In a sustained effort to create the best instrumental performance opportunities for youth in the region, the 2017-18 season of Empire State Youth Orchestra (ESYO) includes world-class collaborations, more than 30 public performances in styles ranging from classical to jazz and percussion, and a record-breaking 500 musicians. Among its highlights, ESYO’s 39th season includes a newly commissioned P.D.Q. Bach piano concerto, a collaboration with the crowd-rousing Piano Battle at Proctors, a birthday bash for American composers, a first-ever wind orchestra tour to Hungary, and the second annual Encore Stage. Also included are long-time audience favorites Melodies of Christmas and the annual Playathon at Crossgates Mall.
The year will also mark the farewell season of Music Director Helen Cha-Pyo. Cha-Pyo has announced this season, her fifteenth, will be her last, as she moves on to become artistic director and New Jersey Youth Symphony conductor for the Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts in New Jersey, near her hometown.
“I can’t imagine a more exciting way to complete an incredible journey with Empire State Youth Orchestra than this season,” said Cha-Pyo. “As we continue to grow the program, we are connecting more children to music in the Capital Region. In just three years, we have gone from 350 musicians to now well over 500, expanding the impact of the ESYO Experience even deeper into our community. But, through it all, ESYO remains deeply committed to preserving the excellence at the heart of our program. I hope every member of the community has the opportunity to see at least one of this season’s events. You will leave a believer in the power of music to change lives. I guarantee it.”
This is the third season of ESYO CHIME, which provides free music training in a safe and enriched environment for children who lack the comprehensive support needed to succeed. The goal is to afford these young musicians equal opportunity to develop their talent and to break through the barriers that often exist between suburban and urban populations. Intensive, daily, music making allows for accelerated skill development and cultivates crucial 21st century skills such as creativity, critical thinking and collaboration. The program, launched in 2015 with 40 elementary children at Yates Elementary School in Schenectady will serve approximately 110 children in grades 1 through 8 this season.
Highlights of ESYO’s 39th season include:
Oct. 24: ESYO’s annual Young People’s Concert and Free Concert for Senior Citizens at Proctors. These concerts reach into the heart of the community to share the joy of classical music with young and old. Over 2,000 area school children filled Proctors last season. The concerts are sponsored by CDPHP.
Nov. 4: ESYO Youth Orchestra joins pianist Jeffery Biegel at Troy Savings Bank Music Hall in the New York premiere of a newly commission work by the beloved musical satirist Peter Schickele, better known as P.D.Q. Bach. The piece, The Simply Grand Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, was commissioned by ESYO and orchestras around the nation and features Peter Schickele’s characteristic laugh-out-loud humor and inventive playing. The program will include Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5. This concert is sponsored by the Times Union.
Dec 14-17: ESYO Youth Orchestra and ESYO Youth Chorale perform in CBS 6’s annual Melodies of Christmas concerts at Proctors to benefit the pediatric oncology program at Albany Medical Center.
Feb. 3: ESYO’s annual Playathon at Crossgates Mall. Every ESYO ensemble will perform for free at the mall in an all-day musical marathon. The day will include auctions to win the conductor’s baton and lead the orchestra as well as a musical “petting zoo” sponsored by John Keal Music.
Feb 11: ESYO Youth Orchestra teams up with the crowd-pleasing Piano Battle on the mainstage for a Proctors-produced concert. In a classical music first, the dynamic piano duo makes the audience the judge of their exhilarating, tongue-in-cheek battle. Weaving the orchestra into the act in inventive ways, Piano Battle has performed for sold out audiences around the globe.
April 29: ESYO Youth Orchestra presents a Birthday Bash of American Composers at the historic Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, featuring the season’s Lois Lyman Concerto Competition Winner and celebrating Leonard Bernstein at 100 and Samuel Alder at 90.
May 5: ESYO Repertory Orchestra and ESYO String Orchestra perform at the Arthur Zankel Music Center at Skidmore College.
June 16: ESYO presents its second annual Encore Stage in the GE Theater at Proctors featuring ESYO’s graduating seniors. It is an opportunity to enjoy the intimate nature of chamber music, exceptionally performed, and to join the ESYO family in a celebration of our seniors before they head off to do amazing things in music and in the world.
August: ESYO Wind Orchestra will embark on its first-ever international tour to Hungary. Invited to participate in the 2018 Eastern European World Association of Symphonic Bands and Ensembles (WASBE) International Conference, this exciting cultural exchange will afford ESYO musicians the opportunity to collaborate with some of the best youth wind players in the world.
Throughout the season: ESYO’s jazz ensembles, wind Orchestra, and string ensembles present concerts in partnership with ensembles from The College of Saint Rose. ESYO’s ensembles hold outreach concerts at Brown School in Schenectady, an area soup kitchen, and at the Parson’s Child & Family Center in Albany and Schenectady. ESYO’s percussion ensembles perform throughout the region including at the University at Albany Festival of Contemporary Music.
More information about ESYO’s program and concerts can be found at esyo.org.
About Empire State Youth Orchestras: Empire State Youth Orchestra (ESYO) challenges and inspires young people to achieve excellence through music in a rigorous learning environment leading to high-level performance opportunities. More than 500 youth from the Capital Region of New York and western New England are selected by audition each year for the ESYO program. ESYO has a total of 10 performing ensembles that collectively give approximately 30 performances a year. In 2015, ESYO launched ESYO CHIME (Creating Harmony, Inspiring Musical Excellence). ESYO CHIME seeks to expand access to music in underserved communities, and by doing so, empower children and their families to overcome the barriers to musical excellence caused by economic inequality. Founded in 1979, ESYO is a not-for-profit organization that has been recognized as a premier music education/performance program for youth and has received three ASCAP awards. For more information, visit esyo.org.