New Haven Symphony founds new youth orchestra

The New Haven Symphony Orchestra is launching Connecticut’s first contemporary orchestra for high school students in Jan. 2011 — the “New Haven Symphony Orchestra Contemporary Youth Orchestra.” Applications for the ensemble were due yesterday, Nov. 1, with young musicians applying from all parts of Connecticut, including Old Saybrook, Guilford, New Haven, Hamden and Fairfield, said Daniel Kinsman, education director of the New Haven Symphony. The band, which is to be a “contemporary orchestra,” Kinsman said, is aimed at musically inclined high school students interested in jazz, rock, and contemporary American music: pretty much anything aside from the Western classical canon. The orchestra is designed to take place over two months between January and March every year, with rehearsals culminating in a final performance — though the format is subject to change as the program develops, Kinsman added.

The concept is the brainchild of William Boughton, who is the New Haven Symphony’s music director, in collaboration with the Board of Directors of the New Haven Symphony, Kinsman said. Boughton will also conduct the youth orchestra.

He could not be reached for comment on the story as he is currently traveling in Argentina.

As of now, the orchestra does not have a set score or repertoire. But one thing is certain: they will be performing music by living American composers, such as the New Haven Symphony’s composer-in-residence, Augusta Thomas.

“I think [a youth orchestra] is very visionary because around the community of New Haven there are many excellent musicians in high school who should be given the extreme opportunity to perform in a large ensemble such as an orchestra,” Thomas said. “I hope I will get to work intimately with them.”

Thomas said she finds composing for different kinds of ensembles “very enriching,” from the London Symphony Orchestra — for which she composed in 2008 — to amateur doctors and lawyers playing chamber music groups.

There are currently several youth orchestras in Connecticut that primarily play classical music, such as the youth orchestras of the Bridgeport Symphony, the Hartt School in Hartford and in Norwalk. The New Haven Symphony hopes to distinguish its youth orchestra by performing compositions from the 20th- and 21st-centuries, including jazz, rock and multi-cultural compositions.

“The idea is to play things that are different from the standard classical Brahms and Beethoven,” Kinsman said.

Contemporary American composers connected with the New Haven Symphony, or composers that the Symphony wants to reach out to, will provide the music, Kinsman added. All decisions regarding the repertoire will be made after the auditions have been completed, he noted, because the directors first need to know what kind of students will be participating in the orchestra.

Members of the New Haven Symphony are excited and supportive of the launch of a youth chapter, said Stephan Tieszen, who is the principal second violinist of the orchestra. Tieszen, a private violin tutor himself, added that a number of his students from New Haven are auditioning for the youth orchestra, and that the eight-week-long program ensures that all students can participate without the program taking up too much of their time.

“The nicest thing about it is that the kids will get the opportunity to perform with world-class conductors like William Boughton and Tom Duffy. The principal players of the orchestra will also be helping to coach the students,” Tieszen added.

Clarinetist Sarah Camera, a North Haven High School student, said she is extremely excited about the opportunity to try something that has never been done before.

“There aren’t any other chances to perform music like we will in that orchestra and I hope to make a lot of new friends,” Camera said.

Camera has been playing the clarinet since she was in the fourth grade and her mother, Deborah Cisto-Camera, said Camera aspires to a career in music.

“It offers her a great opportunity to see in the next couple of years if she wants to pursue music as a major in college or even as a career,” Cisto-Camera said.

Rehearsals will begin Jan. 9, 2011 and continue every Sunday until March 20, 2011.

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