Young musicians. Incredible talent. Ambitious concerts.
Arden Blvd resident Janneke Straub brings all three elements together as Executive Director for the American Youth Symphony. The orchestra, made up of young musicians aged 15-27 from Los Angeles area high schools and colleges, is a training ground for the best of the best to get real experience performing difficult music in a professional environment. All before they become professional.
“This is not a social project,” Straub told the Buzz in an interview near the Wilshire Blvd offices of the AYS. “This is creating the best possible orchestra where young musicians are stimulated by one another to play their very best, and become the best they can be.”
Besides reaching a high level of virtuosity and musicianship, the AYS experience introduces young musicians to a wide repertoire of music that is played how it was written to be played – with full sections (like 6 trombones in the brass section, instead of a meager 3 in your average high school orchestra) and to play before large audiences in a professional venue (like Royce Hall or the Disney Concert Hall.)
The top-notch musicians are culled from some 33 schools throughout the greater LA area. Straub has made it her mandate to get the word out to a wider contingent of schools including high schools in disadvantaged areas, and not rely solely on music conservatories like the USC Thornton School of Music and the Colburn School. “We have captured some amazing talent from other areas,” noted Straub. “We have a very young bassoonist this year who comes from East LA and is an incredible talent, with very minimal training, and the first musician in his family.”
Joining the AYS is not for the lazy either. A musician talented enough to make it through the rigorous (free) audition process then commits to some 110 hours of rehearsal and program time per year including almost weekly Friday night and Saturday morning rehearsals as well as Sunday performances. But participation has its pay-offs too: many AYS alumni move into professional careers in orchestras, music studios or music schools.
Straub, a flutist herself, loves being on the periphery of all this young talent, but also treasures living in what she calls the “best part of LA” – Larchmont Village. She is married to the newly-installed Executive Director of the Larchmont Charter Schools, Gene Straub. The couple has two children in the Larchmont Charter system, one in 5th grade and one in 8th grade. The entire family will no doubt be attending the AYS Symposium and Concert this weekend featuring the music of Stravinsky, Bartok, and film composer Danny Elfman.
This five minute film of the AYS rehearsing with Music Director Alexander Treger at Disney Hall in March (directed by Windsor Bl. Philip Holahan) gives a good feel for the dedication of the orchestra members and their conductor. To attend this Sunday’s free performance, see the American Youth Symphony website for ticket and location information.
About Julie Grist
Julie co-founded the Larchmont Buzz with fellow buzzer Mary Hawley in 2011 and served as Editor, Publisher and writer for the hive for many years until the sale of the Buzz in August 2015. She is still circling the hive as an occasional writer.