Three conductors. Two premières. Eighty-seven incredible young artists. One unforgettable performance.
On the afternoon of Saturday, April 29, Roy Thomson Hall was abuzz with anticipation—both in the front of the house and behind the scenes—as the members of the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra (TSYO) prepared to take the stage for their 49th Season Finale concert. The culmination of a season is always an electric event, but there was something particularly charged about this performance thanks to the confluence of many extraordinary factors.
The ambitious program included a combination of classics—by Rachmaninoff (Symphonic Dances), Rossini (Introduction, Theme, and Variations for Clarinet and Orchestra), and Prokofiev (Violin Concerto No. 1)—and engaging new works by Anna Clyne (Masquerade) and Samuel Kerr (Fast Vibe in a Short Machine). Notably, the contemporary pieces were both premières—Canadian and World, respectively.
Kerr, who is a TSYO alumnus, led the youth orchestra in their performance of his own piece, making him one of three conductors to take the podium throughout the concert. Helming the opening and closing works (by Clyne and Rachmaninoff) was marvellous TSYO Conductor Simon Rivard, and Trevor Wilson, the TSO’s RBC Resident Conductor, took up the baton for the two concerti.
Filling out this TSYO family affair were the wonderful soloists featured in the concerti, former TSYO Clarinet Eugene Jung and current TSYO Violin Ian Ye, both of whom were TSYO 2021/22 Concerto Competition winners.
And they certainly weren’t the only winners present—five additional musicians received awards at the conclusion of the concert: TSYO Awards, which are merit based, granted at the discretion of the TSYO Conductor, coaching staff, and management, and funded by generous donors, were given to TSYO Viola Lucas Chen (supported by the Marvin Gelber Foundation), TSYO Violins Tina Sievers (supported by Alice and Irving Shulman) and Junia Friesen (supported by the Toronto Symphony Volunteer Committee), and TSYO Tuba Umberto Quattrociocchi (supported by Sylvia McPhee). And the winner of the Stingray Rising Stars Award, designed to help a TSYO member advance their career, was TSYO Violin Joelle Crigger.
The event capped a year filled with enriching experiences, both musical and social, for all members of the youth orchestra. In addition to the TSYO’s outstanding Fall and Winter concerts at North York’s George Weston Recital Hall, highlights of their season included the following:
- A Camp Weekend comprising intensive rehearsals, workshops, and team-building and leadership activities
- The TSYO Concerto Competition (won by TSYO Flute Yelin Youn and TSYO Bassoon Cian Bryson, who will be featured as soloists in the 2023/24 TSO and TSYO season)
- Four side-by-side performances with the TSO—playing selections from Manuel de Falla’s El amor brujo, conducted by TSO Music Director Gustavo Gimeno
- Master classes with internationally celebrated cellists Sheku Kanneh-Mason and Jean-Guihen Queyras, TSO guest artists
- A live-streamed performance as part of MusicFest Canada—North America’s largest annual event dedicated to developing young musical talent
“The TSYO has such a positive influence on my musical life,” said first-year member Friesen in remarks delivered at the performance. “It gives me opportunities I wouldn’t otherwise have and connects me with other musicians my age…. To get this level of training while I’m still in high school is amazing.”
Added her fellow freshman, TSYO Trombone Ethan Whitlow, “This experience has not only challenged me as a musician but has also given me a sense of purpose and belonging. I am proud to be a part of an organization that values artistic excellence, community engagement, and a passion for music.”
What added yet another dimension of expectancy to the 49th Season Finale was the awareness by all present that they were standing at the threshold of a truly significant milestone—the TSYO’s 50th year in 2023/24. TSO CEO Mark Williams alluded to this in his welcome remarks, and, in his program-book message, he touches on the vital importance of the TSYO: “The Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s role in fostering the next generation is a point of tremendous pride for us,” he writes, “and it’s something we’ve always prioritized. The TSYO isn’t an adjunct entity but rather a critical component of the TSO—part of the history and fabric of this institution.”
Please join us for the TSYO’s historic 2023/24 season and golden-anniversary year!