SLSO and Make-A Wish Missouri Team to Grant Faith’s Wish

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The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and Make-A-Wish Missouri teamed to make a young girl’s wish come true in October.

Faith*, who is eight-years-old, wanted to experience an SLSO concert.

She was born with SOX2 anophthalmia syndrome. The genetic condition left Faith blind and with limited mobility.

Faith’s mom, Bridget*, said that life or her daughter can be a “struggle,” but music has been a “great motivator.”

On October 8, SLSO musicians Melissa Brooks, Celeste Golden Boyer, Beth Guterman Chu, and Eva Kozma performed three pieces of music for Faith at St. Francis Xavier College Church. St. Louis Symphony IN UNISON Artist-in-Residence Brian Owens was the featured vocalist for the concert.

“To see the string quartet and vocalist so dedicated to making this happen for her was special to us,” Bridget said.

SLSO cellist Melissa Brooks called the experience “amazing.”

“It really was it was an honor to play for her,” Brooks said.

SLSO violist Beth Guterman Chu agreed.

“Anytime we can touch anyone it is special, but to know that this was Faith’s dream, was a real high point for me,” Guterman Chu said.

Faith’s Make-A-Wish also included a private concert in her home on October 4. The musicians performed two pieces of music, including a piece by Tony Bennett.

“This was just a great opportunity to see how much Faith is loved by so many people,” Bridget said. “It was the right wish request.”

*For privacy reasons, the SLSO is not releasing the family’s last name.


SLSO Resident Conductor inspires next generation of musicians

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Madeline De Geest, 11, started dreaming of becoming a conductor after she saw St. Louis Symphony Resident Conductor Gemma New perform in the Fall of 2016.

“When she went on stage she had this presence,” De Geest said.

New was leading the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra.

“I could not take my eyes off her,” De Geest said.

After the performance, De Geest asked New for an autograph.

“I just really wanted her autograph.” De Geest said. “She also gave me her conducting stick, which was really amazing.”

It was a small gift, but it is inspiring a big dream.

“I want to be a conductor someday,” De Geest said.

In the Spring of 2017, New invited De Geest to a St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra rehearsal.

De Geest brought a violin, a music folder, and a desire to learn.

“She has so much energy and potential,” New said. “She reminded me of myself when I was that age.”

New’s main role with the St. Louis Symphony is to conduct concerts.

“That is how I fit in to music, and how I can best express the music that I love.”

However, New’s impact is not confined to the stage at Powell Hall.

“She inspires many people out there,” De Geest said. “She helps other people with their dreams.”

Youth Orchestra Violinist Shines on New Year’s Eve

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Hava Polinsky moments before her performance.

Hava Polinsky, 17, shed tears of joy when she left the stage at Powell Hall on New Year’s Eve.

“It was just so emotional,” she said while wiping tears from her eyes.

The St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra violinist was the surprise guest artist for the New Year’s Eve concert.

Polinsky joined the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra to perform Pablo de Sarasate’s “Zigeunerweisen” (Gypsy Airs).

She was poised, precise, and professional on stage.

Polinsky has been honing her skills with the Youth Orchestra for the last for six years.

However, the teenager was visibly nervous in the moments leading up to her performance.

She paced back and forth as Music Director David Robertson began her introduction.

That is when the STL Symphony’s Jack Snider took charge.

The veteran stage manager gently put his hands on Polinsky’s shoulders, looked in her eyes, and said “you look beautiful.”

Seconds later, Polinsky was dazzling a packed house at Powell Hall.

“That Polinsky was good,” one audience member said.

It was the perfect way for the STL Symphony to ring in the new year.

Hava Polinsky wipes away tears of joy after her performance.

Matters of Scale

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The St. Louis Symphony performed Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to packed houses this past weekend.

STL Symphony Principal Trombone Tim Myers and members of the 399th Army Band.
STL Symphony Principal Trombone Tim Myers and members of the 399th Army Band.

But the musicians give their all to SRO audiences or in the most intimate settings. Last Wednesday, prior to the concert in Rolla, Missouri, members of the orchestra taught master classes to soldiers from the 399th Army Band, who drove over from Ft. Leonard Wood.

