New Jersey Youth Symphony
An Interview with Helen Cha-Pyo: What to Listen For October 26
The Conductor’s Notes with Artistic Director and Principal Conductor Helen H. Cha-Pyo
This Saturday evening, the New Jersey Youth Symphony kicks off its 2019-2020 concert season with a joint performance with the Montclair State University Symphony Orchestra at MSU’s Kasser Theater. Maestro Cha-Pyo gives us some insights into the program, which includes what is sure to be awe-inspiring performances of Verdi’s La Forza del Destino Overture and Liszt’s Les Préludes, as well as a spectacular combination of both orchestras for Wagner’s famed Ride of the Valkyries.
Q: How did you choose the rep for this concert?
A: We will be performing works that have Italian connections as we build towards our tour to Italy, June 27-July 6. Giuseppi Verdi’s Overture to La forza del destino is one of the most beloved overtures in the Italian opera repertoire. Although Liszt is a Hungarian composer, he lived in Albano, near Rome, for a good number of years towards the later part of his life when he entered into the third order of priesthood. Youth Symphony’s last concert on our tour will be in Albano presented by the Liszt Festival organization. As for the Ride of the Valkyries, Nicholas DeMaison, conductor of the MSU Symphony Orchestra, and I chose this together for the combined orchestra to play as the grand finale to the joint concert.
Q: What is something the audience will hear possibly for the first time?
A: I’m extremely pleased and proud to present the newly formed NJYS CL4tet. This is their debut concert and I bet many of our audience members have never previously heard a clarinet quartet. This is a brand new ensemble under the direction of Bryan Rudderow, and they will be traveling to Italy with Youth Symphony this summer.
Q: What will the audience be blown away by?
A: I would guess many in the audience have heard the Ride of the Valkyries before but probably not performed by an orchestra of almost 150 players with a brass section of 11 French horns, 7 trumpets, 6 trombones, and 2 tubas!
Q: What should the audience listen for in particular?
A: Franz Liszt’s Les Préludes, Symphonic Poem No. 3, as it is based on a poem:
What else is life but a series of preludes to that unknown hymn, the first and solemn note of which is intoned by Death? Love is the enchanted dawn of all existence; but what fate is there whose first delights of happiness are not interrupted by some storm, whose fine illusions are not dissipated by some mortal blast, consuming its altar as though by a stroke of lightning? And what cruelly wounded soul, issuing from one of these tempests, does not endeavor to solace its memories in the calm serenity of rural life? Nevertheless, man does not resign himself for long to the enjoyment of that beneficent warmth which he first enjoyed in Nature’s bosom, and when the ‘trumpet sounds the alarm’ he takes up his perilous post, no matter what struggle calls him to its ranks, that he may recover in combat the full consciousness of himself and the entire possession of his powers.
This work is one movement, but there are six sections that reflect the elements of life touched upon in the poem. Listen for the following sections:
- Introduction – “What else is our life but a series of preludes to that unknown Hymn, the first and solemn note of which is intoned by Death?”
- Love – “Love is the enchanted dawn of all existence…”
- Storm – “…but what is the fate where the first delights of happiness are not interrupted by some storm…”
- Country Life (Pastoral) – “…and where is the cruelly wounded soul which, on issuing from one of these tempests, does not endeavor to rest his recollection in the calm serenity of life in the fields?”
- War – “…and when the trumpet sounds the alarm, he hastens, to the dangerous post, whatever the war may be…”
- Conclusion – “…in order at last to recover in the combat full consciousness of himself and entire possession of his energy.”
Q: How long have the students been working on the rep for this concert?
A: Youth Symphony has had 7 rehearsals for this concert program all while looking ahead to our December concert…Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite! Maestro DeMaison will rehearse the Wagner with Youth Symphony tomorrow, and the two orchestras will meet for the first time two hours before the concert on Saturday for a short twenty-minute rehearsal!
The New Jersey Youth Symphony really is training the next generation of musicians—as well as inspiring music lovers and listeners alike. Tickets to the Oct 26 concert are $15 available at the Kasser Box Office.
Helen H. Cha-Pyo is in her second season as the Artistic Director of the Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts and Principal Conductor of the New Jersey Youth Symphony. She has also served as the Visiting Associate Professor of Orchestral Studies and Conductor of Montclair State University Symphony Orchestra at John J. Cali School of Music (2018-19). Read more here.
An Interview with WIPA Artistic Director and Principal Conductor Helen H. Cha-Pyo
This past Friday evening, Wharton’s black box theatre was nearly filled to the brim with students for the “How to Improve Your Sight-Reading Skills” Workshop led by WIPA Artistic Director and Principal Conductor Helen H. Cha-Pyo. Over 70 students attended the event, lending credence to the notion that sight reading is an often elusive skill that many instructors find difficult to teach and students struggle to grasp, much less master.
The workshop began with a half-hour presentation by Cha-Pyo, starting with an introduction to audiation.
