Seattle Youth Symphony continues the learning and the music—virtually

Posted on: February 23, 2021

“Last March the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra … was rehearsing for a spring concert,” writes journalist and former Seattle Youth Symphony board member Mike James on Saturday’s (2/20) (Seattle). “Kathleen Allen, SYSO’s executive director, remembers the rumbling backstage with news of the first Covid-19 death in the state…. That sudden quarantine meant no more live rehearsals or performances, no audience, a reduction in enrollment fees and a future unknown. Allen cut her staff of nine to seven, with four working part-time, cancelled the summer camp program, saw tuition earnings fall by two-thirds, and eventually cut SYSO’s overall budget from $2.1 million to $800,000. But the conversation within SYSO focused less on money than on how to re-engage students…. [SYSO Music Director Juan Felipe] Molano worked virtually with small groups via Zoom. But the real breakthrough came last summer with a week-long virtual teaching program replacing the usual summer camp. There was doubt at first—how can you take a full orchestral experience and put it online—but it worked … with virtual coaching, virtual rehearsals, later a full concert all with SYSO musicians performing in their own homes, connecting digitally.… SYSO … found a way to keep alive its most important task, the teaching and development of young musicians.”