This season, Washington audiences are hearing youth orchestras from Germany, Sweden, and all over Europe. In 2013, they’ll be able to hear the National Youth Orchestra of the United States at the Kennedy Center as well.
Carnegie Hall announced yesterday that it is creating an ensemble of 120 of “the most talented young orchestral players from across the United States,” ages 16-19. The young musicians will rehearse for two weeks at the campus of the State University of New York at Purchase before embarking on a tour, led by Valery Gergiev, that will take them to the Kennedy Center, Moscow, St. Petersburg, and London.
Applications will open on June 1, 2012 for musicians born between July 1, 1993 and June 30, 1997. An odd wrinkle is that anyone enrolled full-time in a college-level conservatory or university majoring in instrumental performance is not eligible -- which would seem to eliminate a number of promising candidates.
Giving young musicians encouragement and international experience is a fine thing. It’s not exactly a new thing. It’s notable that the first convocation of the orchestra, from June 30 to July 21, 2013, could overlap with the 2013 iteration of the National Orchestral Institute at the University of Maryland, open to musicians between 18 and 28, which regularly offers some of the best orchestral concerts of the Washington season.
And the Washington area certainly has plenty of youth orchestras, from the DC Youth Orchestra to the American Youth Philharmonic’s constellation of orchestras, open to players under the age of 21. (On Sunday the 22nd, they offer Mark Adamo’s harp concerto “Four Angels” at George Mason University’s Center for the Arts.)
As for the choice of conductor: Valery Gergiev is certainly a marquee name; his brand of unbridled excitement could be very exciting to young players; and he has a track record of being interested in and encouraging young musicians. But he’s unlikely to be available for long rehearsals; he’s mercurial and often erratic; and he’s not American -- a fact perhaps unimportant in the international milieu of classical music, but noteworthy in the inaugural season of a new “national” orchestra whose players must be American citizens or residents of the 50 states.
For the second time this week, a major new initiative raises the question of American-ness in music. Should initiatives of this nature really be limited by nationality? Wouldn’t “The Carnegie Hall Youth Orchestra” be a more compelling name than “The National Youth Orchestra of the United States,” representing international excellence rather than jingoism? What are your thoughts?