After 12 months apart, the Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestras got back to in-person rehearsing thanks to the generosity of Park Road Baptist Church, which allowed the groups to safely gather in their parking lot. Spirits were high as the groups came together to rehearse works by Chance, Mozart, Mackey, Bryant, Beethoven, and more! The outdoor location allowed for lots of music while still adhering to social distancing guidelines.
The Youth Orchestra's sounded so wonderful that neighborhood families came by to watch them rehearse from a distance!
CSO Resident Conductor, and Youth Orchestra conductor, Christopher James Lees shares his excitement at the first rehearsal
Although we weren't able to gather together for our final concert, we still want to honor our graduating seniors by acknowledging their accomplishments, and thanking them for their dedication to the Youth Orchestra.
In the video below Christopher James Lees, Principal Conductor of the Youth Orchestra Program, highlights each graduating student's achievements and gives them the opportunity to talk about what they love about the program, and where they are headed after graduation.
Best of luck to our 2020 graduates, we're so proud of you!
We sat down with longtime Charlotte Symphony Concertmaster Calin Lupanu and Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestra Concertmaster Victor Chu, a senior at Providence Day School. Here, they dish about this important role, from onstage pressures to having the best seat in the house!
Calin, you've had this job for over 15 years. What's the best part about being Concertmaster?
CL: The responsibility that comes with the job. Personally, I love it. I embrace pressure. I also love interacting with my colleagues, getting to play solos, and working with great conductors and soloists.
And the best part for you, Victor? You're much newer to this.
VC: To be honest, I'm a pretty quiet guy. But this process -- becoming a more confident leader -- has been the best part. I still remember the first time I had to tune with Conductor Christopher James Lees. In addition to walking me through his process, he was fixing my posture and teaching me how to address the different people in the orchestra. The icing on the cake? The concertmaster seat has a great view!
Can you recall a moment of terror on stage? Any memorable faux pas?
CL: One happened when our Music Director, Christopher Warren-Green, auditioned for the CSO job. During the dress rehearsal, with an audience in the hall, my bridge (the little wooden thing that holds the strings) collapsed! I managed to give the violin to my stand partner, and took a colleague's violin and kept playing. But...it's virtually impossible to have success, without experiencing failure.
VC: There was one time that the first violin section kept messing up and I had just nailed it on the last run-through. Mr. Lees asked me to play it as an example. Everyone went silent. I started playing and it was suddenly SO OUT OF TUNE. To this day, I still don't know how that could have happened.
What do you do right before a concert? Any rituals?
CL: I try to focus and relax. I try to get ready mentally and enjoy it at the same time.
VC: Mostly I think, "You're not walking weird. It just feels weird because people will be watching." Even basic things like walking just don't feel the same when so many strangers are staring at you!
Calin, other than practicing and mastering the violin technique, what advice do you have for Victor?
CL: Moving forward always and most importantly, learning from your experiences.
Victor, what are your plans? Pursuing the stage as a career?
VC: My current plan is to explore Computer Science this fall in college. But don't worry, I'll still spend my fair share of time in the practice room!
Justice Crawford is making a musical name for himself.
His mother, a psychologist and one-time flutist, has played in orchestras and knew she wanted her children to be exposed to music. "I've always had an appreciation for what music can do for the mind and for a person's spirit in general," says Endora Crawford. "It's always been my plan for my kids to dabble in music."
But Justice is doing more than just dabbling. This talented 8th grader is one of the first two students from the Charlotte Symphony's
Winterfield Youth Orchestra program (now part of Project Harmony), covered in The Charlotte Observer in 2014 for his successful audition and admission into Northwest School of the Arts.
Maybe music helped ground Justice. His father served as a U.S. Naval Officer for 23 years, so he was born in Japan and spent many of his younger years in Hawaii. When his parents divorced, his mother moved the boys from Hawaii to Charlotte, landing in the Winterfield neighborhood. The family then moved to south Charlotte, where he is now an 8th grader at Alexander Graham Middle School.
Justice recently took his musical next step: auditioning for the Charlotte Symphony Junior Youth Orchestra.
Of the new group, in which Justice plays viola, Ms. Crawford says, "It's good to push him." Following his little bit of fame, she adds, she noticed an increased seriousness from her son--that people were noticing him, so they would be counting on him. "For the seating auditions, we could tell he was physically nervous," she says. "But that just meant that he knows it was important, and I love that. It shows that he was really taking it to heart."
