This season, ESYO musicians at all levels, from Concertino Strings to Wind Orchestra and Symphony Orchestra, will explore more than the lush harmonies, pulsating rhythms, and poetic melodies of a few masterpieces. They will explore music's universal power to transcend barriers and speak to the soul, a power that comes from breath.
There is nothing more universal than breath. Like our spoken language, culture and location can shape and weave music into a poetic tapestry of many colors, emotions, and textures. But, breath and breathing is a truly universal human condition. In music, breath is not only a biological necessity; it is an expressive source that harnesses creativity and gives life, emotion, and human connection to notes on the page. The ebb and flow of human breath gives a natural cadence that helps musicians play together, even without a conductor.
"For singers, connecting with breath is very natural. It's also quite natural for wind players, although sometimes the body is forgotten, and that breath becomes very thin and unrecognizable," said ESYO Music Director Etienne Abelin. "String players can really forget about it," he continued. That is why ESYO musicians at all levels will focus this season on learning to breathe together and use breath to synchronize the music and unify the ensemble. This is a component of Abelin's MusicNow approach, which explores underdeveloped musical dimensions and empowers young musicians to connect with music in the present. It involves physically embodying music through breath and movement, fostering a deep emotional connection to the notes on the page and the music-making experience. Musicians can enhance their technique, musical phrasing, and dynamics through embodied musicianship while adding depth to rhythmic patterns.
Throughout the season, ESYO musicians will be challenged to learn and perform a piece on stage without a conductor. ESYO's musicians will take up the challenge to sound together by breathing together and truly listening to each other. "It's risky," said Etienne. "Each member of the orchestra will need to step up and assume the role of being a conductor, sensing the pulse and embodying the music, breathing and anticipating together and continuously holding the piece together," he continued. The piece at the center of the Symphony Orchestra's opening performance challenge on October 29, Bob Good's Sinfonietta "Silver." In addition to learning to breathe, ensembles will perform repertoire inspired by breath and air while critically delving into pieces that explore topics that constrict breath, like pollution and oppression.
In the artistry of music, breath is a silent, invisible force that connects the artist and the audience on a profound level. It is the hidden hand that shapes the nuances, dynamics, and emotions within a composition. Get your tickets and join ESYO on this incredible journey to explore the power of breath.
The beginning of a new season is a significant milestone in the calendar for ESYO musicians. It's the time when all thirteen performing ensembles, along with the ESYO CHIME program, return to the rehearsal room to create a "symphony" of excitement, hope, and new possibilities.
The first few rehearsals are not just about fine-tuning instruments; they're about creating an atmosphere of harmony. For ESYO musicians, it's an opportunity to reunite with old friends and make new ones who share a passion for music. Moments like Symphony and Repertory Orchestras' annual Catskill Mountain retreat to Frost Valley set the tone for the season and help the musicians learn to listen and respond to each other inside the orchestra and outside the rehearsal room. These moments help foster a sense of unity, which is the heart of any successful ensemble. ESYO's String Orchestra members gathered at Brown School for their first-ever retreat led by conductor Joe Gumpper.
Opening day for CHIME was extra special this year, with a lot of new faces. For the first time, ESYO CHIME is now available to all Schenectady City School District students, regardless of their school. The school year opened with many new options and opportunities that provide a strong foundation for advanced musical study, individualized attention, greater equity, and access for students participating in this educational partnership with the Schenectady City School District.
The new season also brings unique challenges that help young musicians grow. From learning new techniques and repertoire to adjusting to a new leadership role or a stand partner, ESYO musicians begin to transform themselves into musical leaders. With each rehearsal, ESYO musicians garner the confidence, self-discipline, and skills they need to succeed. Their struggles and successes strengthen their resolve to become better musicians, students, and leaders. Rehearsal rooms are where the magic happens; music-making fueled by passion, determination, and teamwork. ESYO Concerts are celebrations of learning and the culmination of months of hard work and a chance for audiences to experience the joyful pursuit of making music and sounding together.
The Empire State Youth Orchestra is driven by the passion and joy of each young musician on stage. These young musicians bring the music on the page to life, fostering a profound love for music and a strong bond with other musicians who share the experience. However, none of this is possible without the support and stewardship of dedicated board members. These board members help ESYO orchestrate a harmonious blend of passion, purpose, and progress. Individually, they lend their experience, expertise, and resources and are custodians of the future of music, nurturing it into something beautiful and enduring.
Amy Anderson grew up in Bolton Landing, New York. She developed a love for music at a young age due to her close bond with her grandmother. Amy continued to explore her love of music as a student, learning to play French Horn in her high school band. She brings over 20 years of banking experience to ESYO and works as a Business Banker at M&T Bank.
Katherine Hart Crain, a partner at Couch White, LLP, is excited to reconnect with ESYO after many years. While she spends most of her day counseling businesses and families about trusts, estates, tax planning, and succession planning, Katherine is a proud ESYO Alumna. She played viola with the Repertory Orchestra during high school.
