Last night we rehearsed Brahms' Second Symphony in preparation for our Masterworks concerts on Thursday and Friday. I love all of Brahms' symphonies, but the second has a special place in my heart. It was the first CD of orchestral music that I owned (and wore out), and it also represents my first experience playing real symphonic music with a group of my peers. I first played this symphony at a summer camp when I was 14 years old. Prior to attending that camp my orchestral experience had been with my school orchestra where none of my peers were quite as excited about playing the violin as I was, and the local community orchestra, where I was by far the youngest player: my stand partner was a biology professor nearing retirement. I enjoyed both groups, but they were nothing like that week at summer camp. For the first time, I was surrounded with peers who were just as passionate about making music as I. It was an incredible experience, and one that solidified my desire to make music my career.
Kids in Knoxville don't have to wait for summer camp to play in an orchestra with peers who love music. Knoxville has a youth orchestra program that is supported by the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra League and the Knoxville Symphony Society. The Knoxville Youth Symphony Orchestra is made up of five ensembles of varying levels with over 250 students participating each year. The orchestras meet once a week to rehearse and give around three concerts a year. These are not the typical student music performances that you may have suffered through as a child (or as a parent of a child in band or orchestra). The kids work hard in rehearsal and on their own to really master the music. The result is a polished, exciting performance. As it happens, the Knoxville Youth Symphony Orchestras are performing tonight at 7:00 in the Tennessee Theater. The concert is free and open to the public. I would advise you to get there early to stake out your seat because these concerts are quite popular and often fill the house. It's a wonderful way to spend an evening.