By Ted AYALA
There are youth orchestras and there are youth orchestras. The Glendale Youth Orchestra (GYO), which closes out its season this Sunday at the Alex Theatre, is decidedly, emphatically an example of the latter.
It would be tempting to lay much of the organization’s success on Brad Keimach, the GYO’s charismatic music director. But he would be the first to refute the idea.
“It’s the kids,” he said. “They’re fantastic, each one of them.”
Now in his 14th year at the helm of the organization, Keimach and the GYO show no signs of stopping.
Mentored by Leonard Bernstein, Keimach’s own podium language echoes that of his teacher. But it is the performances that he wrests from his young musicians where the influence is most keenly felt. The orchestra’s playing is simply electrifying.
Their program this Sunday – concertos by Grieg and Mozart, followed by Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 4″ – speaks not only for the high ambitions of the musicians, but also for the scope of their talent. Picking winners to take the solo roles in Sunday’s concert proved especially difficult this year for Keimach.
“This year’s group is particularly responsive and talented,” he said. “And we have so many talented, diverse players in this orchestra. A good number of them aren’t just excellent on the instrument they play in the orchestra, but also happen to be excellent pianists, too. So it can get to be a hard job to pick which ones get the spotlight.”
Among the soloists taking center stage this year with the GYO is Se Jun Kim, a senior at Hoover High School. A member of the GYO since the age of 8, he is also the member of two other youth orchestras, a two-time winner of the Glendale Unified School District (GUSD) district-wide music competition, and is a quarterback on his high school’s varsity football team.
Kim’s performance of the first movement of Mozart’s Horn Concerto No. 4 will open the concert, followed by performances of the first movements from Mozart’s “Violin Concerto No. 4″ and Grieg’s “Piano Concerto” by Anna Gong and Sherry Tang respectively.
“One of the main differences between a professional orchestra and a really good youth orchestra is repetition,” Keimach explained. “You ask professionals to do something once and they’ll do it. With young people there’s a lot more repeating, lots of teaching. But they come to this music fresh, they get enthusiastic, and their playing shows it.”
It is a quality that Keimach is looking forward to sharing in their performance of the Beethoven symphony.
“Beethoven has been dead for 200 years,” he told the orchestra. “We are his advocates. We have to make him come alive. He’s not just a name. He was a real person who had something extraordinary to say to the world.”
As he recalled their performances throughout the season, Keimach said that he would particularly miss this year’s orchestra.
“They are simply fantastic,” he recalled. “They have had the courage to redefine what their best is, then push even further beyond that. They never settle for ‘just enough.’”
General admission tickets for this Sunday’s GYO concert are $12.50 and may be purchased from the Alex Theatre box office. Students, children and seniors tickets are $10. Groups of 15 or more get 15% off. The Alex Theatre is located at 216 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale.
For more information, call (818) 243-2539, or visit www.alextheatre.org.