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Philadelphia Youth Orchestra Keeps The Music Alive With Digital Experiences

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Philadelphia Youth Orchestra Keeps The Music Alive With Digital Experiences

Due to the coronavirus, the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra (PYO) has had to cancel large musical ensemble rehearsals, instruction, and concerts. To comply with social distancing, PYO is creating online and web- based music instruction, performance opportunities, and programs to keep students engaged remotely. They are researching various digital formats and working with experts to find the most adaptable technology to work with students and record performances for various purposes.

Maestro Louis Scaglione, President and Music Director of PYO, explained, "We are developing material that fosters unity during this time of crisis and uncertainty using new engagement tactics and teaching protocols." He has already seen success with online instruction and rehearsals. He continued, "The first instrument section rehearsal experiences have been provided for members of Philadelphia Region Youth String Music program (PRYSM) PRSYM, our string ensemble program division. (Photo demonstrates PRYSM students performing before the Pandemic.)

PRSYM Director Gloria DePasquale was the first to rehearse on Zoom. She does group lessons with separate string sections, and it's working very well."

Digital programming stretches from small sectional groups to larger rehearsals to a vision being explored by Scaglione. He continued, "I'm hoping we can rehearse and present sections of Beethoven's 9th Symphony with the full PYO orchestra, our most advanced group. If we can get ourselves very tech savvy, we might also include the final movement of the work and add the chorus and vocal soloists. s. This would be very unique for PYO. Ideally, we would like to perform Beethoven's 9th Symphony in live performance over the summer, as we had originally scheduled to perform the work on June 7th at our 80th Annual Festival Concert in Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center. However, if we are unable to perform the work live at some point over the summer, we would attempt to perform it digitally."

Below are several ways PYO is involving students in their music.

  • Launching digital lessons with sectionals (small groups) and faculty.
    • For example, PRSYM (the string ensemble of PYO) which is directed by Philadelphia Orchestra cellist Gloria dePasquale, is offering group online video lessons for separate instrumental sections:
      • Violins
      • Violas
      • Cello
      • Bass
  • Developing online master classes and tutorials with members of The Philadelphia Orchestra, many of whom are PYO alumni.
  • Creating Online Performances -
    • Using the most up-to-date digital programs to meld together individual student recordings into one group performance
    • Larger ensembles of a full symphony
  • 7th Annual PYO Ovation Award - Each year, PYO with partners WRTI 90.1, JW Pepper and Jacobs Music encourage current and former students to nominate a music teacher with a written submission entitled, "How My Music Teacher Changed My Life". There are 75 nominations to date, and awards will be presented in person (early June), if possible, or via an online/digital medium.
  • Online Auditions - nearly 300 students audition each year. Auditions are held in late spring (May and June). An online/digital platform is being developed for students to submit their audition materials this year if needed and if PYO is unable to hold its live auditions scheduled for June.
  • Tutorial Classes - How to Prepare for Auditions - by members of Phila. Orchestra
    • Master classes are being planned to prepare for auditions by Phila. Orchestra members and PYO faculty. Students will get advice from the professionals on these tutorial videos.

Scaglione talked about the support of the directors of PYO ensembles. He said, "Our faculty continues to provide mentorship in ways not typically found in the rehearsal room or classroom as we continue to build upon the student and teacher relationships developed during the school year. We are determined to create these experiences while we practice social distancing and remain on recess."

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