Come out this Aug. 15 or17 to audition for a high-quality youth orchestra that has been performing in the Santa Clarita Valley and beyond for more than 25 years.
In late July, the Santa Clarita Valley Youth Orchestra ensembles made an appearance at the outdoor amphitheater at College of the Canyons. They performed selections from Broadway and the movies, prefaced by a variety of chamber music.
The SCVYO began its summer program on a high note in the stunning mountains of the Angeles National Forest. On a crisp July evening, the vibrant sounds of symphony music punctuated the night air. The SCVYO gathered at this picturesque setting in Wrightwood to kick off an intensive program – where students discovered ways of bringing their musical skills to a higher level.
Versatile young musicians
There is no doubt that the SCVYO musicians are working together to build their talents using selections from Broadway and movies, including Cats, Grease, Star Trek and The Hobbit.
Such pieces as “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” showcase the students’ flairs for music from movies and musicals. But the orchestras are equally versed in recreating the unique characters of Romantic, Classical and Baroque music. With the majority of its members ranging in age from 9 to 19, the Santa Clarita Valley Youth Orchestra musicians aim to perfect their techniques in symphonic music.
While SCVYO members rehearse their pieces diligently, they are also learning how to work together. For example, some bass players plucking out the rhythm include 19-year-old Mark Gutierrez, who is mentoring 11-year-old Olivia Kulchin. New student cellists Walter Sage and Andrew Sung (both of grammar school age) are absorbing new proficiencies from older, longtime orchestra members. The concertmaster is 11-year-old Lawrence Adhinatha of Canyon Country who takes pride in leading the 1st and 2nd violin sections. And, flautists range from teaching intern Armand Assaiante, 3rd-year college student, to Katie Campbell, who is in junior high school. French horn player Kelly Ficarra, a high school sophomore, is an integral member of the horn section.
Orchestra is life
“Orchestra really is a metaphor for the rest of life,” said Paul Sherman, DMA, Executive Music Director for the SCVYO Program. “Playing well obviously is important, but the bigger goal is community and playing together in a broad sense. The students enjoy one another’s company, so there’s no such thing as somebody being left out.”
Overseeing the three different ensembles of the youth orchestras, Dr. Sherman focuses on maintaining camaraderie among all. These ensembles include The Prelude Strings, SCV Youth Orchestra, and the Symphony of the Canyons. These groups will take their music rehearsals or lessons from the mountains of Wrightwood to the hills of Santa Clarita to the Hollywood Bowl and beyond over two weeks of focused training together.
The combination of three talented leaders is just the ticket for a successful musical journey, too. At the helm is Dr. Sherman. Supporting this effort are Derrick Spiva, Jr., Director of the Orchestra, and Julissa Bozman, Director of the Prelude Strings. This terrific trio has mentored many a student to aim for – and achieve – an improved “personal best.”
Spiva likened the process to the way kids at the recent music camp went about climbing the rockwall. “Think about that rockwall and the hardest piece you need to learn – you don’t want to give up. It’s about seeing your goal and continuing to try to reach it – with the support and cheering of friends.”
Playing with the orchestra is about finding the right balance between strict work and learning technique in fun, enjoyable ways, according to Dr. Sherman. “Learning to listen to other people and not just hear your own instrument is important,” he says.
Practice allows for new insights (and heights)
Derrick Spiva says that when he encourages the young musicians to go over the music repeatedly, they can get comfortable with reading it easily. “Then they don’t focus as much on what’s on the page,” he comments. “Instead, they can focus elsewhere – on the emotion of the music.”
He kiddingly breaks into a dance while conducting. He points out that “you can’t just have your head in the stand. You’ve got to enjoy what you do.” Why? Because he, Dr. Sherman and Julissa Bozman are among those beautiful leaders who truly care about music. As Derrick puts it: “Music to us is life. It’s almost life and death. It has to move people. We want these kids to experience that feeling…. like, ‘Oh now that’s what it’s supposed to sound like’ – to have that epiphany.”
Aiming higher and higher
And the level of music that SCVYO students are picking up and practicing is challenging. An important part of learning the pieces well is to listen actively, according to Dr. Sherman. “The way to get them [the students] to improve is by finding balance between strict work and learning technique in enjoyable ways,” he says.
“It’s about learning to listen to other people and not just hear your own instrument. While they need to be technically correct, they have to go beyond that – and play emotion.” Just how to pull that aspect out of the young musicians is a special skill in itself.
Finding the heart of music
“I think that 99 percent of music is how it feels and how it sounds,” comments Mr. Spiva. “I find that when the students do things repeatedly, then they get comfortable with reading. That way, they don’t focus as much on what’s on the page. They can focus elsewhere – on the feeling.”
Spiva points out that SCVYO student Trinity Catlin, is beginning to recognize the feelings in the Star Trek selection that the SCVYO will be performing, when she said: “Wow, this part sounds so cool.”
Spiva continues: “It’s really fun. The students learn technique from playing it [the music]. It’s an entry to the more hard-core symphonic. They start to hear these melodies and where they’ve been ‘borrowed’ from – taken from greats like Dvorák and Tchaikovsky.”
How it all comes together
The three ensembles began their summer musical journey in the forest and will continue it by listening to other orchestras – first at the Hollywood Bowl and later, at the Santa Barbara Music Academy of the West.
Come be part of this musical experience and hear SCVYO’s music in the evening air at their outdoor concert Friday, July 26 at 6 pm. in the Honor Grove at COC.
For further information, contact email@example.com or visit scvyo.org.