By: Megan Pasquarell, Cave Spring High School
Every Sunday, a group of talented young adults gather to celebrate their passion for playing music ang discovering its joys. These students are none other than the musicians of the Roanoke Youth Symphony Orchestra.
Founded in 1956, the RYSO offers a unique pre-professional experience for talented individuals ages 12 to 18. After auditioning, members of the orchestra rehearse weekly and perform in several concerts throughout the year. Additionally, an annual camp, the Summer Music Institute, intensively prepares all members of the RYSO for the upcoming musical season. Students play both classical and contemporary pieces, including movie scores.
Conductor James Glazebrook is in his 24th year of directing the orchestra. He’s also Associate Concertmaster of the professional Roanoke Symphony Orchestra
“The RYSO brings together students with a common interest around the region. It is an outlet for personal expression,” Glazebrook said. “Even those who don’t pursue music as a career still become musical board members and audience members.”
First year member Melissa Wu, sophomore at William Byrd High School, said she intends to return to the RYSO next season. “It’s challenging but fun,” the flute player stated. “It’s a mix of work and fun.”
In its ongoing 2013-2014 season, the RYSO had the unique opportunity to perform for the opening concert of the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra’s 60th season on Oct. 7. The Roanoke Symphony Orchestra is directed by Maestro David Stewart Wiley, who has also guest-conducted for the RYSO in past concerts.
“Education has always been essential,” Wiley said, “and the RYSO represents the present and the future.”
Percussionist and Cave Spring High School Junior Samie Casauay said that the RYSO “does a good job of connecting with the community.” She added, “My favorite part about symphony is the different types of music we play.”
The RYSO is not simply an orchestra, but also an organization for the development of young musicians and artists. Each year the orchestra sponsors the Young Artist Awards, where members compete for a cash prize and a chance to solo with the RYSO. This year’s winner and concertmaster was Sage Wright, a homeschooled senior. She described the differences of playing in an ensemble and soloing.
“When playing in an ensemble,” the violinist said, “it’s important to listen and blend. When soloing, I can do more stylistic techniques.” Wright described the RYSO as “fun,” declaring her favorite aspect to be the selection of movie scores and classical music.
“The RYSO is very enjoyable,” Sarah Blevins, first chair oboe and Alleghany High School senior, said. “And it looks great on college applications.”
Not only does the RYSO provide participating members with the joy of music, it also reaches upwards of 2,000 grade-school students throughout the Roanoke region with its Discovery Concerts. Other outreach programs include the encouragement of young students to play and learn about the instruments that make up the Orchestra.
Currently the RYSO is preparing to present a concert at Patrick Henry High School on Nov. 24 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $5. For more
information, visit http://www.rso.com/learn/youth_orchestra.html.