Robert Maggio is the Senior Director of Data Management and Interoperability at MVP Health Care. Robert is also a professional musician and graduate of Berklee School of Music in Boston. He plays the guitar and has a fully-equipped recording studio at his home. As a member of the board, he will serve on the Communications Committee and is eager to advise ESYO on AV installations in the ESYO Center for Musical Youth.
Melissa Hoegn Nigro, a mother of two college-aged young men and Vice President of Summit Senior Living, brings a wealth of knowledge to ESYO. She is a graduate of Georgetown University and studied piano for ten years. When she isn't running one of the regions thriving active living communities, she is a passionate education and arts advocate and serves on several community boards.
From the musicians onstage and the parents and audiences in the concert hall, ESYO is thrilled to welcome these outstanding community leaders to our family and grateful for their term of service. Their presence is a pulse that keeps ESYO in tune and sounding together, allowing each young musician to reach new heights and strike the right chord.
We're thrilled to introduce the latest additions to the Empire State Youth Orchestra (ESYO) family. Each member brings their unique talents and experiences to our organization, enriching our commitment to youth music education and artistic excellence.
Marketing & Events Manager - Leah DeLira
Leah joins us as the Marketing & Events Manager, bringing her innovative ideas and creativity to help us reach new heights in promoting ESYO's mission and events.
Digital Media Specialist - Colin Parker
Colin our new Digital Media Specialist, will captivate our audience with his digital wizardry, making sure ESYO's presence shines brightly in the online world.
Melodies of Christmas Chorale Director - Michael Lister We can't wait to hear the harmonious notes you'll bring to our cherished holiday tradition.
Chamber Percussion Conductor - Rob Sanderl Meet Rob Sanderl, who will guide our percussionists to new rhythmic heights in the world of chamber music.
Concertino Percussion Conductor - Jim Iacketta, Jim is sure to inspire our youngest percussionists with your dedication and passion.
CHIME Operations Manager - Sarah Corbett, with her new title, will continue to nurture and enhance the CHIME program's success as our Operations Manager.
Teaching Artist - Laura Matthews, an ESYO Alumni, brings her deep connection to our organization, helping to mold the next generation of musicians.
Teaching Artist -Laura Van Voris Another ESYO Alumni, Laura's talent and experience will play a vital role in shaping our young artists.
Teaching Artist - Awan Rashad Awan, welcome to the ESYO family! We look forward to your contributions as a dedicated Teaching Artist.
Teaching Artist -Alex Atchley Alex, an ESYO Alumni, returns to share their expertise and passion for music with our aspiring musicians.
ESYO is excited to have you on staff and we look forward to creating wonderful music and memories together. Welcome to the ESYO team! 🎼🌟🎻🥁🎤
Youth Orchestras, like ESYO, are more than performing ensembles. They are musical communities where young people from across the region sound together and build an interconnected web of relationships. Challenged by making music together, youth musicians learn to embody their musicianship and the notes on the page. They forge connections over shared experiences, embrace each other's differences, share in the beauty and joy of music, and develop a deeper understanding of the importance of collaboration. Making music, even as a solo artist or a composer, is not a solitary act. Musicians in the Capital Region belong to a closely-knit creative community, and ESYO is part of a larger and thriving musical ecosystem in the region that supports musicians of all ages, diverse audiences, and a vibrant arts and cultural community.
A musical ecosystem, much like its counterpart in the natural world, is a dynamic and evolving realm where musicians, musical institutions, educational centers such as schools, colleges, and universities, concert venues, and audiences coexist, interact, and depend on one another. Within the Capital Region, this vibrant musical ecosystem thrives, nurtured by exceptional talents and organizations such as Proctors, the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, the Albany Symphony, Schenectady-Saratoga Symphony, and Albany Pro Musica, alongside esteemed educational institutions like SUNY Schenectady, RPI, and Skidmore College. Together, they cultivate musical growth and foster a harmonious synergy in the creative process.
ESYO recognizes that our musical ecosystem is healthy when we work together. In addition to performing incredible masterworks like Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No.2 and innovative new works at Proctors and the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, ESYO will bring the joy of music to school audiences and seniors, resonate onstage at SPAC with hundreds of other youth musicians and artists from around upstate New York at the Festival of Young Artists, and sound together at community parks and farmers markets. The new season also includes community play-in performances with the Albany Symphony at MVP Arena and side-by-side concerts with the RPI Orchestra at EMPAC, just to name a few.
Our musical ecosystem is a complex and ever-changing landscape, rich with diversity and creativity. But, like the environment, it requires nurturing and support to ensure its sustainability.
"The best way we can support our musical ecosystem is by fostering partnerships, encouraging creative discovery, exposing young people to music, ensuring they have access to music and instruments in their school and supporting the schools and fellow Capital Region music organizations as much as we can"
School music programs are the nurseries where creativity sprouts and blossoms into passion and joy. It is a foundational element of a healthy musical biome, especially ours.
