“YOUTH ORCHESTRA” An artist profile
RETURN TO VOLUME 1 | ISSUE #5 | COVER: VD SPECIAL
KW Symphony Youth Orchestra
In browsing the KW Symphony’s website I noticed the upcoming Youth Orchestra concert. It got me thinking that the spotlight isn’t given enough to this program and their up and coming musicians. Additionally, orchestras are often mistakenly thought of as something for the upper class and older populations simply out of a misunderstanding. The KWS has been pretty successful in challenging that misconception overall, but what about the mainstream pop saturated youth? Well, more are actually aware and involved then you may think. Not only do many individuals that you would not suspect – such as metal fans – listen to orchestral music, but many youths are exposed to this type of music through avenues you wouldn’t even think of – such as metal (Apocalyptica anyone?). Truth be told is that today’s movies are still scored with great symphonic orchestral works from both past and present. But even more so than movie soundtracks, this type of music makes its way to youth ears via the soundtracks of video games. Yep that’s right, video games have soundtracks available for purchase just for listening pleasure. Thus it is important to foster orchestral knowledge amongst the youth to help preserve the brilliant music of the past and continue to develop the beauty of the orchestra of today and the future. To find out how the KWS is doing just that I sat down with Conductor Evan Mitchell. He shared with me what the program is about and how it reaches out to as many youth as possible.
VR: How did the Youth Orchestra Program come to be and what is it’s purpose?
EM: Well a while ago a need was seen to create a program for the young musicians in the area as a KWS grew and expanded and evolved. It seemed like that was one of our educational priorities. It started out with the main core ensemble and over the passage of time we’ve branched out to have several ensembles which are targeted at specific levels of ability and experience. We’re actually even looking to expand even further right now. It all came out of a desire to be leaders in any way we could from a musical education perspective. Education is of course a key component but I think we’re really cultivating a lot of things here. Not only cultivating audiences but cultivating interest. It’s a really wonderful opportunity for people who otherwise wouldn’t be exposed to this type of music for them to get a taste of it. There’s a lot of research and evidence that corroborates success with being involved in the arts one way or another. We’re providing an opportunity for formative minds, for young students who are open minded and who are looking for something like that to give them experience that will last a lifetime. It’s more about giving that appreciation and giving that love and that substance that stays with them throughout their lives.
VR: I noticed there are fees involved with membership. What does this money go towards and fund?
EM: The Youth Orchestra itself and each one of the ensembles within the program are run by a professional musician. So part of the fee goes towards the compensation for that particular individual. There’s also associated costs involved with rental space for rehearsals, rental equipment, and we also have concerts that take place at Centre In The Square on stage. That’s actually an unbelievable feather in the cap. As far as I know no other youth orchestra in the country has access to such a fine performance facility as this program does. The fees that are asked to be part of the program actually don’t even cover the costs of what the program entails. We also have elements such as coachings from outside members of the musical family we have here. Often we’ll set up little coachings one on one with individuals. So there’s an awful lot of extra features that are afforded as a result of this fee. Not to mention that we do have an extremely robust bursary and scholarship program as well to help offset the costs of entry into the program.
VR: I had read that there are awards and scholarships. Could you elaborate on that?
EM: We have a fund for bursary giving. Currently, the way that it is structured is that we are able to offset the entrance fees for the students who have shown ability and commitment but also have a financial need. At the end of the year there are merit-based scholarships that are awarded [based on] observations of the conductors and other associated peoples over the course of the year and we award that at the last concert.
VR: So you’re obviously trying to make it affordable and helping it to be open to everyone.
EM: One of the reasons we have so many different ensembles to accommodate so many different levels of experience is we really don’t want to be exclusive. Being all exclusive can sometimes be at odds with maintaining the highest level of possible performance in any one given group. That way we can include people and help them along to the next phase. So we really don’t like being exclusive and we find this is the best way to develop players.
VR: What excites you most about being part of the program?
EM: The most exciting and rewarding part is working with these students who are at a very impressionable time and they are also working at a period where they are the most fresh and the most receptive. It’s an honour and a privilege. I have a responsibility, as well, to be very careful about the sorts of things like the orchestral habits and the musical habits that we ingrain in them and so it’s something I take very seriously. Seeing the progress that is made from the very first rehearsal up until the concert, it’s extraordinary to sort of chart that progress and to work with them at that phase where they’re learning.
VR: Is there anything else you think is important to tell the community about?
EM: I think it’s important to mention that we are always looking to be bigger and better. If anybody has any questions about the program, are interested or excited about the prospect about joining any one of our ensembles, or even if they want any more information email Barb Kaplanek with the KWS who is the Youth Orchestra Coordinator. We’d love to hear from you, hear your feedback, hear your questions, and hopefully see you come out and be part of one of our ensembles.
To find out more about the KWS Youth Orchestra Program visit kwsymphony.ca. You will find it under Education & Outreach. You can see these talented youth in concert on Saturday, February 11th at 2pm at the Conrad Centre for the Performing Arts. The concert features performances by the Senior Youth Orchestra, Valhalla Brass, Youth Sinfonia, Youth Strings, and Preludium Strings.