After crisscrossing continents and logging thousands of miles on the road, taking part in 22 consecutive days of intensive musical activity this summer, the 120 members of the inaugural National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America have now made their way back to their homes.
The orchestra’s triumphant debut on world stages in New York, Washington, DC, Moscow, St. Petersburg, and London—in performances led by renowned conductor Valery Gergiev and featuring acclaimed violinist Joshua Bell—attracted raves from critics and audiences alike. While the musical notes from these amazing performances may have faded, the impact of the program is still very much alive, reflected in the memories and lifelong friendships made by members of this new orchestra created by Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute.
“I’ve never played in an ensemble of this caliber in my life,” said Julia Popham, a 17-year-old violinist from Golden, Colorado, speaking to CBS News. "In fact, I didn't know I could ever be part of something this beautiful sounding. … I know this experience is opening up my eyes to the possibilities of what music can be.”
“It was honestly the most incredible musical experience that I’ve had a chance to be a part of,” 18-year-old bassoonist Jordan Brokken told his hometown radio station in Houston, Texas. “NYO-USA is about learning what it is really like to be in an orchestra. The experience topped anything I’ve done before.”
In addition to offering musical training at the highest level, the NYO-USA program also provided the opportunity for orchestra members to travel, representing their country abroad. “Culture makes links in between people that you can’t make in any other way,” said Clive Gillinson, Carnegie Hall’s executive and artistic director. That sentiment was echoed by Michael McFaul, the US ambassador to Russia, who visited with the orchestra following their concert at the famed Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow. Calling the orchestra members “true ambassadors,” he commended them on the important role they were playing, helping to make meaningful connections with people around the world. “Your performance made me proud to be a fellow American,” he said.
While the orchestra’s 2013 tour is just completed, Carnegie Hall is already recruiting for its second year. In summer 2014, NYO-USA will make its Carnegie Hall debut before embarking on a coast-to-coast US concert tour with conductor David Robertson and violinist Gil Shaham. Young musicians ages 16–19 are encouraged to apply by November 15 to be a part of this free program and the orchestra’s exciting second season.