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NYO-USA Musician Blogs: The Evolution of the “Star Sneak”

The National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America sports a youthful, vibrant look in concert. The orchestra is styled by Fred Bernstein. Returning musician Lincoln Valdez reflects on two seasons of wearing patriotic sneakers on stage.

Lincoln Valdez, Trumpet:

NYO outfits small

Some orchestras can easily be distinguished by the colors their sounds provide. For example, the “Chicago Sound” was established by legendary trumpet player Bud Herseth and tuba player Arnold Jacobs. Their depth and breadth of projection originated the powerful brass sound that now brands the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. For NYO-USA, such a defining factor comes instead through a visually eclectic wardrobe.

For any professional orchestra, there is an expectation for the performance outfit to be concert black with a white or black tie (usually a bow tie). The top half of NYO-USA’s concert outfit draws inspiration from this standard attire: a black jacket with a white button down or blouse, with an added nuance—a tour-themed tie pin that holds together a skinny tie for the males or a neckerchief for the females. The really idiosyncratic features, however, are the bright, skin-tight red pants that are hemmed to expose a bare ankle and an extremely patriotic set of Converse shoes. Last year’s shoes were nicknamed “Star Sneaks,” due to the white stars sprinkled upon the leather exterior. This year’s shoes were modified slightly to become the “Stars and Stripes” sneakers, which now resemble an American flag due to the addition of horizontal red stripes.

NYO Star SneaksThe original 2013 NYO-USA "Star Sneaks"   NYO Chris Lee Album Week 1 - 4This year's "Stars and Stripes Sneaks"

I initially expected that the outfit would not be well-received by the general public. I did, however, love the red pants—I’m all about wearing bright clothing. It also makes a great outfit for a throwback decades dress-up day (I used it once for ’80s day at my school). I now realize that the get-up aims to add visual electricity to match the sonorous vibrancy of the orchestra. NYO-USA, though operated with extreme class and professionalism, still wants to ensure its audiences that they are experiencing the performance of energetic youth. The neo-/retro-fit garb enhances the flair and excitement of the performance and adds an air of freshness to the music. Therefore, the secret to the unity of the NYO-USA orchestra members is not only the collaboration of fantastic musicians but also the vigor that emanates from their outfits.

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

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