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NYO2: Inspiration and Empowerment

Just last week, NYO2 finished its inaugural season with a spectacular concert alongside The Philadelphia Orchestra. Violinist Allen Liu, from Chattanooga, Tennessee, reflects on his experience this summer.

It’s hard to believe that just two days ago I was reluctantly saying goodbye to a musical community that has come to mean so much to me. As I reunite with my family, teachers, and friends at home, I ask myself what experiences from NYO2 have meant the most to me. What important themes and lessons have I learned from the past two weeks?

I will admit that before I came to NYO2, I thought that it would be a typical music festival: I would play in an orchestra and develop my musical abilities through lessons, master classes, and chamber music. Indeed, the musical experience at NYO2 was nothing less than magical: The members of The Philadelphia Orchestra provided invaluable insights, and our rehearsals and concerts were filled with moments that I will forever treasure. However, as NYO2 came to a close, I began to think about why Carnegie Hall created such an amazing opportunity for us. The Carnegie Hall staff continually emphasized that NYO2 existed to make music more accessible to young musicians and the public. Beyond the extraordinary musical experience, this is the greatest lesson I've learned from NYO2: Making music more accessible for our communities is both necessary and possible.

NYO2: Verizon Hall Concert (Will Figg)
NYO2’s performance with members of The Philadelphia Orchestra took place in the Kimmel Center’s Verizon Hall. (Photography: Will Figg)

One of the key themes of our activities at NYO2 was creating a positive difference through music, and my first eye-opening experience was a social entrepreneurship workshop with Project 440 during the first week. In the workshop, several entrepreneurs explained how they executed ideas for musical opportunities and taught us how we could do the same. The most exciting aspect of the workshop was the culminating “shark tank.” We formed teams, worked together to develop an idea for a music-related business, and pitched our ideas to a panel of judges. As entrepreneurs, it seemed natural that all of the teams would attempt to create the most unique business possible. I recall our team’s enthusiasm as we discussed how our idea of creating a musicians’ social network would stand out from the other projects. Yet, as each team pitched its idea at the Sunday finale, a striking similarity among all of our projects emerged: Each business was motivated by a desire to bring opportunities to musicians with limited access to musical training and experiences.

It was through our activities in Philadelphia that I witnessed firsthand how we could make music more accessible by connecting with the surrounding community. During our first day, we had the opportunity to join students in the Philadelphia Music Alliance for Youth (PMAY) at the Curtis Institute of Music for a peer-mentoring session. At the event, we spoke and rehearsed with the students, offered musical advice, and played with the PMAY orchestra in an informal performance. What inspired me most was the level of interaction. We not only shared our musical backgrounds, but also got a glimpse into each others’ lives.

NYO2: 23rd Street Armory Performance (Jessica Griffin)
The side-by-side-by-side-by-side performance took place in Philadelphia’s 23rd Street Armory. The orchestra nearly outnumbered the audience. (Photography: Jessica Griffin)

During our last day, NYO2, NYO-USA, members of The Philadelphia Orchestra, and music students from throughout Philadelphia came together to perform a massive side-by-side-by-side by-side concert with 350 musicians in the 23rd Street Armory. I remember being amazed as all of us managed to truly become one orchestral voice. But more than anything, what amazed me most about both the Armory concert and the peer-mentoring session with PMAY was that Carnegie Hall had been able to connect us with the surrounding community to create events that were truly collaborative and meaningful for everyone involved. As I left the Armory, I thought to myself, “This is why I am a musician” and felt the urge to create similar collaborations in my community back home.

Our farewell party on the last day ended with the staff congratulating us on NYO2’s successful inaugural season. At one point, our wonderful director, David Gracia, made a remark that truly resonated with me: He reminded us that since Carnegie Hall had given us NYO2, we now had a responsibility to bring the experience back to our hometowns. The creators of NYO2 wanted us to make music more accessible in our own communities, just as Carnegie Hall had done for us. I feel that my experiences in NYO2 have inspired and empowered me to make this kind of impact. For this gift of inspiration and empowerment, I could not be more thankful.

Allen Liu, NYO2 violinist

Learn more about NYO2 and NYO-USA.

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