Conductor Gary Ewer raises his baton and counts in a group of young musicians. On cue, members of the Nova Scotia Youth Orchestra launch a lively and upbeat section of Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations.
“It’s a place for young artists to come together, who have a passion for what instrument they are drawn to and get instruction and education,” says general manager Anthony James.
Founded in 1976, the orchestra is a non-profit organization that offers music programs for musicians aged 12 to 26.
Running from August to April, the orchestra typically plays in six to eight concerts a season. It also gives young musicians opportunities to perform in front of an audience and work with accomplished artists, such as music director Dinuk Wijeratne, who is the composer in residence for Symphony Nova Scotia.
“It’s a real opportunity,” says James. “To play on a stage with an audience is exhilarating, almost electrifying.”
“It’s so professional and so awesome,” adds Jessica MacIsaac, 21, who plays the French horn.
For its 40th season, James says the group’s goal is to establish an academy and build the orchestra from 40 musicians to 80. He hopes to add 25 players by January.
“I need more musicians,” he says, “so that the audience, when they come see the shows, walk in with a high expectation and, throughout the entire duration of the show, have an experience.”
The orchestra practices about twice a month for 10 hours, with rehearsals on Fridays and Saturdays.
It will be performing in Truro on Nov. 19 and in Halifax on Nov. 20.
While playing in an orchestra may be demanding and technically challenging, percussionist Cameron Yetman, 18, and violinist Kyrie Robinson, 19, say the orchestra has taught them leadership skills, time management and concentration.
The orchestra “lets me express myself in music and art; I got to be myself in a group of people that all support you,” says Robinson, who is in her fourth season. ““The skills that I’ve learned in this apply to every part of my life.”
While Yetman enjoys the musical repertoire and challenging pieces, he also likes the community aspect of the Nova Scotia Youth Orchestra.
“I love the connection you feel while you’re playing,” says Yetman.“There are these moments when everyone comes together and it’s magical, without being cheesy.”