Deceptive Cadence
9:19 am
Mon January 16, 2012

Attention, Teenage Orchestral Musicians: Here's Your Big Chance

Originally published on Mon January 16, 2012 8:00 am

Are you an extremely talented orchestral player? Looking for something to do summer after next? Are you a teenager? If the answer to all three is yes, here's a chance to meet other kids who love Bach and Brahms as much as you do and to learn from some of America's finest musicians. Many of your expenses will be paid, you'll have the honor of being associated with one of the world's foremost presenters, and — oh yeah, one last thing — you'll get to tour the world with Valery Gergiev.

Opportunities for highly talented young musicians in the U.S. are a patchwork assortment, from (often very expensive) summer institutions like Tanglewood and Aspen to all-state ensembles (which have very short schedules). Far more ambitious in scope is the newly established National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America, announced last week by Carnegie Hall.

The program will be held from the end of June through most of July 2013, first in rehearsals at the State University of New York's Purchase campus, followed by a tour to Moscow, St. Petersburg, London and Washington, D.C. The program is scheduled to include Shostakovich's Symphony No. 10. (Due to Carnegie Hall's ongoing renovations, the orchestra won't be able to play at its "home" hall until summer 2014.)

According to the Carnegie Hall guidelines, the 120 students chosen will be aged 16-19, and they cannot be enrolled in a music conservatory or as instrumental performance majors at a college or university.

Sir Clive Gillinson, Carnegie Hall's executive and artistic director, says that along with encouraging personal achievement and instilling local pride, he hopes the participants will become "remarkable international ambassadors" for America. Gillinson compares the current situation of young musicians to that of sports stars: "As someone said to me the other day, 'You can't imagine the world without an American Olympic team.' Why should music be any different?"

Though there's no formal relationship with the government, Gillinson says Carnegie Hall has discussed the program with the U.S. Department of State "and it's had terrific resonance with them, and we'd be delighted if they wanted to be involved."

Carnegie Hall is on a bit of a tear with national, youth-based initiatives. It was just in March of last year that it launched a partnership with Toronto's Royal Conservatory of Music to create a common set of standards for education and performance. (It couldn't hurt that such programs would help reinforce Carnegie Hall's identity with new generations of music lovers around the country.)

"We want to make a meaningful contribution," Gillinson says. "We want to identify arenas in which things need to be done, and where we could help. Lots of programs of ours are not national. They're either very local to New York, or they are international in scope. This was really important to have in the States. It needed to happen somehow. A lot of countries have national youth orchestras, and they're a very positive force."

Gillinson says that given the caliber of young American players, he predicts that "this will be the greatest youth orchestra in the world." But, as he says, these players are for the most part confined to local organizations or, at most, all-state orchestras. "There are so many superstars," he notes, "but they are all local superstars. As such, they generally don't have the opportunity to mix with other young musicians who are also superstars — they don't have the chance to get to engage with each other, to inspire each other. Our idea is that everybody inspires everybody else."

Gillinson adds that one of the program's ultimate goals is to create a "halo effect" on the young musicians' communities. "Rather than telling or dictating to them how that would happen," says Gillinson, "we plan to discuss this with the students and have them share their ideas." And considering that some of today's most potent presenting ideas are coming from younger musicians operating with a DIY ethos, that could be a very positive development.

Students will be able to apply online at Carnegie Hall's site; auditions will be held via video submissions.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.