Gemma New & YO at Clayton High
Gemma New & YO at Clayton High

Gemma New, fresh from her debut with the STL Symphony in Rolla, was in the music room at Clayton High for the first St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra rehearsal of the season on Saturday.

On Wednesday night there will be more than 10,000 on Art Hill in Forest Park listening to the St. Louis Symphony, led by David Robertson. The atmosphere will be as intense as in a small studio in Rolla, or a music room in Clayton, or a capacity Powell Hall.



Peer to Peer

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In a recent blog post I talked about the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra program Mentoring the Music: Peer to Peer. YO cellist Julie Holzen–moving into her college life at Oberlin this week–and Lutheran High North student Tieryn Minor piloted the program during the 15/16 season. Videographer Nicola Muscroft spent some time with them this spring and produced this video.


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In March St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra cellist Julie Holzen wrote a Playbill article about her experience as a musical mentor to Tieryn Minor, a freshman at Lutheran North High School and a member of an IN UNISON Church.  Holzen and Minor practiced together. Holzen shared her knowledge, experience and enthusiasm. Minor took the stage with the YO in rehearsals and performed on the February On Stage at Powell Concert. You can read Julie’s article here, which gives her insights into the first year pilot of the YO’s Mentoring the Music: Peer-to-Peer program.

Left to right: Tieryn Minor, Melissa Brooks and Julie Holzen
Left to right: Tieryn Minor, Melissa Brooks and Julie Holzen

Julie is going on to her first semester at Oberlin this fall. She, Tieryn, and STL Symphony Associate Principal Cello Melissa Brooks got together for some work in the Powell Hall Green Room the other day. Afterward, Melissa was effusive about the program and about Tieryn’s music-making. Tieryn’s eager for her next YO Peer-to-Peer Mentor in the coming season.

You get people who care about people and who care about music, put them together, you find stories to live on.

Night at the Symphony

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If you didn’t catch the July 11 Night at the Symphony program on TV, which featured the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra’s March 2016 concert, or even if you did, you can watch it anytime on the Nine Network/KETC website. From the rapturous strains of Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Overture, you’ll be hooked. Click.

St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra
St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra

Music Mentors

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Members of the St. Louis Symphony often build close connections with members of the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra. Many of the musicians of the grownup orchestra teach YO musicians privately. And as part of the YO’s Beyond Rehearsal program, STL Symphony musicians come to Powell on Saturday afternoons to coach the YO in sectionals a number of times each year. YO auditions for the 16/17 season are coming to a close, and it is these kinds of learning experiences that make student musicians work so hard to get into the program. Video intern Nicola Muscroft spent some time with mentors and mentees and caught their interactions and their enthusiasms last spring.


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On Friday you participated in one of the most fantastic concert experiences in your life. The next Wednesday, you audition for the opportunity to do it again.

Sign on the Delmar door on Wednesday.
Sign on the Delmar door on Wednesday.

The St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra is made up of musicians from ages 12-22. Nobody gets tenure. Nobody’s chair is reserved. If you want to stay in the YO, each year you need to audition. A blind audition, just like the grownup orchestra. Each season musicians leave the YO and go on to the next exciting thing. Each season musicians earn the privilege to remain. Each season new musicians win their seats. Heading into its 47th season with new music director Gemma New, the YO is ever-changing with fresh talented players and mature-beyond-their-years veterans. A perfect mix for a winning team every year.

Last Looks

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Here are a few more pictures from the final St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra concert of the season, Friday, June 3.

loungeThe YO musicians made the St. Louis Symphony musicians’ lounge their own, relaxing, chatting, eating cake and taking selfies before the show.

locker roomYO musicians filled the locker room as well. You wouldn’t think they were about to play Beethoven’s Fifth in a few minutes.

playing cardsWhether it’s the Youth Orchestra or the STL Symphony, the eternal card game goes on.

signed photoThe musicians individually signed a YO portrait for their departing music director, Steven Jarvi.

stageA top row view of the YO on stage at Powell Hall.

postconcert lobbyThe lobby filled with family and friends to greet the musicians after the concert.