This July, the National Youth Orchestra of China will debut at Carnegie Hall for its Inaugural Summer Concert Tour.
The initiative is led by Yale alums Vincent Accettola ’16, Paige Breen ’16 and Nicholas Brown ’16. Modeled after NYO-USA, the program will feature Ludovic Morlot, the principal conductor of the Seattle Symphony, and piano soloists Yuja Wang and Olga Kern. Around 100 Chinese-born students, ranging from 14 to 21 years of age, will be flown to the U.S. to rehearse on a university campus that is yet to be determined. There, they will engage with 15 artists who will mentor them throughout the two weeks of the program. After the debut performance in New York City, the orchestra will perform a three-city concert tour in China from Jul. 26 to 30.
“One of the great things about NYO-USA is that they’re able to do their training residency in the United States but also go to different countries,” managing director Accettola said. “This year, we’re doing the training residency in the U.S. because what really started all of this was the opportunity Carnegie Hall gave us, which was for them to present our concert in their venue.”
Brown, Director of Project Development, said that the initiative began with two clear goals in mind: first, to develop the musical talents of the students and, secondly, to form connections with other musicians. He added that the mentors would be in close contact with the students throughout the intensive music experience, thus creating strong bonds benefiting the young musicians later in life, no matter where their careers might take them.
Having faculty mentors who were familiar with Chinese culture was especially important to the leadership team. Accettola said that in future years, the team may host the residency in China and visit other venues around the world.
“We wanted to really make the focus on NYO-China as representing China to the world and showing these students what the opportunities are throughout the world,” Brown said. “We thought the best way to do that was to have them work with people who had lived in China, grown up in China and also are themselves international in [the sense that they had lived or traveled abroad].”
While at Yale, Breen was involved in Yale Concert Band and Brown a member of the Yale Symphony Orchestra. Dean Robert Blocker at the School of Music, one of the orchestra’s senior advisors, said Yale is “fortunate” to have alumni such as Accettola, Breen and Brown involved in global projects that connect culture and the arts.
Wailian Overseas Consulting Group, who also supported NYO-USA, is the orchestra’s lead sponsor, and other advisors include Frank Mazurco, former Executive Vice President at Steinway & Sons. Chinese pianist Yundi Li, former Washington Gov. Gary Locke and Guo Pei, a renowned Chinese fashion designer who created Rihanna’s gown for the 2015 Met Gala, are also endorsing the project.
Though Accettola developed the initial idea for the project, Brown and Breen soon became involved in the planning and development. The team began brainstorming ideas during the spring of their senior years, submitted a project proposal to Carnegie Hall in May and selected key collaborators throughout the summer and fall following their graduation.
Brown said that he hopes the experience will allow the students to better engage in orchestral ensembles rather than just preparing for solos, something that they might not have otherwise had easy access to in China.
Most of the recruitment and marketing for the orchestra was done through connections with prominent conservatories in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, publicity through the Chinese media and personal contacts with Chinese music instructors. Artistic director Jindong Cai will lead the selection process after the application due date on Mar. 15.
Annabel Chyung ’19, a violinist in the Yale Symphony Orchestra and an alum of NYO-USA, said that she hopes future participants in NYO-USA or NYO-China will “embrace and enjoy every moment” of the experience. Chyung was involved in the orchestra for three summers, performing 20 concerts in seven different countries. She added that one of the reasons the program inspires young musicians is the rare opportunities it offers in terms of prestigious venues, such as Carnegie Hall and the Royal Albert Hall in London.
“This collaboration is important and extremely relevant during these times because music and the arts tends to be something that brings people together,” Breen said. “I’m just really excited about this because it’s going to bring together great musicians from all over China and they’re going to put together a beautiful concert.”
NYO-China will be free for all participants.