By Janelle Fisher
Students from 40 local schools will pick up their instruments Sunday, Nov. 13, to perform in the St. Norbert College Youth Orchestra Program’s fall concert.
The Youth Orchestra Program is open to students starting in fourth grade all the way through college and aims to foster an appreciation of music through professional instruction and public performances.
Although the Youth Orchestra Program has recently transitioned to St. Norbert College, Program Manager Audrey Nowak said the program actually started in 1967 as the Green Bay Symphony Youth Orchestra and has always aimed to help local musicians learn and grow.
“St. Norbert College became our umbrella organization in 2015 after the Green Bay Symphony closed its doors,” she said. “The primary motivation behind establishing this program is to provide a high-level ensemble experience for the area’s most talented young musicians, giving them an opportunity to advance their individual skills, connect with other musicians and enjoy a premiere ensemble experience.”
Nowak said the program provides both social and learning opportunities to the students that participate.
“Students enjoy connecting with other musicians from Northeast Wisconsin while experiencing quality orchestral repertoire with the area’s top music educators,” she said.
Participating students are split into three ensembles, depending on their age and skill level.
The youngest students at Sunday’s concert will be those in the String Orchestra, directed by Adam Korber.
“The first ensemble is a String Orchestra,” Nowak said. “It serves primarily students in grades 5-8. They will perform four original pieces written for young string players — “Prairie Trail,” “Arctic Crossing,” “Honor & Glory” and “Burst!”.
Students in grades 8-12 will perform Sunday as part of the Philharmonia, directed by Nowak.
“The Philharmonia is our middle ensemble and is a full orchestra,” Nowak said. “They will perform arrangements of Beethoven and Schubert, as well as an arrangement of a piece originally written for piano — “Danse des Ghazies” from Egyptian Nights by Arensky — and an original piece called “Warrior Legacy” by Soon Hee Newbold.”
The oldest students in the program will round out Sunday’s concert in the Youth Symphony, directed by Michael Ross.
“The Youth Symphony is also a full orchestra, primarily for students in 10th grade through college,” Nowak said. “The Youth Symphony will perform the “Slavonic Dance 1” by Dvorak, the Petite Suite by Debussy (movements I and IV), and I Vespri Siciliani “Overture” by Verdi.”
The audition process for this semester of the Youth Orchestra Program began at the end of May, but rehearsals didn’t officially start until September.
With a limited number of rehearsals between auditions and the concert, Nowak said preparation for the concert usually involves a mix of rehearsal and at-home practicing to pull everything together.
“Our musicians rehearse each Sunday from September to the concert,” she said. “Rehearsals range from one hour for the youngest ensemble to two and a half hours for the Youth Symphony. Students spend significant time practicing at home to help them prepare. Young people are involved in so many different activities that having perfect attendance on Sundays is a challenge, but we work with it the best we can.”
Participating students have to be dedicated to succeed in the program, but seeing students’ hard work pay off is what Nowak said she enjoys most about being a part of the program.
“I am most proud of our students,” she said. “I get to hear the improvement from the first rehearsal to the concert, and it is inspiring!”
The fall concert will take place at the Walter Theatre on the St. Norbert campus.
The String Orchestra and Philharmonia will perform at 12:30 p.m. and the Youth Symphony will perform at 2 p.m.
Tickets are not required to attend the performance, but donations will be accepted at the door and online at snc.edu/youthorchestra.
If you cannot attend in person but wish to support the program, access to a livestream of the performances can also be purchased for $5 at snc.edu/youthorchestra.