Joining JYO also has given Justice a heightened level of discipline, Ms. Crawford says. "He's learning the expectation that you're going to play your best ... and practice harder, because others are now relying on you." Like any sport, an orchestra makes you part of a team. And Justice is playing his part.
So what's next for this budding violist? Ms. Crawford says she and her son have talked about career choices and this lover of math says his top choices are to become an Intellectual Property attorney or go into cyber security. As for music, Ms. Crawford says, "The plan is to play music as long as he'd like to continue to play."
The 28th annual Youth Festival took place on Wednesday, April 29 at 7:30 p.m. at Belk Theater. This annual concert highlights the talents of the Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestra (CSYO), the Junior Youth Orchestra (JYO) and the grand-prize winner of the senior division of the Symphony Guild of Charlotte s annual Young Artists Competition.
This year's winner this year is Kiffen Loomis, who is 16 and lives in Asheville, NC. He's a pianist who's been playing since age five. Get to know this talented young man!
How were you introduced to the piano?
As a 3 and 4 year-old, I would sit under the piano as my older brother practiced. Hearing each hammer strike the string, and seeing his foot guide the pedal up and down fascinated me. By the age of 5, I was ready to crawl up from under the piano, and play it for myself.
Who is one performer you respect?
Glenn Gould is one of the most enthralling pianists of the last century. His attention to detail, in combination with his fearless interpretation of the hallmark works, demands great respect.
What piece would you love to perform?
Bach's Goldberg Variations carry with them a divine character, making them stunningly beautiful, yet daunting. I would love to study the work, but question whether I would ever be able to perform it.
What other contests/awards have you won?
I have won the North Carolina Symphony's Junior Kathleen Price and Joseph M. Bryan Youth Concerto Competition, the Winston-Salem Symphony's Peter Perret Youth Talent Search, the Hendersonville Symphony Young Artist Concerto Competition, the junior division of the Charlotte Symphony Guild's Young Artist Competition, and eight first-place awards at the statewide competitions hosted by the NCFMC.
What else we should know about you?
I serve as president of the Western North Carolina region of the Order of the Arrow, part of the Boy Scouts of America. I devote much of my time to promoting leadership development among those in my region, and serving the community as a whole. In addition to my BSA interests, I play on my high school's varsity tennis team.
I also lead an organization called Notes from the Soul. NFS is a group of student musicians from WNC who performed for over 2,000 children in elementary schools and after-school programs this year. The group exposes its listeners to different types of music and promotes musical interchange among the children and young adults who perform.
Do you know what you'd like to study in college?
I would like to study Nuclear Physics while maintaining my piano studies. This summer I will be working in the TUNL Research Institute for Nuclear Physics at Duke University and hope to determine whether nuclear physics is indeed my calling.
Under the guidance of Dr. Ernest Pereira, the more than 160 students of the Charlotte Symphony's Junior Youth and Youth Orchestras received 25 hours of top-notch coaching with CSO musicians this spring. Training in a professional setting with the pros not only enhanced their development as young musicians, but also prepared them for a series of performances starting with February's 26thannual Youth Festival and culminating with their Spring Concerts.
Twenty-one seniors graduated from the Youth Orchestra this May, marking their final performance as Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestra musicians.
Senior Patrick Hoffman plays viola for the CSYO and values the unique experience the Youth Orchestra provides: "[The CSYO is] an opportunity to play mature repertoire where people want to play because it's not something that's required." Hoffman also appreciates the connections he's made saying "Maybe you sit next to someone you've never met from Cornelius. ... [The CSYO] really brings the Charlotte area together." Patrick will attend UNC Greensboro in the fall where he will pursue a degree in Music Education.
For their next performance, the Youth Orchestra will play to a crowd of more than two-thousand on Sunday, June 16, presenting the prelude to the Charlotte Symphony's "A Summer Pops Fantasia" concert at Symphony Park.
Other summer activities include the Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestra Summer Camp July 31 August 4, and a once-in-a-lifetime trip to DC in June, where the young musicians will train and perform with prestigious youth orchestras from other cities.
The Symphony Guild of Charlotte and the CSO will celebrate our symphonic future at the 26th annual Youth Festival on Thursday, February 21 at 7:30 p.m. at the Belk Theater. This annual concert highlights the talents of the Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestra (CSYO), the Junior Youth Orchestra (JYO) and the grand-prize winner of the senior division of the Guild's annual Young Artists Competition.
