Youth orchestra’s new season promises innovation, growth
The sweet sound of Mozart echoed through a ballroom at the Spokane Masonic Center recently, as members of the Spokane Youth Symphony Orchestra prepared for their first concert of the season.
Dozens of young musicians concentrated on the score while keeping watchful eyes on the swaying baton of their new artistic director, Julian Gomez-Giraldo.
“Our 2011-2012 season is ‘Happily Ever After,’ and this literary bent will set this season apart from all of our other ones,” said Executive Director David Hollingshead. “Three theatrical elements will be employed to make this concert unique: orchestral music, costumed kids, and an original short story.”
The 62nd season of Spokane Youth Symphony marks big changes. When Verne Windham announced his retirement after 15 years as artistic director, the hiring committee sifted through more than 40 applications from around the world before selecting Gomez-Giraldo.
“The season’s title was born of Verne’s departure,” Hollingshead said. “We wanted to convey that all’s well with our youth symphony after Verne’s story with us ended.”
With 198 children enrolled and four orchestras, Spokane Youth Symphony continues to thrive. And Gomez-Giraldo, director of orchestras at Eastern Washington University and director of the Spokane Symphony Chorale, hopes to expand on the organization’s reputation for musical excellence.
“I have always loved to work with children and youth, and I know the tremendous potential of music as a tool for educating and transforming lives,” said Gomez-Giraldo. “Making music, any kind of music, is a reason to be happy. I enjoy very much the freshness and innocence of how the kids perceive music and life.”
That freshness prompted him to add a new element to the symphony’s season. He initiated a writing contest, soliciting stories from area authors.
The result? A dramatic reading of “The Scarf Has Wings,” written by Deborah Rae DuPey and Claire Rudolf Murphy, has been incorporated into Sunday’s concert, “The Story Begins.”
When Rudolf Murphy heard that one of the contest categories was stories from around the world, she was intrigued. “I’ve been writing children’s books for 25 years – I just had my 15th one out,” she said. “But I’ve never written anything international, and that’s always been a goal.”
She’d met DuPey at a scarf party. DuPey owns Corazon Scarves, a fair-trade business that sells scarves made by women throughout the world who are overcoming the effects of violence and oppression.
“Claire’s idea was about how girls use scarves around the world,” DuPey said. “She asked me to collaborate with her.”
And so “The Scarf Has Wings” was born. Eight girls representing eight countries will tell the story of a traveling scarf that appears in their lives, touching them in different ways.
The girls, dressed in ethnic costumes, will read their parts, written in letter format, and the music that accompanies them will reflect a region of the world.
Gomez-Giraldo, originally from Colombia, said, “It is a story of fraternity, hope and sense of being together as a human race, where things that connect us are more important than our differences.”
Hollingshead said Spokane Youth Symphony is partnering with Corazon Scarves in a joint fundraiser to garner support for the symphony and for women artists in Guatemala. “Our youth symphony is reaching out to educate, entertain and support a worthy cause, while giving our kids an orchestral education with a world view.”
Gomez-Giraldo agreed. “If we can touch even a single soul with the power of music, we are making a tremendous difference in the world.”