By Ted AYALA
One of my most memorable – and surprising – musical experiences was when I heard a powerful and searching performance of Robert Schumann’s Symphony No. 2 at the Alex Theatre last spring. Memorable because Schumann as a symphonic composer could often be his own worst enemy, scuttling brilliant thematic and structural ideas with an awkward and muddy sense of orchestration. Yet the performance I heard brought into clear relief that all Schumann needs to bring his symphonies to life are sympathetic musicians willing to work hard to burnish the composer’s symphonic utterances into a bright gleam. Surprising because the performance came not from a group of professional full-time musicians, but from the Glendale Youth Orchestra, an orchestra comprised of middle- and high school-aged children.
Brad Keimach, the charismatic conductor and music director channeled high-energy playing that left the audience in the Alex pinned to the back of their seats. These weren’t just “kids” playing. This was superb and white-hot playing that many professional ensembles would do well to emulate.
“I just treat them like professionals,” said Keimach. “In our rehearsals we have a lot of excitement and high energy. I’ll track the music for them, break it down and inspire them to connect emotionally to the music.”
Unlike many youth musical organizations, the GYO tackles real symphonic repertoire, not medleys or simplified arrangements and excerpts. The fearlessness and maturity with which they embrace the music they play is distinctly audible at every one of their concerts.
Now entering its 22nd year, the orchestra will hold auditions for positions in its 2011-12 season. Currently in its ranks are musicians both from the area and beyond.
“We have a pretty diverse group,” noted Keimach. “We’re not just looking for kids from the area, but welcome any child that wants to participate.”
Forthcoming auditions for the orchestra will be held on Sunday and Tuesday, Aug. 30 at Forest Lawn’s Hall of Liberty (6300 Forest Lawn Dr., Los Angeles).
Keimach said that the orchestra was looking forward to seeing a lot of young musicians at the auditions. “We’re always looking for talented musicians, but we would especially welcome string, oboe, bassoon and French horn players.”
Children and parents unable to attend the August auditions will have one more opportunity in September.
Reflecting on his time with the orchestra, Keimach glowed.
“Working with [the Glendale Youth] is an exciting experience, unlike any other. There is nothing like being able to share this great music and getting young people to connect with it.”
For more information on the Glendale Youth’s auditions, including a listing of their auditioning requirements, visit www.glendaleyouthorchestra.com, call (818) 321-3083 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.