My Children Got Into Youth Orchestra

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Last Sunday, we took our children to West Valley Middle School in Knoxville, where the Knoxville Symphony held auditions for their youth orchestra. They have six ensembles and our kids auditioned for the entry level orchestra called Preludium.

Boy and girl at Pearl Harbor Exhibit

Our children at the Pearl Harbor Exhibit inside Ripley’s Aquarium

By Wednesday, I was getting really anxious to hear the results, even though their violin teacher, who is a concert master in Canada, assured me they would get accepted. The question was, also, how they would be placed, as they are two years apart in skills. I knew that KSYO might start another ensemble, for children whose skills are not yet at Preludium level, but nothing was certain.  Continue reading »

Knoxville is a small city, but somehow there are a lot of children playing violin here. I don’t really know the history behind this movement, but it plays right into my own love for the instrument and my desire to have my children exposed to different opportunities.

We were impressed with the auditioning process. After we signed in at a table marked Step 1, we filled out a form for each child at Step 2 – a different table inside this long hall. Then they told us to go into this large classroom and wait until an attendant came to get each of the children at the right time. Our children’s audition times were five minutes apart, so once they got one, they got the other in just a few brief moments.

We arrived more than 30 minutes before their appointed time, so if we waited some it was because of our own precaution. However, we used that time wisely by having them warm up in an adjacent room. I stepped into a filing closet – literally – with each of them and had them do their scale and piece.

The third part of the audition was a sight reading exercise and that was the unknown. It was scary because it counted for 40% of their grade – quite a bit and just as much as the prepared piece. The remaining 20% was the scale.

My daughter played G Major scale two octaves and Etude by Suzuki. My son played G Minor Melodic scale and Gavotte by Martini. His piece was two pages long, so they actually stopped him mid-way and did not let him finish. On the Suzuki CD, this piece takes almost 2 1/2 minutes, so I understand they did not want to hear him play the whole thing. They went through 370+ children in four days!

Our violin teacher also told us judging panels know everything there is to know about a player in about 30 seconds. So we knew they got all the information they needed to analyze our son in half of Gavotte plus his scale.

He got into Preludium and our daughter got into Overture, which is the newly formed ensemble for “the babies” – six-year-olds who can play, but not at Preludium level. Can you imagine the cuteness overload when that group takes the stage?

Well, they are in. Now the fun begins. Driving to Knoxville for rehearsals and concerts, working hard every day with new repertoire, and watching them make new friends. It will be an adventure for sure.


Auditioning for KSYO

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Today was the day we had been looking forward to since the end of June. It was at the end of June my children attended String Camp in Knoxville, with the Knoxville Symphony Youth Orchestra. When we started camp, I did not think we would be interested in joining simply because of the drive.

Boy and girl with violins

Before the second day of String Camp last summer

But by the end of the week, we were hooked. My children were having fun in orchestra and even though I was exhausted I knew it would all be worth it. Plus, I was enjoying seeing they finally had some positive feelings about the violin. Making friends who also like violin helped a lot, I think.  Continue reading »

We signed up for the audition during Camp, but anybody can do it online on the KSYO auditions page. Auditions are held at West Valley Middle School in Knoxville, which is also where they have rehearsals throughout the year.

We had to arrive there 30 minutes prior to their audition times, to get signed in, warmed up, and have the instruments tuned up. There is a large room where parents and children wait, with several smaller rooms nearby where one can warm up a bit.

An attendant comes by to tune up the violins and to check on us regularly. Everything happened very smoothly. At the right time, the time we received for our children, somebody came and took them to the room where the judging panel was.

My son went first. When he came back, he told us all about it. He said he did fine and because his song was really long they actually did not even let him finish it. The sight reading part was one line and he called it “easy.”

It helped him to see Erin Archer among the five judges, because she was his conductor during the summer String Camp. He was happy and relieved it was over. He told us he had definitely been nervous.

Our daughter’s turn came and she disappeared for five minutes. When she came back, she was all smiles and relieved. She gave me a lot of details about it but then I had to ask some other questions. It turns out that she could not do the sight reading exercise.

Well, even if she does not get in, it will all be worth it. It’s an experience she can build on and now she knows what to expect. But it’s not over till it’s over. We will get the results by next Friday and I will keep you posted.