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Best Youth Orchestras


kapellmeister
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Hello all- I know I'm probably opening a major can of worms here , but well, in the spirit of free debate, here's my question: Which youth orchestras do you consider to be the best in the country? (sorry for all those non-US residents, my apologies!)

To start it off, here's my list (in no particular order): San Francisco Youth Orchestra, Greater Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra, NEC's Youth Philharmonic, Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra, and Baltimore Youth Orchestra...

I have some others, but this is just a start to get some posts flowing...

Thanks, -KM

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Ummmmmmmmmmmmmm, How would anybody know this? I am sure there are some very fine youth orchestras out there, but since most of them dont travel to places where they can be judged fairly, and they do not make CDs, we cannot judge them.

Cleveland has a good lil youth band. How they rate against the others, I have no clue.

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Olympia Youth is absolutely fab! I'd almost say that they're better than the SYSO, but that's only because their string section is kickass. Our chamber orch had to compete against theirs last year, and it was somewhat of a challenge...but in the end we ended up winning. The odds of that: crazy! I'd join Olympia's if I didn't live so dang far away, especially since a load of my friends are over there.

Great group, they've got my bet.

--Mazas

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Thanks! Which one? We have two: one is the Capital Area Youth Symphony (CAYSA), the other is Student Orchestras of Greater Olympia (SOGO). My older daughter is a violinist in the latter, and also plays the oboe with my younger daughter playing flute in the training orchestra.

SOGO has a huge sound in its string sections, despite the fact that there are in fact only 18 violins (CAYSA has a larger string section, but many fewer horns.) SOGO is also rather unique in structure. It was founded by students themselves, and they choose the conductor. While there are auditions to join, there are NO auditions for chairs, no permanent concert master -- they switch on every piece, and no strict division into first and second violins. Everyone gets to play everything. The theory is that if one knows the music better from different vantage points, one is likely to play better. And no time is wasted in pointless competition -- all energies are focused on the music.

As you note, it works! I doubt SOGO quite competes with SYSO's string section, but player for player....

(I'm a proud dad, and my wife sits on the Board.)

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Regarding Shantinik's post about seating auditions, while I tend to dread seating auditions (I'm a violinist in Chicago Youth Sympnony), I find that by having them, it FORCES the players to practice their parts thoroughly and know their parts extremely well. We just had our seating auditions for the spring, and last Sunday we played through the Totenfeier from Mahler's 2nd Symphony for the first time. Because we were fresh off of auditions for it, we were all playing it at a really high level, and I'd have to say it sounded really good for a "first run-through." On a totally unrelated note, MAHLER IS THE BOMB!!!!

So while I agree that it is good to rotate seats and not be too caught up in the "seating extravaganza" (which by the way, we have co-principals for just about every instrument, and people switch between first and second violin parts for different pieces), I think it is invaluable for the orchestra as a whole, and it prevents the slacker-syndrome that might occur in a 110 piece orchestra, because you get to embarrass yourself in front of the conductor and a panel of judges if you don't practice.

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Well then I retract my statement about slacker syndrome. Though the slacker that hides in the back of the orchestra might just possibly disappear after re-entry auditions the next year. Yet this brings up another issue, and I think we would be kidding ourselves if we said that everyone in the orchestra was equally capable of leading the orchestra. I know that I follow the concertmaster very closely, and being able to lead in a position such as concertmaster is a skill that needs to be practiced. Not to mention some people simply lead better than others, which will add to the stability of the section.

I am concertmaster of another youth orchestra, and I know that if I only served as concertmaster once or twice a season, I would be nervous and absolutely befuddled as to what I have to do for the section. The section would not always be certain when they should come in, and our bowings would never stay the same because all people have different ideas. There are certainly merits to loosening the "orchestral tension," but competition is what helps make one their best.

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