Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Youth impress at Side-by-Side Concert

By Annaliza Guard and Madison Marquardt
Bengal News West Reporters   

         The softness of the violin strings, meet the smoothness of the clarinet as the deep hollow strumming of the cello strings join in.  The music hall fills with the rising sounds of a full orchestra, not a note out of place. 
            On Wednesday April 6, some of Buffalo’s most talented musicians harmonized in the great acoustics of Kleinhans Music Hall, performing classical pieces, as well as some modern ones.  More than half of these decorated musicians are still in high school.
            The concert was part of the Greater Buffalo Youth Orchestra’s Side-by-Side program, which allows students to work with members of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.
            “The philharmonic assigns a coach for each section,” said GBYO Executive Director Janice Jones.  She has been involved in the GBYO since 2005.
“There is a first violin coach, second violin coach, viola coach, there’s a woodwind coach for that section and a brass coach for that section.”
GBYO students receive one session with their coach, but then participate in 6 rehearsals to prepare for the final performance. 
“The students really enjoy the opportunity to work with their private teachers leading up to it,” said Jones.
“But now they get to sit with someone who does this for a living.  Just sitting on that stage with all that great sound around you, it just motivates you to play harder and better.”
This year the joint orchestra’s performance including demanding classical pieces, but the real showstopper came when the group performed pieces from Star Wars.
            The Side-by-Side program provides students with several unique opportunities.  Not only do students get to work with a professional musician, they get to perform on a stage typically reserved for industry professionals as well.
            “Everyone wants to participate in the Side-by-Side because of the opportunity to perform with the philharmonic onstage at Kleinhans Music Hall,” said Jones.
            The Side-by-Side program is just one part of the GBYO.  The GBYO is made up of students from local middle and high schools.
“We have students from Fredonia to Lewiston,” said Jones.  The GBYO even extends across borders.
“We have students who drive from Fort Erie every Monday night from September to May.”
            Each spring the GBYO holds an audition process, where students from 8th to 12th grade compete for a coveted spot in the youth orchestra.  To be eligible for auditions, students must participate in their school’s music program as well as study privately.
            Students who are accepted into the GBYO must be actively preparing a New York State School Music Association (NYSSMA) level five or six solo.  NYSSMA is the state music grading system, which sets the standard for competitive student musicians.
            Over 7,000 students audition for the 8 All-State performing groups; fewer than 900 are selected to participate annually.  A six is the highest score for a NYSSMA solo.
            One student who made it through the rigorous audition process, and was accepted into the GBYO was City Honors junior Karly Masters.  The viola player auditioned last spring.
            “It was really nerve-wracking,” said Miss Masters.
            “I auditioned three years prior to this as well.  I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it this year, but I finally did.”
            Her mother Kendra’s advice to her daughter was to “relax and do her best.”
            “I knew she would make it,” said Mrs. Masters.
            A stint with the GBYO is a prestigious achievement for any young musician.  Those who wish to continue their music career, like Karly, receive a respected resume, all before graduating high school.
            “I’m working on my college audition piece right now,” said Miss Masters.
            “I’m a junior, so next year I’ll be auditioning for colleges.  I’m thinking about Oberlin, Ithaca, probably Eastman.  I’m narrowing the list down.”