After more than a year and a half of playing 6ft apart at Proctors and in separate smaller ensembles, this year felt more like a reunion than the typical inaugural rehearsal. Accompanying the usual rehearsal soundscape consisting of scales, trills, tuning, and practice runs, were the joyful sounds of laughter and excitement as each ESYO ensemble returned to Brown School as ONE ensemble. Not even a mask could contain the smiles and joy of the moment.
The much-anticipated return to the rehearsal room began long before the first downbeat. While Andrea, ESYO's music librarian, worked to print and prepare music packets, conductors and musicians in all thirteen ESYO ensembles "wood shopped" their part at home, shaping and trimming their piece of the masterpiece. Google Classroom, a silver lining from the early days of the pandemic, made it easier to distribute parts, share bowings and rehearsal notes, as well as prepare for seating auditions. COVID-19 continues to challenge ESYO musicians and conductors in unimaginable ways. But, despite face masks, specialized PPE, and physical distancing, the 2021-2022 season is marked by a returning sense of normalcy.
At Symphony Orchestra's first rehearsal on September 8, Andres Rivas, Assistant Conductor of The Orchestra Now and Bard College Conservatory Orchestra, warmed up the orchestra and stepped in to serve as Guest Conductor of ESYO Symphony Orchestra. It may be Andres' first time on the ESYO podium, but he isn't a stranger to ESYO. Before COVID, Andres teamed up with Carlos as a sectional string coach.
Without missing a beat, Andres and the 87 member orchestra quickly began rehearsing an exciting concert program, which features Dvorak's Symphony No. 8 and Light by Pulitzer prize-winning composer, Jennifer Higdon. Dvorak's Symphony No. 8 weaves together musical strands of life and darkness, joy and sadness, as well as feelings of optimism and hope- a perfect beginning to a season that emerges from the darkness created by the pandemic with the hope of a healthier tomorrow.
ESYO Youth Jazz Orchestra played it cool at Proctors and got together to rehearse Boplicity by Miles Davis and Straight No Chaser by Thelonious Monk. ESYO musician and CHIME Alum, Jay-Era, took the lead in Straight No Chaser while the rhythm section laid a solid foundation with Dr. Peter Bellino conducting.
The pandemic may have changed how we were able to get together to make music, whether it was online in a "zoom square" or on a stage in an empty concert hall, but it could not keep ESYO's young musicians from sounding together. Like a jazz musician sidestepping or playing outside during a solo, the pandemic required us to improvise and trust each other as we tried something new. ESYO will continue to invest in our musical youth: in our ensembles, and in CHIME, our free, daily afterschool program. We will give our youth access to skilled conductors and teaching artists, enriched performance experiences, a stage on which to perform and grow, and a platform to share their music with the world. Most importantly, our youth musicians are eagerly waiting to perform for you in a series of incredible performances amplified by the world-class acoustics of the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall. Our opening concert is on November 5th, and we hope to see you there!