Benefits for a lifetime!
What I gained from my youth orchestra experience
by Janet Diebel
The St. Catharines (now Niagara) Youth Orchestra was affiliated with the St. Catharines (now Niagara) Symphony and supported by an excellent interschool music program run by the Lincoln County Board of Education. I recall attending senior symphony performances with my elementary school class – performances during the school day specifically for students – we took school buses to the concert hall.
Youth Orchestra was a formative experience for me, both socially and musically. I attribute my love of music and love of playing to my time in this orchestra. Music students in this Board program were put in a series of ensembles from the very beginning (Grade 4; winds started in Grade 6). Teachers in this program were musicians from the senior professional symphony. They travelled from school to school during the week. Students who were signed up for this program were excused from regular classes once a week to take their group lesson, usually in the school gym. Most of us did not take private lessons until we were in high school, or had joined the Youth Orchestra. Ensembles rehearsed outside of school.
There were also music camps in the summer (run by the symphony) which provided exposure to both orchestral and chamber music for both senior and junior students. Senior students had an opportunity to mentor younger ones.
Admission to the Youth Orchestra was by audition. Sectional rehearsals were run by symphony musicians and the conductor was usually also a member of the symphony. A few senior students were sometimes invited to perform in selected concerts with the senior symphony during the year. Many youth orchestra members went on to study, teach and/or perform music professionally after high school.
Here is what my 6 years in Youth Orchestra gave me:
- Life-long friends (and lots of passing crushes!)
- A knowledge and love of a wide variety of music, repertoire you don’t get to experience otherwise (I still remember my first time sitting in the middle of my first full orchestra – the saturation of sound, completely enveloped by the rich, full sounds of the brass, woodwind and string sections – it was exhilarating!)
- Development of skills: sight-reading, all aspects of instrument technique, listening, sensitivity required for ensemble playing, performing under pressure, following a conductor, rehearsal etiquette
- Development of patience, discipline, confidence, empathy, leadership skills
- Appreciation of other instruments – their sounds, their challenges
- The positive reinforcement of a successful rehearsal/performance, witnessing a piece’s transformation from rough to polished
- Opportunities to travel, see new places, meet new people (including others in the orchestra from different parts of town, fellow musicians from other orchestras)
- Mentorship by sectional instructors (professional musicians) and conductors
- Socializing; having fun; belonging; sharing a common goal with others
Playing in a youth orchestra opened my mind
by Sasha Judelson
Playing in a youth orchestra opened my mind to all the musical possibilities that lay before me and it opened my eyes and ears to the pure joy of being part of that huge, powerful, intrinsically complex sound. The frustrations of getting lost and the thrill of realizing that I was competent enough to find my place again are a rite of passage that any young musician should experience. Developing the ability to sight-read music is a skill which will stay with you for the rest of your life! I formed strong and great friendships and developed a real appreciation of the skill and talent that I was surrounded by. It’s undeniable to that being part of an orchestra, following and holding the beat, as well as seeing and hearing how the rhythm from each section fits into the whole, helps to build a mathematical mind in an extraordinary way for some; and for others the beauty and creativity of the music fosters an inspired and linguistic mind.
I played in a number of different orchestras and of course each was slightly different. I loved playing the well-known classical pieces and I was proud to be part of a section when we carried the tune or had a solo and it was fantastic when we got to play the theme music to the latest big movie or television show. Whichever orchestra I was in, each helped me to become organized and disciplined and definitely a better musician.
At its most fundamental level being part of an orchestra allows you to see first hand how a piece of music comes together, to play a large variety of composers and musical genres, reap the rewards of working at pieces, performing and polishing others, use your creative and your logical brain and have a truly fulfilling musical experience.