The 110 musicians of the 2020 National Youth Orchestra of the USA convened online for an intensive two-week program in July 2020, as they were unable to meet in person due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Using digital tools such as Zoom and Google Classroom, each player had the opportunity for extensive interaction with NYO-USA’s outstanding faculty of musicians from America’s leading orchestras: a private lesson each week as well as several sectionals, studio and master classes, and more informal discussions. The full orchestra also met regularly for sessions led by Orchestra Director James Ross. Built around Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, which had been planned as part of NYO-USA’s original tour program, the series of workshops aimed to give students tools to engage with any piece of repertoire. Topics ranged from score study and listening to clapping, singing, conducting, and improvising on sections of the piece. Dancer Terese Capucilli (who created The Chosen One for Martha Graham’s staging of The Rite of Spring) introduced elements of the ballet’s choreography to students and encouraged them to experience the work through movement as a way to unlock greater freedom in their playing.
All 2020 participants in Carnegie Hall’s three national youth ensembles also had the chance to join a number of online discussion sessions and special events. These included a Q&A with Wynton Marsalis, a workshop (and impromptu mini-concert) by Jacob Collier, two panels on college auditions and digital tools to enhance practice led by Fellows of the New World Symphony, as well as sessions on new music, careers in music education, and orchestra administration. A panel of NYO-USA alumni working professionally in the orchestral world also shared their experiences and answered questions. Alumni offered students individual mentoring sessions and led organized social activities for students across NYO-USA, NYO2 and NYO Jazz.
NYO-USA participated in two imaginatively conceived virtual performances with each musician recording their part at home, featuring selections from Valerie Coleman’s Umoja and Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. These performances, directed by Emmy Award winner Habib Azar, were released online through Carnegie Hall’s and NYO-USA’s social media channels as well as in a live stream event in December 2020 that recapped the entire set of virtual orchestral performances from NYO-USA and NYO2.
NYO-USA Performance Videos
This orchestral version of “Umoja” was commissioned by Yannick Nézet-Séguin and The Philadelphia Orchestra. “Umoja” means “unity” in Swahili—a feeling NYO-USA hoped to express in this performance despite being unable to meet and play together in person due to COVID-19. The 110 members of NYO-USA 2020—extraordinary teen instrumentalists ages 16–19 and representing 41 US states—were selected for an all-digital program following a comprehensive and highly selective audition process.
VALERIE COLEMAN Excerpt from Umoja
STRAVINSKY Excerpts from The Rite of Spring
Meet the Orchestra
NYO-USA 2020 Faculty
Carlos Miguel Prieto, 2020 Guest Conductor
James Ross, Orchestra Director
Joseph Young, Resident Conductor
Ying Fu, Associate Concertmaster, National Symphony Orchestra
Alex Kerr, Concertmaster, Dallas Symphony Orchestra
Lauren Roth, Concertmaster, Tucson Symphony Orchestra
CarlaMaria Rodrigues, Principal Viola, San Francisco Opera
Mark Kosower, Principal Cello, The Cleveland Orchestra
Robin Kesselman, Principal Bass, Houston Symphony
Seth Morris, Principal Flute, The MET Orchestra
Erica Peel, Piccolo and Flute, The Philadelphia Orchestra
Robert Walters, Solo English Horn, The Cleveland Orchestra
Alex Laing, Principal Clarinet, Phoenix Symphony
Shannon Orme, Bass Clarinet and Clarinet, Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Lori Wike, Principal Bassoon, Utah Symphony
William VerMeulen, Principal Horn, Houston Symphony
Karin Bliznik, Principal Trumpet, St. Louis Symphony Orchestra
Matthew Vaughn, Co-Principal Trombone, The Philadelphia Orchestra
Craig Knox, Principal Tuba, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
Jauvon Gilliam, Principal Timpani, National Symphony Orchestra
Don Liuzzi, Principal Timpani, The Philadelphia Orchestra
Marc Damoulakis, Principal Percussion, The Cleveland Orchestra
Additional Guest Faculty
Erik Behr, Principal Oboe, Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra
Leon Chodos, Contrabassoon and Associate Principal Bassoon, Utah Symphony
Lead Donors: Hope and Robert F. Smith, Marina Kellen French and the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation, The Kovner Foundation, Beatrice Santo Domingo, and Nicola and Beatrice Bulgari.
Global Ambassadors: Hope and Robert F. Smith, and Maggie and Richard Tsai.
Major funding has been provided by The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, The Carl Jacobs Foundation, JMCMRJ Sorrell Foundation, and Joyce and George Wein Foundation, Inc.
Additional funding has been provided by Sarah Arison, The Jack Benny Family Foundation, Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, Mary Anne Huntsman Morgan and The Huntsman Foundation, IAC, and The Morton H. Meyerson Family Foundation.
Founder Patrons: Blavatnik Family Foundation; Nicola and Beatrice Bulgari; The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation; Marina Kellen French and the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation; The Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Family Foundation; Ronald O. Perelman; Robertson Foundation; Beatrice Santo Domingo; Hope and Robert F. Smith; Sarah Billinghurst Solomon and Howard Solomon; and Joan and Sanford I. Weill and the Weill Family Foundation.