Youth Music Monterey has encouraged generations of students with its passion for excellence.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
When Youth Music Monterey’s Honors Orchestra takes the stage at Sherwood Hall in Salinas, Sunday, May 2, it will be joined by the Santa Cruz County Youth Symphony in Gershwin’s An American in Paris, and the colorful Polovtsian Dances from the Borodin opera Prince Igor. While the junior Youth Orchestra will begin the program with several arrangements of works by Dvorák, Berlioz and Tchaikovsky, the Honors and SC orchestras will play the original scores, just like any professional orchestra. Conductor John Larry Granger (who is also music director of the Santa Cruz Symphony) thoughtfully considers the challenges he throws at his young musicians.
Student musicians perform with extra adrenaline that often sparks a heightened level of excitement, on both sides of the footlights. The impact of such experience lingers long after the music stops. To confirm this, we sought out a handful of musicians from the earliest days of YMM, and its predecessor Youth Orchestra of Monterey County, during the 1980s, all of whom are firmly dedicated to a life in professional music.
Alexander Janko has enjoyed exceptional success as a Hollywood film composer. Encouraged by Alan Silvestri (Back to the Future, Forrest Gump) who bought Janko his first music computer, the YOMC cellist – known then as Xandy – has, as composer, arranger and/or conductor, contributed to some 65 movies, including My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Janko’s admiration for quality music education has only grown over the years. “In a day and age where arts budgets are shrinking – or nonexistent – without programs like Youth Music Monterey, how can we possibly imbue future generations with an appreciation of the classical traditions and offer opportunities for them to play music together in a group of their peers?” Janko, who lives in Massachusetts, is presently working “from the ground up” on developing new movies from compelling stories with his own music always in mind.
Ned McGowan, from Carmel Valley, has established an imposing career in Amsterdam as a new music composer. His band, Hexnut, has performed at venues in Europe and the U.S., and McGowan has received numerous commissions for new works. Steve Smith of the New York Times wrote, “McGowan, a composer and flutist, proved there’s still plenty of life in old-fashioned virtuosity with Bantammer Swing, a playful, athletic concerto for his unwieldy contrabass flute.” McGowan’s record label, Karnatic Lab, has released several CDs of his music. He recalls his YOMC experience for its “essential role in my development as a classical musician by exposing me to this important cultural institution for the first time – without that wonderful experience, I might not have gone into music seriously.”
Rebekah Griffin, from Pacific Grove, an “overeducated” double bass player and composer, now makes her home in New York with husband and performing partner, trombonist Terry Greene. “Totally amazing,” she raves about her experience with YOMC – and at that time the affiliated Summer Music Monterey – starting in sixth grade. “Playing in an orchestra from such a young age helped me to hear different sections, and also the composer’s voice, which later led to me wanting to write for orchestra,” she says. Performing, teaching, composing and recording, Griffin Greene is now pursuing her doctorate and has applied to the Sundance Film Composers Labthis August. She has written a new work for McGowan’s Hexnut. Last year, the local choir I Cantori sang her setting of Psalm 121.
David Arrivée, from Monterey, serves as the director of the Cal Poly Symphony and assistant professor of music theory, and coaches chamber ensembles there. He’s also assistant conductor of the San Luis Obispo Mozart Festival (now called Festival Mozaic.) With degrees in music from Princeton and Boston University, Arrivée has guest conducted the Green Lake Festival Orchestra, Auros Ensemble for New Music and the Northwestern University Philharmonic. By invitation, he has guest conducted the YMM orchestras.
Mariam Adam returned to YMM to assist the Honors Orchestra woodwinds for the first concert of the current season. A YMM alum from 1987 to ‘93, she is now clarinetist with the Grammy-winning Imani Winds. Writing about them in the Wall Street Journal, Barrymore Laurence Scherer said, “Expanding the quintet repertoire has been Imani’s goal from the start,” and, on their five year Legacy Commissioning Project from composers of various ethnic and cultural backgrounds, quoted Adam: “Classical musicians don’t often get the opportunity to combine so many disparate musical and even visual elements into a performance. So we like to plan each program like a five-course meal… a structure that opens the ears of new listeners and hopefully prepares them for all different sounds they can hear along the way.”
In a gesture unprecedented, and most welcome by area music educators, Monterey Symphony Music Director Max Bragado-Darman has invited the YMM Honors Orchestra to perform side-by-side with his in Ravel’s exhilarating Bolero on their next subscription program, Saturday, May 22, 7pm at Sherwood Hall.