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NYO-USA: Impressions of the Residency

As the musicians of the 2016 National Youth Orchestra of the USA (NYO-USA) arrived at Purchase College, SUNY, just a few weeks ago, 109 individual musicians quickly formed a community to become a cohesive orchestra. Here are two musicians’ perspectives on those first days of the residency.

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A distinct lack of familiar faces painted my surroundings as I took my initial steps into the Purchase College dorm. Amidst the ebullient reunions of returning members, I gave my tentative “hellos” and handshakes to those around me. Settling in and getting comfortable seemed a colossal task, and only uncertainty seemed to be in the days ahead. The ice was everywhere at first, and the usual small talk of name, hometown, and instrument hung over the majority of conversation. All it would take for it to crack was a little time. Silent group walks to rehearsals are now nighttime hang-outs in outdoor air, and once casual discussions have turned into spades of laughter. Alongside serene weather, it’s the perfect recipe for nostalgia, and already I feel at home.

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Nicholas Kim, violin

NYO jumping at Purchase (2016)
Musicians get to know each other with icebreakers on the first day. (Photography: Jennifer Taylor)

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NYO-USA only has two full-orchestra rehearsals under its belt, yet it’s already flourishing in what Maestro Jim Ross says is every ensemble’s most essential key to success: communication. And it’s happening both on and off the stage.

As I walk through the hallways of our beloved dorm, known on campus as Fort Awesome, I’m immersed in an acoustic symphony of student life. I can hear boisterous laughter resonating from rooms—an audible hallmark of newly born friendships. Vivacious chatter fizzes from musicians as they eagerly discuss how they can’t wait for NYO-USA to begin the journey of defining its musical identity, as the orchestra explores the textured octaves of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 6 and the mystifying, fairy-tale flute in Debussy’s Afternoon of a Faun, amidst other repertoire, over the next three weeks. Musicians are spontaneously flash-mobbing in the lounges to sight-read string quartets; the bass section is ordering late-night pizza; and the woodwinds are jokingly squeaking together on their newly crafted reeds at lunchtime. Though these activities are all happening outside of rehearsals, the orchestra is still growing musically—it’s developing a social harmony.

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It’s been less than a week since NYO-USA started, but the orchestra is alive, breathing, and talking—talking with each other, talking with the music. And in just a couple weeks, it’ll be ready to sing.

Akshay Dinakar, violin

NYO violin section 2016
NYO-USA faculty member Baird Dodge, principal second violinist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, helped the violin section to form a community.

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

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