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NYO-USA Musician Blogs: Lincoln Valdez

The musicians of the 2014 NYO-USA have been in residence at Purchase College, SUNY for less than 24 hours. Lincoln Valdez, one of 24 NYO-USA musicians returning from the 2013 season, looks back on last year’s tour of Russia and the United Kingdom in his first blog of 2014.

NYO Lincoln Valdez 1Lincoln visits the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood with fellow musicians as part of the 2013 NYO-USA tour.

While in St. Petersburg, Russia, with the 2013 NYO-USA, we rehearsed side-by-side with Capella Taourida, a Russian youth orchestra. I greeted them with “Pri-vyet”, meaning “Hello” in Russian. After collaboratively performing Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet, the Russian orchestra wanted to play a piece for us. The Russian trumpeter sitting next to me nudged my shoulder and tapped on the music of “Trepak” from the The Nutcracker. His smiling eyes said, “Join me.” I couldn’t believe I could understand him without words. Showing my excitement, I began to play the vivid part. From the jolly ending, the cellos and harps went straight into “Pas de Deux,” one of the most beautiful chorales for orchestra. This time, I reciprocated the trumpeter’s eyes, eagerly requesting that I play once more with him. I still get goose bumps thinking about that moment.

As musicians, we can compare each person’s unique nature to an instrument with a specific personality. When disjointed, they can sound cacophonous; however, brought together, the warm brass, mellow woodwind, and shrill string sounds create glorious harmonies. Like an orchestra, people with diverse talents can make a powerful impact while allowing each person to keep his or her unique characteristics.

The experiences of last summer opened my eyes to new aspects of music. NYO-USA’s faculty, who are principal players from the nation’s best orchestras, were sincerely invested in refining the nuances that can make youth orchestras sound professional. Through their guidance, I learned to help teach these subtleties—articulations, resonance, note lengths, intonation—to the students in my high school’s 250-member marching band as a drum major this past year.

Last year’s orchestra was composed of some of the most brilliant teenagers I had ever met; each member exuded a warm friendliness and intellectual curiosity. The camaraderie we developed was so tightly knit that bassoonist Nathan Kirchhoff, after the first week of the program, exclaimed: “We’re becoming a real youth orchestra!” He was referring to the fact that NYO was developing its own components of young groups of musicians: inside jokes, catchphrases, and surprisingly, gossip.

NYO Lincoln Valdez 2Lincoln warms up for NYO-USA's 2013 performance at the BBC Proms.

For this organization last summer, it was a time of many exciting firsts. This second year, there is another exhilarating opportunity: NYO-USA’s debut in Carnegie Hall. The last and only time that I have played in Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage was during a band festival for an empty house. That experience was already magical, due to the sounds of the reverberating chords ringing throughout and the majestic beauty of the iconic hall. I can only imagine what the moment will be like when NYO takes the stage, singing the powerful chords of Mussorgsky’s Great Gate of Kiev, or enjoying the audience’s response to the “nonchalant” snapping and cries of “MAMBO!” in Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story.

The members of NYO superbly convey their emotion and passion through music. This ensemble’s performances internationally allowed the world to see some of the best pursuits in which American youth partake. This year will be a fantastic chance for our nation, from coast to coast, to enjoy this same energy.

Learn more about the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America.

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