Q: Okay, full disclosure. I went to music school and have never heard the term audiation. Is it akin to ear training?
A: In a way…audiation is to music what thought is to language. Researcher, teacher, and author Edwin Gordon coined the term to describe the ability to hear and comprehend in one’s mind sounds that are not physically present. We all experience this when we find ourselves thinking, “I can’t get that song out of my head.” Basically, sight-reading skills are audiation skills.
Q: For those who might have missed the workshop, what topics did you touch on regarding audiation?
A: My presentation covered five elements of musicianship encompassing audiation: rhythmic elements, and internalizing rhythm; tonal elements, and hearing tonal relationships; notation, including reading with fluency; creativity, and the idea of constantly developing as an artist; and executive elements, or building technique. For those who would like to read more, I recommend exploring the Gordon Institute for Music Learning website.
Q: If you could encapsulate the concept in one sentence, what would it be?
A: If you can sing it, you can play it.
Q: Meaning—even if you are not a singer, you need to be able to sing the music you are attempting to play?
A: Yes! We have our external instrument, but audiation skills are our internal instrument.
Q: Why do you think students have such a hard time sight reading?
A: We have a hard time sight-reading music because we are not yet fluent in the language of music. We can become more fluent in the language of music through immersion–just as you would learn a new language, you must read, speak, and listen in the language as much as you can every day. The goal is to become fluent enough in the language to not only read and understand what is on the page, but to go one step further and be able to converse in the language of music. This is what improvisation is. That is the ultimate goal!
Read on for 6 Tips To Improve Your Sight-Reading Skills:
- Make an initial SCAN of the entire piece. Gather as much information as possible.
- Take note of the tempo marking, meter, key signature, fast notes, rhythm, and the final note.
- Focus on counting before you begin sight reading and while you are playing.
- Look ahead! It’s essential to stay at least one measure ahead to be aware of what is coming next.
- Prioritize the following: maintain the pulse, rhythm (tied notes, dotted-notes, syncopation, changing divisions, and rests), and pitch (tonality—are there any modulations, scales, or arpeggios, accidentals, and high and low notes).
- Practice EVERY DAY. Use your phone to record and play back to catch mistakes. Work on your general musicianship skills by practicing audiation, and develop your “database” of common rhythmic and melodic patterns by listening to music as often as possible and intentionally looking for these patterns in any music you encounter.
And that’s a wrap! If you missed the October 11 workshop, here are two helpful online tutorials:
SIGHT READING MASTERY: https://sightreadingmastery-blog.dream.press/
SIGHT READING FACTORY: https://www.sightreadingfactory.com/
Helen H. Cha-Pyo is in her second season as the Artistic Director of the Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts and Principal Conductor of the New Jersey Youth Symphony. She has also served as the Visiting Associate Professor of Orchestral Studies and Conductor of Montclair State University Symphony Orchestra at John J. Cali School of Music (2018-19).
For sixteen years as Music Director and Conductor of the Empire State Youth Orchestra (ESYO), Cha-Pyo inspired hundreds of young musicians to perform at the highest levels, resulting in ESYO being recognized as one of the nation’s premier music organizations for youth. Cha-Pyo’s creative programming has resulted in three prestigious ASCAP awards and a $100,000 grant to partially fund a music festival that commissioned nine works, one for each ESYO ensemble. She has conducted in outstanding concert halls including Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Zankel Hall, EMPAC, Tanglewood’s Ozawa Hall, and Carnegie Hall. She led ESYO on three international tours: to Europe in 2008, China and South Korea in 2012, and Portugal in 2016. Cha-Pyo’s vision was instrumental in the founding of ESYO CHIME in 2015, a music education program dedicated to serving underprivileged youth in Schenectady and Troy (NY). ESYO has established the Helen Cha-Pyo Golden Baton Award and Scholarship for students who embody her passionate commitment to music as a means to uplift and enrich the community.
From 1996 to 2002, Cha-Pyo served as Artistic Director and Conductor of the Riverside Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir and Associate Director of Music at The Riverside Church in New York City. She has released three recordings with the Riverside Choir (JAV Recordings). A committed music educator, she pioneered the Riverside Music Educational Program which served thousands of New York City public school children in Districts 4, 5, and 6.
Born in Seoul, Cha-Pyo immigrated to the U.S. at the age of 12. She studied piano and organ in the pre-college program at The Juilliard School. She holds a Bachelor of Music degree in organ performance from Oberlin Conservatory and a Master of Music degree in conducting and organ performance from the Eastman School of Music. She served as assistant conductor to Eastman Philharmonia and the Britt Festival Orchestra (OR). She won conducting fellowships at Aspen Festival and Yale School of Music. Her conducting mentors include David Effron, Peter Bay, Murry Sidlin, Lawrence Leighton Smith, Benjamin Zander, and Kurt Masur. She is a frequent guest conductor and clinician for All-State and Regional Festival Orchestras throughout the country and is a conductor at the Kinhaven School (VT) in the summer.