those with similar interests to bond.”
Alyeene Zebrowski is one of ESYO’s mentees. A senior at Scotia-Glenville High School, she’s found success with the orchestra and her mentor so far.
“The thing I love most about ESYO is how the music is just challenging enough without becoming stressful or overwhelming,” she said. “Working with my mentor and challenging myself with our repertoire has inspired me to open myself up to more opportunities because I know I can handle different challenges in my life.”
Zebrowski finds her peers to be equally as dedicated as she is and finds the supportive environment lends itself well to improvement in both music and life skills. Since joining ESYO, and by extension working with her mentor, she’s found the confidence to advocate for her needs and speak up for herself. She’s also become incredibly involved in the community, like her fellow mentees; she’s been on the radio and hosted a ball, both with her mentor.
“As I move on to college, I want to stand out and get those extra opportunities,” Zebrowski said. “It’s hard to find a place that hosts such a dedicated group of people.”
As the future of ESYO’s live performances is still in the air, Sacawa said he and his fellow mentors are looking to keep the momentum going for the students. While ESYO has performed virtually and has adapted its rehearsals to meet CDC protocols, there is still a huge group of musicians who are giving their all to their craft.
“I’ve found that the students involved in this organization are incredibly engaged and all share those attributes that will make them a success,” Sacawa concluded. “We want to empower them to use those skills and become leaders in their community.”
For ESYO show times and news, visit https://esyo.org/.
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