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U.S. Youth Orchestras eFestival

September 20, 2020 @ 8:00 pm - 9:00 pm

U.S. Youth Orchestras eFestival

Watch on YouTube Live at whartonarts.tv.

The New Jersey Youth Symphony, a program of the Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts, will host the U.S. Youth Orchestras eFestival “We Never Stopped Making Music” on September 20, 2020 at 8:00 p.m. EST via Zoom and YouTube Live. Celebrating American youth orchestras across the country during the global pandemic, the eFestival is free and open to the public.

The New Jersey Youth Symphony will be joined by the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras, Hawaii Youth Symphony, Los Angeles Youth Orchestra, and Youth Orchestras of San Antonio to share how their youth orchestras responded to the global pandemic. Each youth orchestra will feature a student representative who will discuss how continuing to make music throughout the pandemic has had a positive impact on their lives. The student musicians will also introduce a virtually coordinated performance video, demonstrating the innovative ways their youth orchestras have continued to connect, perform, and amplify the creative voices of young musicians during the COVID-19 outbreak.


New Jersey Youth Symphony
Helen H. Cha-Pyo, Artistic Director & Principal Conductor
Peter H. Gistelinck, Executive Director
Student Representative: Priscilla Peters

The New Jersey Youth Symphony, founded in 1979, is a tiered orchestral program offering ensemble education for students in grades 3-12 across New Jersey. NJYS has grown from one orchestra of 65 students to over 500 students in 15 different orchestras and ensembles, including the internationally recognized Youth Symphony. NJYS ensembles have performed in venues including the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Carnegie Hall, and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. NJYS has received numerous prestigious awards for its adventurous programming from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) and has had six European tours, including participation in the Summa Cum Laude International Youth Festival and Competition (Vienna), winning First Prizes in July 2014 and 2017.

Now in its 42nd season, NJYS continues to achieve musical excellence through intensive instruction and high-level performance. Under the guidance of a talented team of conductors, coaches, and teaching artists, students are immersed in challenging repertoire, learning the art of ensemble playing, and exploring their potential in a supportive and inclusive environment. NJYS remains committed to programming works by diverse composers and featured 20th century African American and women composers such as Duke Ellington, George Walker, Yvonne Desportes, Emma Lou Diemer, Julia Perry, and Florence Price this past season.

Priscilla Peters is a New Jersey native that has been a violinist in the New Jersey Youth Symphony (NJYS) for six years. She accompanied NJYS on its tour of Vienna, Austria, and Budapest, Hungary in 2017 when the orchestra won first place in the international Summa Cum Laude Festival. She has also been a volunteer at the Paterson Music Project (PMP), a nonprofit serving youth in Paterson, NJ, for the past three years. Beyond NJYS and PMP, both branches of the Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts, Priscilla has played with the NJ All-State and Region 1 orchestras and is a member of her school’s select string ensemble, Arietta. In addition to violin, Priscilla enjoys playing the piano and has performed at Carnegie Hall multiple times.

Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras

Allen Tinkham, Music Director
Susan Lape, Executive Director
Student Representative: Brandon Cheng

CYSO is investing in the future of music and the next generation of leaders. We provide music education to more than 650 young musicians ages 6-18 through full and string orchestras, jazz, steel, chamber music, masterclasses, and music composition. Students learn from Chicago’s most respected professional musicians, perform in the world’s great concert halls, and gain skills necessary for a successful future.

CYSO Community Partnership Programs support music training and access for more than 8,500 young people each year. We work with youth in diverse Chicago neighborhoods through after-school ensembles and our Ambassadors Program, which brings student musicians into CPS elementary schools to perform interactive concerts. CYSO orchestras also present free community and education concerts throughout the season.

CYSO alumni go on to play in the world’s finest orchestras and ensembles, and are also found working as doctors, lawyers, teachers, community leaders, and business professionals. Whether or not a graduate continues music studies after their time in CYSO, young people leave with increased self-confidence, a strong sense of discipline, and a deep appreciation for music and the arts.

Brandon Cheng, a senior from Chicago, IL, began his cello studies at the age of 5 and currently studies with Richard Hirschl of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Recently serving as a rotating principal cellist of Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras’ top ensemble, he also frequently contributes to its engaging educational livestreams and interviews. Brandon is a scholarship fellow at the Academy at the Music Institute of Chicago, and recently won the silver medal at the 2020 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition. In his free time, he enjoys soccer, spending time with his family (including two dogs), and running his own podcast, The Path Forward.


Hawaii Youth Symphony
Joseph Stepec, Symphony Program Director
Randy Wong, Executive Director
Student Representative: Alizah Chao

Established as a non-profit organization in 1964, the Hawaii Youth Symphony has a vision: “Make Music a Right, Not A Privilege.” HYS promotes and celebrates the importance of music study on academic achievement and social-emotional development, through its mission to develop youth to their fullest potential through orchestral music. Its programs service youth through orchestral music education, performances and community engagement. Each year, the organization serves more than 700 students ages 7 through 18 from over 100 schools statewide. For more information, call (808) 941-9706 or visit HiYouthSymphony.org.

