Do It For the Children
Dan Visconti and I have both written here about the prospect of composing for youth orchestra; until last Friday night, however, only Dan had a finished youth orchestra project under his belt. My piece *Netwrought has now been played by the Frederick Regional Youth Orchestra in my hometown of Frederick, Maryland and it was a tremendous joy to hear such talented young players bring my music to life.
I don’t usually have occasion to work with pre-college musicians, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Will they like it? Just as importantly, will their parents, who make up most of the audience, like it? But FRYO’s director, the gifted and open-minded Elijah Wirth, did me a huge favor: A movement from Glass’s Mishima quartet, a ditty from Pierrot Lunaire, and even 4’33″ were programmed alongside my piece, which consequently seemed quite friendly in comparison. This is quite a cunning strategy: Build in some psychological headroom with pieces for which the audience will have to extend good faith, then fill in that space with pieces that are less conceptually foreign.
Let me second Dan’s recommendation to write for young players if the opportunity arises. They allocate plenty of rehearsal time, they leap into the music head-first, they’re unjaded, and they’ll take risks that professional orchestras would be likely to balk at. And let me also suggest that you D.C. and Baltimore composers check out FRYO, a group whose energy and discipline I can personally aver.