ESYO CHIME Students Chosen for Prestigious National Music Programs

Contact: Susan Bardack 518.867.7940 

(Schenectady, NY) – Two Empire State Youth Orchestra CHIME students have been selected to attend nationally recognized music programs designed to enrich the lives of the students chosen to participate. Both programs are competitive and have many applicants. Taina Melendez, a viola player, was accepted to the LA Philharmonics’ “National Take a Stand Festival” and DeVaughn Miller, a double bassist, received a full scholarship to “Bass Works,” a summer camp in Maryland. In addition to CHIME, Melendez plays in the ESYO Repertory Orchestra and Miller plays in ESYO Concertino Strings.

John Connolly, who heads up CHIME, explained that both students have worked very hard to get to the point of being selected for competitive programs. “I think the thing that makes me the most proud is knowing that the environment we have created for CHIME students has enabled talent from the Schenectady City School District to really shine. It makes me proud to think that these incredible musicians are out in the school district becoming young leaders and showing others that, with the right mindset, there are truly no barriers to excellence,” he said. There has been a GoFundMe page set up so that her mom can join her in California:  

The “National Take A Stand Festival” is organized by the LA Philharmonic Orchestra and selects students through video audition. Bass Works is a summer camp specifically for double bass players.

When Melendez found out she was accepted to the Festival she was incredibly excited and told almost everyone she knew. She loves that she is part of CHIME and recognizes that it is helping her to excel on many levels. “It’s helped me realize that I am a good player and people also tell me that as well. It takes me to places that are super cool, like LA. If I didn’t join CHIME I wouldn’t know that I could even do this,” she said. Her goal is to eventually make it into ESYO’s top- level orchestra, the Youth Orchestra.

Miller is both nervous and excited about this new opportunity. He wants to continue working hard in music and never stop playing. He loves his instrument. “It’s a really cool instrument. I enjoy how it sounds. I used to play an instrument in treble clef and I switched to bass clef. It’s really quite a difference,” he said.

The ESYO CHIME program has expanded a lot since it began a few years ago. Next school year it is being implemented in the Troy City School District. Recently, the program received a Capital Region Chamber of Commerce Good News Award. In addition, ESYO has been awarded thousands of dollars in grants over the past year. (See below) Most financially significant, in 2018, was the League of American Orchestra’s Futures Fund $30,000 Grant to support a new “pay what you can” ticket program called Access ESYO. “We are thrilled to receive grants that support CHIME and our other initiatives. Even though CHIME was only recently launched, we are already witnessing incredible results. Students such as Taina and DeVaughn are true success stories but there are many others and we can’t wait to see what additional locations, such as Troy, hold in store for us. CHIME changes lives,” said Becky Calos who serves as executive director of ESYO.

Grants & Awards Information:

2018: (Total=$80,045)

  • $30,000 League of American Orchestra’s Futures Fund Award over two years to support a new “pay what you can” ticket program called Access ESYO. This new initiative will allow ticket purchase for as little as $1 per seat and will be sustained through a pay it forward campaign inviting donors to deposit the cost of a seat in an online ticket bank. ESYO has never turned away a qualified musician due to economic hardship and is now taking steps to ensure that no audience member is turned away because of the price of a ticket. Utilizing an online platform, Access ESYO will empower patrons to participate at a level they can afford while safeguarding individual integrity. Access ESYO supports the organization’s ongoing efforts to break down barriers to the arts, and grow audiences that, like ESYO’s musicians, are a true reflection of the community’s rich diversity
  • $10,000 Mockingbird Foundation Grant to support ESYO CHIME
  • $10,000 Stewart’s Shops/Dake Family Gift to support ESYO CHIME Summer Camp
  • $5,595 Community Impact Grant from the Capital Region Community Foundation to support the Helen Cha-Pyo Scholarship Fund
  • $5,000 M&T Charitable Foundation Grant to support ESYO CHIME
  • $4,500 Alfred Z. Solomon Charitable Fund Grant to support 2018-2019 scholarships
  • $4,000 RBC Wealth Management Foundation Grant to support ESYO CHIME
  • $3,000 New Music USA Grant to support ESYO’s Samuel Adler @90: Composer in the Community Project
  • $2,500 and $750 in kind D’Addario Foundation Grant to support ESYO CHIME
  • $2,200 Schenectady County Initiative Program Award to support ESYO CHIME
  • $1,500 Stewart’s Holiday Match Grant to support ESYO CHIME
  • $1,000 Little Family Foundation Gift to support ESYO CHIME

