Classical education | Reno Philharmonic Youth Orchestra

Some of the most talented young musicians from northern Nevada and northeastern California will be performing at the 2017 Reno Philharmonic Youth Orchestra Spring Showcase at the Pioneer Center in downtown Reno, Nev. The concert will feature works from Shostakovich, Puccini, Grieg, Mozart and Korsakov, in addition to a medley of songs from “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Harry Potter.”

May 13 | 4 p.m. | $5 youth | $10 adult
Pioneer Center | Reno, Nev.

As part of its education outreach program, the Reno Philharmonic supports three youth orchestras. Reno native Dustin Budish conducts the Concert Orchestra, which is the middle ensemble between the introductory Strings Symphonia and the more professional Symphony Orchestra. As the transitional ensemble’s leader, Budish works hard to engrain professionalism and teamwork into his group of 120 mostly middle-school students.

“They didn’t really think of Reno as a place for classical music, but performances like these are changing that.” – Dustin Budish

“It’s about training them in a really professional way on how to behave in a rehearsal, how to prepare their parts and do some basic musical orchestral things and helping to prepare them for the more advanced orchestra, says Budish “Middle-school kids can be rambunctious so getting everybody together to focus can be a challenge. But we are serious about keeping that atmosphere of professionalism.”

Budish quickly learned that the best way to get this particular age group to collaborate and learn was to have fun.

“At the beginning I was particular about how to achieve our goals,” he says. “I think I’m more concerned now about having fun. I think the minute that it’s not fun is when we lose momentum as an ensemble. I want to get us sounding as best we can while having a good time. I think we have gained a lot of progress musically, emotionally, mentally as a group when we started having more fun and that change has really been great for all of us.”

One of the ways Budish creates this enthusiastic atmosphere is to allow the musicians to choose their own music.

“I let the kids select the repertoire,” he says. “They can suggest whatever they like from video-game composers to classical music. From their suggestions, I make a list and we vote on the pieces we perform. The kids really love the music and it comes across in their playing.”

As the group progresses throughout the year, it begins to come together and work on the more subtle aspects of musicianship.

“Dynamics is the hardest one to get them to do,” says Budish. “It’s difficult to get all the details in the music right, but dynamics is what we are always trying to bring out. Our brains and bodies can only focus on so many details at once, so the musicians have to be reminded constantly. Sometimes I think for us it’s all about making ridiculous comparisons, when we get to that point our imaginations are going and we are pushing the limit as far as how soft or loud we can play.”

Budish believes that youth orchestral programs are essential to the vitality of any healthy community.

“I was a product of the Washoe County School District music program,” he says. “I love music, but if it wasn’t for fifth-grade violin class or sixth-grade orchestra, if it wasn’t for Mrs. Hoffman and having these programs in school, I don’t think I would have ever chosen this path. I know there are lot of communities in our county that don’t have music is schools, but there are ways to many interdisciplinary connections between music and just about everything else students do. The essence of teamwork that comes from playing in an orchestra is an invaluable tool going forward.”

After a performance last year at New York City’s prestigious Carnegie Hall, Reno Philharmonic Youth Orchestra has been slowly but surely putting itself on the national map.

“I don’t think a lot of people were thinking of Reno as having that type of talent pool before we went to Carnegie Hall,” says Budish. “But I’d heard them say that tuning-wise we are nearly as good as a professional orchestra. They didn’t really think of Reno as a place for classical music, but performances like these are changing that.”

Those who attend the concert can expect to be thoroughly impressed and entertained by the amazing local youth musicians and their dedicated conductors.

“If you think of your standard symphony orchestra, the conductor says a few words and you listen, but that’s not how our concerts go,” says Budish. “We have dynamic conductors who really communicate an atmosphere of fun and family. People are always amazed by how great the musicians sound for their age. Anyone coming to the concert will feel that passion and be blown away by how inspired our music making is.”

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