NSYO launches revamped program, community-oriented approach
After 32 years, the Newfoundland Symphony Youth Orchestra has changed its tune, and it’s looking for the public’s assistance.
The musicians of the Newfoundland Youth Symphony Orchestra in rehearsal earlier this fall. — Submitted photo
The NSYO has transformed and expanded for its 33rd season — which officially began with the “Ghastly and Glorious” concert last weekend — making itself more relevant to the needs of young musicians.
The changes began after the retirement of Peter Gardner, who stepped down from the podium over the summer.
“Over the past few years we saw declining numbers in registration, and I think that’s what a lot of arts groups are finding,” explained Laura Ivany, a cellist with the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra and a member of the board for the NSYO.
“Since we kind of had a fresh start and we had new conductors lined up, we wanted a fresh model.”
While Gardner is still working with the NSYO as artistic director, a team of six will lead the orchestra: Jim Tranquilla and Grant Etchegary will be conductor and associate conductor respectively, while Carole Bestvater, Chantelle Jubenville, Heather Kao and Valerie Holden will play roles including coaches and instructors.
Instead of the traditional three-hour full orchestra rehearsal each Saturday, young musicians will spend the first hour divided into sections (strings, brass, percussion, woodwinds) and rehearsing on their own with their coaches. They’ll come together for the final two hours of practice under the direction of Tranquilla and Etchegary, allowing the musicians to gain, Ivany said, more individual training on their own instruments as well as diverse experience as an orchestra.
The Suncor Energy Strings Program has also been revamped with a community-oriented approach: an outreach program running three days a week, specifically for young children who would not normally have the opportunity to receive music training.
There are 16 kids in Grades 2 and 3 registered in the free program, working with Bestvater and Kao, with healthy snacks provided by Sobeys. Up until now, there have been no instruments involved.
“When you start off with those young ages, the first few sessions we use wooden sticks as pretend bows and we do some rhythmic exercises,” Ivany explained. “We’re now looking for the community to help us find instruments to provide to them.”
The NSYO is looking for donations of string instruments, maybe outgrown, tucked away in a closet after a child gave up lessons or broken and never repaired. They will have the instruments appraised and fixed up, issue donors a tax receipt for the value and give them to the children in the Suncor Energy music program.
The instruments will stay on site until students can demonstrate responsibility and proper instrument care, Tranquilla, a trombonist, said.
“This social program is offered to elementary school children living in areas that possess fewer opportunities for music enrichment due mostly to economic factors,” Tranquilla told The Telegram in an email.
“A main program objective is to provide children from low-income families the opportunity to learn music in ways that will positively benefit their growth and learning.
“Participants develop their musical skills, as well as respect, discipline, creative and critical thinking and irreplaceable relationships with their peers and mentors.”
Along with three lessons a week, the students in the program will hold a number of recitals throughout the year, and will have the opportunity to attend other concerts and recitals in St. John’s with free admission.
The goal is for the young musicians to eventually join the NSYO.
“We strongly believe that music, and the ability to develop these skills, is not meant for only a select few, but should be an equal opportunity,” Tranquilla said.
The program is not only a music program, he pointed out, but a community-building initiative.
Instruments can be dropped off at the NSO office, on the third floor of the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday. The NSYO is also willing to arrange pick-up, if needed. Arrangements can be made by
emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling Tranquilla at 758-3462.