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Harmonizing Breath:

 Empire State Youth Orchestra and Rensselaer Orchestra Unite for a Musical Exploration

ESYO Symphony Orchestra and Rensselaer Orchestra Perform Side-by-Side in Back to Back Concerts on Saturday, April 13th and Sunday April 21, 2024.

Troy- NY Empire State Youth Orchestra, under the artistic direction of its Music Director Etienne Abelin, and the Rensselaer Orchestra, led by Dr. Robert Whalen, Director of Institute Ensembles at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, today announced two collaborative performances in April; the first will take place on Saturday, April 13, 2024, at the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY, and the second on Sunday, April 21, 2024, at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall in Troy, NY.

This joint venture, centered on the theme of breath, explores both the resonance and restraint of human nature. The first concert on April 13 features Empire State Youth Orchestra's Symphony Orchestra and Rensselaer Orchestra performing Dmitri Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5 side-by-side along with Hymn for Everyone by 2024 GRAMMY Award-winning Composer Jessie Montgomery. The concert also features the first movement of Samuel Barber's Violin Concerto performed by Maya Johnson, the Rensselaer Concerto Competition Winner. At the second concert, on April 21, ESYO's Symphony Orchestra will be joined by members of the Rensselaer Orchestra at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall where they will present a second performance of Schostakovich's Symphony No. 5, Montgomery's Hymn for Everyone, and feature ESYO's 2024 Lois Lyman Concerto Competition Winner, Kingston Czajkowski, performing Paul Creston's Marimba Concerto. 

ESYO Music Director and Symphony Orchestra conductor Etienne Abelin is thrilled about this side-by-side collaboration with the Rensselaer Orchestra and RPI conductor Dr. Robert Whalen. "It resonates with ESYO's commitment to enriching the musical journey of our young musicians, providing them the opportunity to perform alongside college peers while offering them a glimpse into the journey ahead," said Abelin. 

For the Rennselaer Orchestra, which represents students from 26 different majors, from Music and Electronic Arts to Nuclear engineering, this concert highlights the impact and relevance of the Arts in a STEM-oriented curriculum. "The arts act as a creative catalyst on campus and inspire community," said Whalen. "Our students are relishing the rare opportunity to perform this program in two world-class venues situated only blocks apart from each other in Troy."

The matchup also makes it possible for both orchestras to tackle a monumental masterpiece, like Dmitri Shostakovich's Fifth, which will be enhanced by the unique strengths of each ensemble.

Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5 carries a particular resonance with the world today. The symphony premiered in Leningrad during the Soviet Union's 1937 "Great Purge" and reflected the fraught relationship between Shostakovich and the artistic control exerted by Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Union. Hidden within the piece are echoes of the inner struggle between Shostakovich's desire for creative freedom and the choking realities of living behind the Iron Curtain and its oppressive political climate. Despite its clandestine revolutionary undertone, the work was well-received by the public and Soviet authorities.

As part of this collaboration, each orchestra will work with a guest conductor and learn from them in what Abelin calls a 'conductor share.' Abelin will conduct Jessie Montgomery's Hymn for Everyone at EMPAC, and Dr. Whalen will lead the Shostakovich. Then, a week later, at the legendary Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, the conductors will switch roles, with Dr. Whalen conducting Montgomery's Hymn for Everyone and Abelin leading the Fifth Symphony by Shostakovich. 

Abelin believes the swap will help the musicians get a more imaginative experience. "By playing the same piece with different conductors and different interpretations, the young musicians will experience how differing perspectives and varying musical focus' can change a piece of music substantially," said Abelin.

Featured on the April 21st performance is ESYO's Concerto Winner, Kingston Czajkowski, performing the Concertino for Marimba by American composer Paul Creston. Czajkowski is excited to perform the Concertino, marking the Cairo-Durham High School Sophomore's solo debut with an orchestra. "This is one of my favorite pieces of music, featuring moments of great rhythmic excitement as well as many lyrical and sweet passages," said Czajkowski. "It's a good piece to introduce the audience to the world of marimba music," he continued. 

On March 27th, the two ensembles came together for the first of several combined rehearsals. "It has been inspiring to see the Rensselaer and ESYO students interact," said Dr. Robert Whalen. "What a remarkable sound emerges when those 155 student musicians unite. Both Etienne and I were struck by the richness and depth of sonority as well as the precision and clarity of this formidable group," he continued.  

For more information about both collaborative performances by the Empire State Youth Orchestra and the Rensselaer Orchestra or to purchase tickets to the ESYO performance on April 21, 2024, visit