Passion, energy and expertise: SYSO teams up with the Seattle Symphony

SYSO and Seattle Symphony musicians rehearse together with maestro Ludovic Morlot at Benaroya Hall.

The labyrinthine passageways of Benaroya Hall are filled with teenage giggles as young musicians make their way to lunch after an intense rehearsal. These ebullient high schoolers – the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra – are readying to share the stage tomorrow (Jan. 25) with the Seattle Symphony in a side-by-side concert featuring works by Chabrier, Tchaikovsky and Hindemith.

Onstage, they’re all business. In the morning, they rehearse with Seattle Symphony conductor Ludovic Morlot. He offers constant feedback, pausing to explain his rationale. “I’m not slowing this down because the solo is difficult,” he says of the Hindemith. “I really think it’s much sweeter this way.”

In the afternoon, the students meet in sections to work more closely with their Seattle Symphony counterparts. The harps are tucked into a dressing room; woodwinds are in the basement; cellos take to the stage. The feedback continues.

Harp sectional with the Seattle Symphony’s Valerie Muzzolini Gordon.

“How many of you drive?” SSO violinist Mikhail Shmidt asks the young violins. (He’s also a SYSO parent.) “You can’t just drive, right? You have to look at the road. I personally don’t remember how Ludovic is going to conduct everything, so I look at my colleagues, I look at Ludovic. I urge you to look at each other as you play.”

You might wonder, as I did, how the students will incorporate everything they have learned today into the concert tomorrow. Four hours of feedback seems like a lot.

Violin sectional with Seattle Symphony violinist Mikhail Shmidt.

Fear not.

“They came ready, and the concert will be great,” says Maestro Ludo when I ask. “More important than what gets into the concert is what they take home. What they learn about the process will stay with them.”

What of the process?

“We need to listen while we play, stay connected, build beautiful musical phrases,” says Ludo. “We get excited and we speed up and start moving. The more we move, the less we hear. We forget to listen, forget to enjoy a 16th note, the breath between phrases. When we listen, it becomes less about this note and that measure, and more about the whole piece.”

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Brass sectional with the Seattle Symphony’s Mark Robbins.

Please come hear the breaths between phrases, those pregnant silences created by a wonderful group of young musicians. The concert is free. Children age 5 and up are welcome. Tickets are available at the door.




When: January 25, 2015 @ 2:00 pm
Where: Benaroya Hall
Who: Stephen Radcliffe, conductor; Ludovic Morlot, conductor; Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra; Seattle Symphony

Chabrier – España
Tchaikovsky – Francesca da Rimini, Op. 32
Hindemith – Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes by Carl Maria von Weber

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All photos © 2015 Shaya Lyon.