This summer, the New York Youth Symphony (NYYS) went to Argentina. Led by conductor Joshua Gersen, the Symphony performed three concerts throughout Buenos Aires and participated in an exchange with a local youth orchestra.
NYYS consists of over a hundred musicians, aged 12 to 22. The tuition-free institution provides an opportunity for aspiring students to perform three concerts at Carnegie Hall throughout the year. This international tour, the group’s first, gave students a new experience: performing in front of foreign audiences while simultaneously enjoying the culturally rich country of Argentina.
“The orchestra is filled with so many outstanding and talented students and I wanted the world to see just how special it is!” explained Shauna Quill, Executive Director of NYYS, to JSR. “I wanted to give [our students] the experience of traveling together as a group – there’s nothing like the bonding that happens when traveling and experiencing new things with your friends.”
The participants also bonded with their Argentine counterparts. Despite the language barrier, the two orchestras befriended each other rapidly, bonding over the music they were performing. Several even met up afterward to watch Argentina’s soccer team play in the America Cup tournament.
According to Quill, “The concerts and the exchange were so fantastic and the group bonded so beautifully. I feel so lucky to have spent this time with the students, parents, and trustees who traveled with us.”
The concerts were positively received. According to Quill, a Facebook event posted by the US Embassy in Argentina showed that thousands of people had said they were “attending” two weeks before the trip. Joined by violinist Elena Urioste, the NYYS performed Ludwig van Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D Major, an NYYS-commissioned piece called “Fresh” by Molly Joyce, and finally Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony. After each of the three performances, the crowd gave a standing ovation.
“Organizing the first tour for the NYYS took about two years of advance planning,” Quill told JSR.
Among other duties, Quill had to oversee decisions about when and where to go, gain the support of the board of trustees, raise money for scholarships, and take care of logistics. As a result of this careful planning, the tour was a success and drew thousands of Argentines to each concert. Now that the tour has concluded, Quill is preparing to take the NYYS jazz band on a March 2016 tour of Brazil.
New Yorkers can enjoy the orchestra’s 53rd season this autumn. To open the season on November 22, the orchestra will perform a repertoire of music composed by George Gershwin, Richard Strauss, and Maurice Ravel at Carnegie Hall.