"Nearly all Symphony Orchestra musicians began their musical journey in their school music program and continue to bring what they learn at school to their next ESYO rehearsal. We are all better and stronger when we work together," said Abelin.
As a new season and school year continues, let us remain custodians of this musical ecosystem. We should nurture its growth and preserve its beauty for generations to come. In the harmonious melodies and rhythms of music, let us find not just entertainment but a reflection of our shared humanity.
For over 40 years, the Empire State Youth Orchestra has challenged young musicians of all ages to unleash their creative energy and explore a vast and limitless sonic world. From classical masterworks and jazz standards to evocative and innovative new works, the 2023-2024 season invites audiences to embark on a journey of discovery with one or all of ESYO's thirteen dynamic ensembles.
The season began with a prelude of special performances leading up to opening night.
On Monday, October 9, 2023, an extraordinary musical event unfolded at the MVP Arena when the ESYO Symphony and Repertory Orchestras joined forces with the GRAMMY Award-winning Albany Symphony to bring iconic movie classics to life. As an inclusive gesture, young aspiring musicians from school orchestras spanning various age groups participated in this musical extravaganza. Customized arrangements, thoughtfully tailored to their skill levels and experiences, ensured an unforgettable opportunity for these budding talents to shine alongside seasoned professionals. The following week, the ESYO Symphony Orchestra invited schoolchildren on a magical musical forest adventure during its young people's concert, followed by its annual free concert for seniors.
The season prelude leads to a beautiful opening night performance at the legendary Troy Savings Bank Music Hall on Sunday, October 29, 2023. The 3 pm matinee will feature the sheer beauty of Antonin Dvorak's iconic Symphony No. 9, "From the New World." The beloved masterwork cherished by generations embodies the hopes and dreams of those who came to America yearning to breathe free. Paired with Dvorak's "New World" is Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2. This dazzling work features pianist William Lauricella, one of the 2023 Lois Lyman Concerto Champions. ESYO’s Jazz Orchestras take the stage at SUNY Schenectady for their first performance of the new season on November 19, 2023.
The entire fall term offers audiences the chance to explore ESYO's talent, with "pay what they can" tickets available.
Click the image above to enlarge the calendar
Learning to play a concerto is an exciting challenge for young musicians. While learning a concerto is standard practice for aspiring musicians to develop new techniques including how to perform a solo with an accompanist, most musicians do not have the opportunity to play the work with a full orchestra. The Lois Lyman Concerto Competition allows young musicians to challenge themselves to learn a concerto and perform it for a panel of judges. The winner earns the opportunity to play their concerto in concert with ESYO's flagship ensemble, Symphony Orchestra. Last year, the talent was so great that the judges selected two winners, violist Yu-Heng Wang and pianist William Lauricella. Lauricella, a junior at Bethlehem High School, is the first ESYO musician to win the competition twice. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, his 2020 competition-winning performance of Shostakovich's 2nd Piano Concerto was paused. This year, Lauricella will breathe life into Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2, a piece by Rachmaninoff that breathes the air of his childhood before the beloved composer struggled with the choking repression brought on by the Soviet Union.
"I was incredibly excited when I heard the news that I won, and was so excited to play the concerto for a live audience. Obviously, things did not turn out that way due to COVID," said Lauricella. "I eventually had the opportunity to record a performance of the Concerto, but I am even more excited to play an entire concerto for a live audience in Troy Savings Bank this year," he continued.
Will joined ESYO six years ago as a percussionist and has honed his skills on mallets and timpani in ESYO's Percussion Ensembles, Repertory Orchestra, and now as a member of ESYO's Symphony Orchestra. While ESYO has challenged him to learn percussion, his journey in music began with group music lessons when he was two years old. Will started taking piano lessons when he was five years old. Today, he attends the Manhattan School of Music Precollege Program and studies with Dr. Inesa Sinkevych in NYC.
"Will is an incredibly talented percussionist and member of Symphony Orchestra," said ESYO's Music Director Ettienne Abelin. He could have easily performed a concerto for Marimba, but his love for the piano and this piece is impressive," he continued.
Lauricella spent considerable time preparing Rachmaninoff's Second Piano Concerto. He picked up the concerto in late 2021 and learned it fairly quickly. He played the first movement with the Luzerne Music Center Orchestra in 2022 and later with the Manhattan School of Music Philharmonic Precollege Orchestra earlier this year. Capital Region audiences will have the unique opportunity to hear Will perform the complete masterwork alongside his friends in the ESYO Symphony Orchestra. This is a special treat that marks the end of two years of hard work and preparation.
"ESYO has been the most impactful organization that I have been a part of as both a person and musician," said Will. “I think it will be an unforgettable experience to play a big work with this Youth Orchestra as a soloist one more time before I leave for music school,: he continued.