The grand-prize winner of this year is Chambers Loomis, a high school senior who lives in Asheville, NC. He's a pianist, who's been playing since age six and gave his first solo recital at nine. He regularly appears in a variety of venues as a soloist performing a growing range of repertoire. Get to know this talented young man just as we did in the following interview.
Who is a performer you respect, and why?
The Russian pianist Evgeny Kissin. In his playing, he adheres to the composer's intentions while still executing sublime, refreshing interpretations. He always places the music first and himself second.
What is a piece of music you've either performed or would love to perform?
Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3. This pianistic warhorse probes nearly every human emotion and is captivating throughout. When the work's technical and interpretive challenges have been mastered, it drips of an unrivaled sense of nationalism.
What's your vision for how young adults should engage with the artistic community and/or how arts organizations can engage young adults?
Exposure is the key to engagement. I've had many friends who dismissed classical music as outdated until they heard their first great performance. Following the lead of El Sistema in Venezuela, we must also place instruments into the hands of young people from a very young age. Arts organizations must gain a presence in schools and partner with youth organizations to find volunteers. Young people should be made aware of discounted student tickets. Arts are the lifeblood of culture, and thriving arts communities sow seeds well beyond the concert hall walls.
What other contests/award have you won?
I have received nine first prizes in state-level solo competitions sponsored by the NCFMC and was named the Federation's 2011 "King" of Music. In 2011, I had the pleasure of performing the first movement of the Schumann Piano Concerto with the Hendersonville (NC) Symphony and on NPR station WCQS. In 2012, I was also the top pianist in the North Carolina Symphony's Kathleen Price and Joseph M. Bryan Youth Concerto Competition. I will be performing with the Winston-Salem Symphony on March 16 as winner of the 2013 Peter Perret Youth Talent Search.
Where are you heading to college and what do you plan to study?
In April, when I hear back from a number of colleges, I will know where I will matriculate this fall. I am a presently a finalist for UNC-Chapel Hill's Morehead-Cain Scholarship. I plan to study physics and music in college.
What are your artistic dreams and aspirations?
In college, I plan to remain an active performer, explore musicology, engage in music outreach, and expose myself to as many new musical influences as possible. I hope to play piano for the rest of my life and remain an enthusiastic ambassador for the art
For the first time in Charlotte Symphony history, the entire CSO artistic "family" will perform together on the Belk Theater stage. At the November 16 and 17 Classics Series concerts, featuring Mozart Mass in C Minor, the program will now open with a special performance of Mozart's Ave Verum Corpus by members of the Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestra (CSYO) and Junior Youth Orchestra (JYO), the Winterfield Elementary Youth Orchestra, the Oratorio Singers of Charlotte, and Charlotte Symphony musicians.
Winterfield Elementary Performance at Classics Series, January 2011
This special performance is reflective of Music Director Christopher Warren-Green's vision for the Charlotte Symphony as a primary source for music education in Charlotte. Warren-Green sees the Charlotte Symphony's youth orchestras as vital to the growth of the organization and the enrichment of the Charlotte community.
"I feel very strongly that you can't have one organization--the Charlotte Symphony or our Youth Orchestras--without the other," said Maestro Warren-Green. "We need the professionals to teach the youth and the youth are our future musicians, audience members, and supporters. Our mission is to educate our whole community and our Youth Orchestra [CSYO and JYO] programs, for instance, have been educating young musicians for fifty years."
Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestra Performance, 2012 (photo, PRBrowning Photography)
He added, "We know that the discipline the students learn by studying music contributes to success in other subjects in school. I'm very proud to be the Music Director of an orchestra that has educated and continues to educate so many members of our community."
Mozart Mass in C Minor will take place on Friday, November 16 and Saturday, November 17 at 8:00 p.m. at the Belk Theater. The concert will feature the Oratorio Singers of Charlotte, the official chorus of the Charlotte Symphony, and soloists Karina Gauvin, soprano, Mary Wilson, soprano, Daniel Stein, tenor, and Sumner Thompson, baritone.
