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NYO-USA Reflections: A Nationwide Community

Though the final notes of the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America’s final 2014 concert in Walt Disney Concert Hall have long since dissipated, the NYO-USA community is as close as ever. Apprentice orchestra manager Josh Davidoff was pleasantly surprised to find this community close by, at least online, in his first year of college. Young musicians ages 16–19 now have a chance to join this community themselves. Applications for the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America’s 2015 season are due on November 5, 2014. More blogs from 2014 musicians are available here.


Josh Davidoff, Apprentice Orchestra Manager:

NYO Josh Davidoff reflections 1Josh Davidoff introduces Britten’s Violin Concerto to the audience during NYO-USA’s concert in Chicago’s Millennium Park.

Usually when I do summer programs—a camp, a trip, an internship—they feel like distant memories by mid-October, if they even last that long. NYO-USA is different. Every time I log on to Facebook, I find new reminders of the community we shared and continue to uphold. I get to see nostalgic recollections of some experience or another—performance recordings of us as an orchestra or as individuals, lots of “reuNYOns,” and for some reason, an overabundance of jokes about a certain leafy vegetable. As if that weren’t enough, the magic of instant messaging lets me keep in close touch with a lot of these amazing musicians, many of whom I suspect will become lifelong friends. But it’s not just 21st-century technology that binds us tightly together months after teary congratulations backstage at Disney Hall and goodbyes in the lobby of our hotel. The combined power of mutual interests and a common goal to unite young people (any people, really) is huge.

As a lover of classical music, I had never had the experience of living in close quarters with more than a hundred other musicians, many of whom share my passion for music history. I remember one lunchtime conversation that quickly escalated into a full-blown argument about the conducting of Leonard Bernstein versus Herbert von Karajan and the merit of their respective orchestras. It began to involve another person, and then two more, and suddenly a section of the cafeteria was populated with gesticulating teenagers, myself very much included, who all had something to say about two dead guys who used to wave their arms around for a living. Those dead guys, though, are our role models; through their recordings, I’ve spent a lot of time with both of them. NYO-USA even introduced me to faculty and mentors who are proud to call Bernstein a best friend.

NYO Josh Davidoff reflections 2Davidoff, NYO-USA’s 2014 apprentice orchestra manager, makes an announcement to the orchestra during rehearsal.

Of course, all this blathering about conductors is far from the point of the program. We were there to put on an eight-concert tour, to make top-flight music together and, in my role as apprentice orchestra manager, to support the orchestra in doing so. This we did, to critical acclaim. There’s an intense trust that is necessary to prepare such a program. The players needed to trust each other to create unified rhythm, intonation, articulation. I needed to trust that everyone would be at rehearsal on time, would read their emails, and would cooperate with directions. We all needed to trust the Carnegie Hall staff to do everything under the sun and more (which was easy, since they’re fantastic). Such trust doesn’t just vanish into the ether after the job is done. It has stayed palpably present, through social media and through friendships.

I’m in the middle of my first semester of college, and not a lot is certain for me at the moment. My school, which is definitely not a conservatory, doesn’t have a lot of classical music aficionados with whom to shadow-conduct Beethoven (although I do that when nobody’s looking) or debate wildly about the best ’30s violin concerto (definitely Barber, although that will get a lot of hate from the 120 people who played the Britten dozens of times this summer). Luckily, I’ve already done lots of both of those things with NYO people. They might be scattered all over the country, but they’re really just a keystroke away.