    Fall 2017: (Total=$151,000)

  • $120,000 New York State Council of the Arts Grant over 3 years for general operating
  • $25,000 3M Foundation Grant for instrument purchase and repairs
  • $5,000 O’Bryan Family Foundation Grant to support the launch of CHIME in Troy
  • $1,000 WGY Christmas Wish Campaign to support scholarships 

About Empire State Youth Orchestra:  Empire State Youth Orchestra (ESYO) challenges and inspires young people to achieve excellence through music in a rigorous learning environment leading to high-level performance opportunities. More than 500 youth from the Capital Region of New York and western New England are selected by audition each year for the ESYO program. ESYO has a total of 10 performing ensembles that collectively give approximately 30 performances a year. In 2015, ESYO launched ESYO CHIME (Creating Harmony, Inspiring Musical Excellence). ESYO CHIME seeks to expand access to music in underserved communities, and by doing so, empower children and their families to overcome the barriers to musical excellence caused by economic inequality. Founded in 1979, ESYO is a not-for-profit organization that has been recognized as a premier music education/performance program for youth and has received three ASCAP awards. For more information, visit

About Carlos Ágreda:  Prior to joining ESYO, Carlos Ágreda was the Conducting Fellow at the Curtis Institute of Music where he was mentored by Yannick Nézet-Séguin. Carlos has served as Assistant Conductor of the BBC Philharmonic, assisting conductors including Juanjo Mena, Jac Van Steen, Yan Pascal Tortelier, Jon Storgards, and Jesús López-Cobos. Carlos served as Assistant Conductor under Vasily Petrenko with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, and Sir Mark Elder with the Hallé Orchestra. In the United States, Carlos has been assistant/cover conductor for the Saint Louis Symphony and the Pittsburgh Symphony, working with conductors such as David Robertson and Nicholas McGeegan. In addition to these assistantships, Carlos has worked professionally with different conductors such as Sir Andrew Davis, Miguel Harth-Bedoya, and Osmo Vänskä.

Born in Bogotá, Colombia, Carlos gained international attention at the age of 22 when he reached the 3rd round in the Cadaqués Orchestra International Conducting Competition 2013, being the youngest and one of the last seven short-listed candidates. Carlos won the competition for young Colombian conductors to conduct the Colombia National Symphony Orchestra in its 2014 season, while he was the Music Director of the Orchestral Corporation of Colombia. Carlos has worked with different orchestras in Colombia, the United Kingdom and the United States, including the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, the Manchester Camerata, the Curtis Symphony Orchestra, the BBC Philharmonic, the Colombia National Symphony Orchestra, the Liverpool Mozart Orchestra, among many others.

Passionate about excellence and versatility, his musical interests and repertoire range from opera and choral music to contemporary and Latin-American music. For instance, his approach to new music has been widely developed by conducting more than 30 world premieres in the United States, Colombia and the United Kingdom. In accordance with this interest, Carlos conducted chamber pieces by British composer Jonathan Harvey in the prestigious Wigmore Hall (London), he conducted in the major festival New Music North West 2016, and conducted full-staged opera productions at the Opera Philadelphia and Curtis Opera Theater (USA).  Carlos was invited to lead the Conducting Workshop at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival 2016 (UK) and was recently invited as a Conducting Fellow to the Cabrillo Contemporary Music Festival 2017 (USA).

Carlos earned a Bachelor of Music in Conducting and Composition at Corpus University, graduating Summa Cum Laude, and mentored by Jorge Alejandro Salazar. Subsequently, he joined the Royal Northern College of Music (UK) to pursue the prestigious Master’s Degree in Conducting, graduating with distinction, and mentored by Clark Rundell and Mark Heron. While at Curtis, in addition to Yannik Nezet-Seguin, Carlos has been mentored and supported by Masters such as Juanjo Mena, Michael Tilson Thomas, Sir Mark Elder, Cristian Măcelaru, Vasily Petrenko, Leonard Slatkin, Jac Van Steen, Benjamin Zander, and others. 

Carlos is passionate about social transformation through art and community education. This commitment has lead him to work with programs such as Play On Philly (Philadelphia, USA), All City Orchestra (Philadelphia), the Stockport Youth Orchestra (UK) and the Unimusica Youth Orchestra (Colombia). In Colombia, Carlos was the Artistic Director of one of the projects of Social Transformation Through Music by the Bogota City Hall in collaboration with the Bogota Philharmonic

Contact: Susan Bardack – 518.867.7940/





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