In the summer before seventh grade, I entered into a long and devoted alliance to a formidable but wonderfully giving master: the Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestras. My orchestral career, at that point, was still in its developmental stages, and I could barely read music. Thanks to my Suzuki training, I memorized everything, and learned notes through finger numbers. This would be the method to my madness in the "Sizzling Strings," small youth string orchestras in the Charlotte and Matthews community that would later expand to include the "Blazing Band."
Led by CMS teacher Bruce Becker, these groups truly nurtured my desire to perform in any sort of ensemble and introduced me to fellow musicians that I still frequently gig with today. Through his encouragement, I auditioned for the CMS Middle School Honors Orchestra, and it was there that I first understood what it meant to compete for a chair; more importantly, it was where I heard about the Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestras. From my stand partner and others, I came to the understanding that each of the principal players of the Honors Orchestras that year was in either the Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestra (CSYO) or the Junior Youth Orchestra (JYO). I heard tales of how these kids, orchestral warriors of their time, had won auditions that were legendary in their intensity. My mother spoke to other parents at the final Honors Orchestra concert, and then worried about what would clearly become a near-obsession for me. As I picked up the glossy brochure, one particularly snotty kid, and my biggest competition at that time, muttered "I heard they make you cry in the auditions," as he sauntered by. I was hooked.
Upon taking my JYO audition [in which I did not cry], I felt an excitement that I had not experienced up to that point in my "career." My Suzuki training had served me well. The night before the first rehearsal, my mother spent nearly three hours straightening my long unruly hair, and I polished my violin until I could see my reflection in the varnish. When I arrived the next morning, I was met with a surprise: the JYO was a full symphony with strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion something I had not anticipated.
From the back of the second violin section I barely hung on as the orchestra read down an arrangement of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite. Panicked, I realized that I would have to work harder than I ever had in order to keep up. More importantly, I was carnivorous in my desire for a better chair. Like most of the kids in Charlotte, placement trumped "musical experience," "cultural enrichment," or any other "reason for the season" the adults had thought up to justify the existence of these ensembles in the community. I had to know what it felt like to be first chair of THIS orchestra. Nothing else would suffice!
As I plotted my practicing moves from the back of the section, equally focused and distracted by flutes?! Clarinets?! Timpani?! I realized that this was the start of something very big. Though I spent the next six years trying to decide whether or not I would major in literature or fashion marketing, I now realize that thanks to the JYO, and later, the CSYO, my career path has been set since the seventh grade. And I don't regret a minute of it.
Jessica McJunkins was a Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestra violinist from 1998-2004. She served as principal second violin for the CSYO Carnegie Hall debut in 2002 and Assistant Concertmaster for the 2003-04 season.
I will never forget the first time I heard a Charlotte Symphony concert. My parents had Charlotte Symphony season tickets, and on this particular evening my mother was ill.
I was a fifth grade violin student in the Eastover Elementary string class taught by Dominco Scappucci. There was a guest violinist slated to play, so my Daddy took me to the concert. I felt very special all dressed up and was introduced to grownups as we took our seats.
I remember that I was feeling sleepy towards the end of the first selection, but then Sidney Harth walked out on stage with his violin. He played the Beethoven Violin Concerto. His long bow strokes producing silky sounds were mesmerizing. I was engaged not just for the moment, but for the rest of my life.
No longer was being the first chair in the Eastover Elementary String Orchestra enough. It was just the beginning. There was music to learn and places to go. I went on to be a Charlotte Symphony Young Artist Winner in 1968 and joined the youth orchestra as a violinist while in ninth grade, going on to play in the Charlotte Symphony my senior year. Being a violinist was a ticket for me to see the world. I have played under conductors Leonard Bernstein, Seiji Ozawa, James Levine, Leonard Slatkin, George Solti, Daniel Barenboim, and many more.
That night many years ago I was lucky enough to have parents who loved music, a violin given to me to play, and opportunities provided to me by the Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestra and the Charlotte Symphony. I sure hope they keep up the good work! I am now back in the Charlotte area teaching orchestra at Eastway and McClintock Middle Schools, hoping like the musicians of the Charlotte Symphony to pass on the wonderful lifelong gift of music.
Originally Posted: October 2010
Mary Catherine Rendleman Edwards has enjoyed a carreer as a professional violinist for over forty years. She holds a Bachelor of Music from Boston University and a Master of Music from University of Michigan/Ann Arbor. A Salisbury resident, she drives to Charlotte daily to teach orchestra at Eastway and McClintockMiddle Schools.