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December 2013
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Kids Who Play Music

This month WFMT celebrates the many ways in which children and music intersect. Since the launch of our series Introductions, it’s been our pleasure to have a much closer relationship with organizations around Chicago that train and teach young musicians. This community adds an essential dimension to WFMT’s mission, while challenging and enriching the experience of our staff. One of Chicago’s premiere youth organizations is the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra.

CYSO music director Allen Tinkham

CYSO music director Allen Tinkham

Recently music director Allen Tinkham brought a posse from CYSO to answer phones at the WFMT pledge drive. Their fall concert was aired on Saturday’s edition of Introductions. Listen

Allen shares some insight about these budding players:

When you’re standing on the podium with young people playing real repertoire (as opposed to student versions), do you find much difference between youth musicians and adults? Or do they pretty much speak the same language?

I would say that though they speak the same language, the biggest difference is that the young people are experiencing this music for the first time, so they don’t have the depth of familiarity with the repertoire that a pro would have.  Because the young people lack that familiarity and experience, their playing is initially insensitive to what is happening in other parts of the orchestra, making it much more difficult to play together and make all of the music heard.  Things that would be automatic for a pro, such as knowing which instruments have the primary melody or the leading rhythm, require explanation and rehearsal for the young musician.  This is why we need so much more rehearsal than the pros!  However, once the young people have thoroughly learned a piece of music they are capable of tremendous sensitivity, not to mention the incredible energy and reckless abandon that reminds us what it is like to be young!

Have any of your student musicians gone on to become professional players? Any examples?

Many have gone on to great careers in music.  Some recent examples (these students have all graduated high school after 2001) include Kyle Zerna, who is a percussionist in the New York Philharmonic, Abe Feder, who is the principal ‘cellist with the Sarasota Orchestra, and Noah Geller, who is the concertmaster of the Kansas City Symphony.  Recently CYSO played a concert featuring the brothers Anthony and Demarre McGill, both CYSO alumni with great careers; Anthony is the principal clarinetist with the Metropolitan Opera and Demarre is the principal flutist in the Seattle Symphony.  There are many, many others playing in orchestras all over the world, along with folks who have gone on to great careers outside music, including for example Daniel Shih, a CYSO violinist who became a Rhodes Scholar!

The CYSO’s appearance on Introductions will be rebroadcast on Thursday at 10:00 PM.

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