Student Representative Alizah Chao is from Honolulu, Hawai’i. She began playing the violin at the age of four and has studied with Hawai’i Symphony Orchestra (HSO) violinist Nancy Shoop-Wu and HSO concertmaster, Ignace Jang. In the third grade, Alizah joined the Hawai’i Youth Symphony and was part of the program for 10 seasons. Alizah recently graduated from Roosevelt High School as a valedictorian. Throughout high school, she was a flutist in her school’s symphonic band as well as being the orchestra concertmaster for her junior and senior year. With her symphonic band, she was able to travel to New York City in March of 2019 to perform at Carnegie Hall in the New York Wind Band Festival where they earned a Gold rating. Currently, Alizah is attending California State University, Northridge where she is pursuing a Bachelor’s of Music degree in Violin Performance and is studying with Assistant Professor of Violin, Lorenz Gamma.


Los Angeles Youth Orchestra
Russell Steinberg, Music Director
Laura Kay Swanson, Executive Director
Student Representative: Andrew Yang

The Los Angeles Youth Orchestra (LAYO) brings together intelligent and curious-minded students from every imaginable social, cultural, and economic background to play great music together, form friendships, and discover a passion for classical music that lasts a lifetime. The students, ages 8-18, come from over sixty different public and private schools in the greater LA area. Under the guidance of Founder and composer Russell Steinberg, and a staff of outstanding coaches, LAYO students learn to interpret and perform programs that model professional orchestras.

Since its founding in year 2000, LAYO has had several successful national and international tours, including New York’s Carnegie Hall, Vienna, Prague, Venice, and Rome, with plans to return to Carnegie Hall in 2021. Many of the orchestra’s alumni have gone on to prestigious universities including Juilliard, Cornell, Berklee College of Music, UCLA, USC, Harvard and New England Conservatory. The magic of LAYO is that it attracts both students headed to conservatories and college music programs, as well as students who love music but aspire to other careers. For more information, visit our website at http://www.losangelesyouthorchestra.org/.

Student Representative Andrew Yang is in 11th grade at the Geffen Academy at UCLA. He was the Associate Concertmaster at the Los Angeles Youth Symphony (LAYO) last year and prior to that, the Harvard-Westlake (H-W) School Associate Concertmaster, and currently First Violin in a LAYO Chamber Violin Trio. He has performed as a concerto soloist with the H-W orchestra and as a soloist with his sister, Audrey, accompanying him on the piano. He has received scholarships from the Westside Committee of the Los Angeles Philharmonic over numerous years. As a food allergy sufferer, Andrew is interested in biology and immunology and currently interns at Stanford’s Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy & Asthma Research with the hope of contributing to the allergy community. Andrew was part of the Leadership team in Boy Scouts Troop 223 and is now an Eagle Scout. He is a Geffen Academy Student Council Community Outreach representative and eager to bring classical music to the local community. He was a regular volunteer with the music ministry group at Corpus Christi church as well as at Atria Pacific Palisades and Good Shepherd in Santa Monica prior to the pandemic. Andrew currently studies with Lorenz Gamma.


Youth Orchestras of San Antonio
Troy Peters, Music Director
Brandon Henson, Executive Director
Student Representative: Matthew Averyt

YOSA (Youth Orchestras of San Antonio) has been changing kids’ lives through music since 1949. YOSA serves more than 2,500 young musicians in San Antonio through nine orchestras, a summer camp, and a series of school partnership programs. A resident company at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, YOSA was the only youth orchestra in America to receive a 2013 ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming. The most advanced ensemble, the YOSA Philharmonic, performs professional-level repertoire in premiere venues at home and abroad, collaborating regularly with internationally renowned soloists like Branford Marsalis, Anthony McGill, and Edgar Meyer.

Student Representative Matthew Averyt is a junior at Saint Mary’s Hall (SMH) in San Antonio, Texas. He began studying Suzuki cello at age 11 with Ryan Murphy, section cellist of the San Antonio Symphony and professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Matthew has participated two years in TMEA All-State Orchestras and five years in All-Region Orchestras. He was a member of the SMH Strings, SMH Chamber Orchestra, YOSA Sinfonietta Strings, YOSA Symphony, and is currently the principal cellist of the YOSA Philharmonic. He toured Spain and the Canary Islands with the YOSA Philharmonic in the summer of 2018.

Matthew won the 2019/2020 YOSA Concerto Competition and was scheduled to perform Hungarian Rhapsody by David Popper with the San Antonio Symphony (cancelled due to COVID-19). He was awarded the SMH Performing Arts award in May 2020. Recently, Matthew was named a finalist in the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra Young Artist Competition. In the summer of 2019, he attended the Rocky Mountain Summer Conservatory and studied with Catherine Lehr Ramos, previously the Assistant Principal Cellist with the Saint Louis Symphony. This summer, Matthew participated in the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) Summer Music Institute @ Home, where he had the opportunity to study with NSO cellists Rachel Young, Loewi Lin, Steven Honigberg, and Britton Riley.


September 20, 2020
8:00 pm - 9:00 pm
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New Jersey Youth Symphony