Members of the Suzuki Youth Orchestras of the Americas (SYOA) presented their concert Sunday afternoon. The audience was treated to an experience rich with quintessential Suzuki tone, electrifying energy and exemplary musicianship. Outstanding conductors Emmett Drake (SYOA 1) and Kirsten Marshall (SYOA 2) led the orchestras through a range of older and newer repertoire that suited the occasion perfectly and showcased the developing skills of our Suzuki students.

SYOA 1 performed Contrasts in e minor (Feese), Concerto for String Orchestra (Handel, arr. Del Borgo), Reverie for String Orchestra (Corigliano), and Warrior Legacy (Newbold). SYOA 2 played “Praelude” from Holberg Suite (Grieg), “Andante Cantabile” from Paradise Point Divertimento for Strings (Parker, Jr.), Toccata (Frescobaldi, arr. Higgins), Sinfonia I in C (Mendelssohn) and Pirate’s Legend (Newbold).

It was apparent that students, practice partners, and home teachers had prepared for the weekend. On Thursday evening SYOA coordinators Arlette Aslanian-Townsend, assisted by Reagan Brasch (Orchestra I) and Jim Van Reeth, assisted by Brittany Gardner (Orchestra 2), were privileged to witness the initial coming together of the SYOA musicians, most of them meeting each other for the first time. Everyone was a little nervous, yet obviously excited. Through the rehearsals and activities that would take place over the next several days, the coordinating team saw everyone relax and bond. When it finally came time to perform on Sunday afternoon, the newly formed SYOA conference community had transformed into a dynamic team, interacting as if everyone had been friends for years.

Emmett Drake conducts the SYOA 1 concert at the 2012 conference

Emmett Drake conducts the SYOA 1 concert at the 2012 conference

On Friday morning the SYOA coordinating team, along with a few volunteers, helped the orchestras relocate from the Hilton to the Convention Center where they continued rehearsals and ultimately presented the concert. SYOA 2 received a “special” unplanned welcome when a curious Minneapolis mouse greeted members of the cello section, showing its whiskers for a just moment before vanishing for the remainder of the weekend. Sectional rehearsals were coached enthusiastically and masterfully by SAA members Laura Anderson and Vanessa Vari (Violin), Rachel Fabulich (Viola) and David Holmes (Cello/Bass) for SYOA 1 and Robert Richardson and Janelle Severson (Violin), Camille Nies (Viola) and Jill Wright Crist (Cello/Bass) for SYOA 2.

The entire weekend was a perfect mix of fun and musical adventures. A delicious ice cream social allowed the students to become better acquainted with one another. SYOA musicians and their families would continue to bond at the hotel pool and area attractions. Several SYOA members participated in master classes with SAA conference clinicians, and performed on other conference related concerts with fellow orchestra members there to listen and cheer them on.

Finally the day everyone had been waiting for arrived. Conductors, coordinators, students, and parents gathered to take pictures to remember the weekend. The air was filled with excitement and much joy. From the start of the first rehearsal, SYOA showed promise that their hard work would result in something magical – and by Sunday evening, it was clear that they did.

It is our hope that all the students and parents had as rewarding a time as we did. The orchestra members gave it their all, despite long rehearsals and late nights. Hopefully, the memories that were created during the week will last a lifetime!