2017 String Camp

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For the second year in a row, I took the kids to String Camp in Knoxville. The youth symphony has four levels of orchestras during camp time and it is a wonderful time for the kids to grow, learn, and have fun while making friends and enjoying themselves.

Boy and girl at String Camp

My kids on day 2 of camp

This year, they were in two separate orchestras, as opposed to last summer, when they were both in the beginning orchestra. My son has gone to the next level, called Overture, while my daughter is still in the beginning orchestra, called Prelude. She has only studied violin for two years now and will need another year before she could go to the next level.  Continue reading »

Her orchestra learned two songs and my son’s orchestra learned four songs. Here’s a YouTube link to the Overture concert and here’s another link to the Prelude orchestra. At the end, all orchestras came together for Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto no. 3 – a camp tradition.

String Camp is this magical time of the year, when we drive to Knoxville early in the morning, rehearse, do a workshop, then drive back. After lunch, I let them play and do whatever they want, but they still have to practice one hour before dinner.

We listen to the recordings during meals so they get used to the new music faster. It is so strange to know nothing about this music the week before, only to fall in love with it in seven short days.

It is a week of exponential growth for the kids. They also have fun because of the workshops which include some stretches and light physical activity, music theory, and sight reading. Then, there are the snacks. On Friday, they have a pizza lunch and a movie right before the concert. Since we don’t watch a full movie at one time at home, this is a special treat for them. This year, they watched “Happy Feet 2.”

We already look forward to next year’s camp. Until then, we will be preparing to audition for the 2017-2018 youth orchestra season, which starts in September.


Youth Symphony Winter Concert

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The Knoxville Symphony Youth Orchestras held their Winter Concert on February 13, 2017 at the Tennessee Theater in downtown Knoxville, as usual. My son’s orchestra, Preludium, played first. Their two pieces were March of the Meistersingers by Richard Wagner and Eine Kleine Nachtsmusik by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Boy walks with his violin at Tennessee Theater

Our son after playing with his orchestra

The other three orchestras – Philharmonia, Sinfonia and the Youth Chamber – also played that night. The top youth symphony orchestra played on the following Monday, on February 20, along with the Concerto Competition winners. We live one hour away from Knoxville so we excused ourselves from attending the concert on the 20th. The kids love classical music but they get bored by sitting in the audience for more than 45 minutes and these concerts last for at least one hour.  Continue reading »

I did not want to drive for two hours both ways only to sit in the audience and shush them down every two minutes. I know they need the opportunity to practice sitting down and being quiet, but I think we do pretty well by attending our regular concerts when one of them is on stage or the professional concerts for children by the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra plus church events. One must draw the line somewhere, otherwise we would be all over the place.

So on the 13th, when our son was on stage, we had a lot of fun taking in the sights and sounds at the Tennessee Theater again. For me, there is no greater joy than to see my children make music. I am proud of their other achievements but there is something about music. I wish I had gone further in my own music efforts as a child and so I naturally want my children to go further than I did. It’s the classic syndrome of a parent’s unfulfilled dreams which get passed onto the children.

My children enjoy music and they hum while they play throughout the day. They even hum while doing their math. Do they complain about having to practice daily? Sure. But they are slowly learning that quitting is not an option and skipping practice is not an option either. If they had to choose, they would probably stick with piano and ditch violin, but I will not give them an out. We have invested too much in this endeavor – it would be a waste.

Therefore, we press on, and participating in orchestra actually helps them enjoy violin more. They get to be with other children and receive that gentle peer pressure from having to keep up with their stand partners. They belong to a group who plays string instruments and I think it helps them stay motivated to practice. By building skills, they build confidence and enjoyment ensues. We look forward to receiving their new music for the spring concert, which will be in May.


Orchestra Portraits

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The night of the Gatlinburg wildfires, my children and I were in Knoxville for their last orchestra practice of the year. That was the night we picked up their orchestra portraits and some merchandise we had ordered: a car magnet for me, which says “Knoxville Symphony Youth Orchestras;” two mascot lamas, and sweatshirts with the orchestra logo and roster.

Girl with violin

With everything going on since the fire, I have barely had time to enjoy these things or to blog about them. A life-changing event like a national disaster sure puts things into perspective. Nevertheless, as things begin to align toward a new normal, we have time and energy to feel the pride of having joined the youth orchestras this year. Continue reading »

I first heard about the Knoxville Symphony Youth Orchestra in 2006, before I became a mom. I met one of the homeschooling families from Sevierville and all their children played the violin in the orchestra. Something came alive inside of me. I made a mental note of it and thought what a great opportunity to experience and learn music this would be for any child.

Boy with violin

A decade later, I am a proud orchestra mom and have a car magnet to show it. I don’t know how you feel about car magnets proclaiming different things like “My son is in the Navy” or “My child is an honor student at Whatever School.”

Personally, I think car magnets encourage others to go for excellence, to attain higher standards, and to perform on TV instead of sitting on the couch watching others perform. I did not purchase my car magnet to brag. I want to inform others about the Knoxville Symphony Youth Orchestras and to inspire parents and children to look into classical music.


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.


String Camp

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My children attended String Camp for the first time this year. Organized by the Knoxville Symphony Youth Orchestras, this five-day camp happened at Hardin Valley Academy in Knoxville. About 256 string players showed up and they were organized in five orchestras according to their skills and experience.

KSYO String Camp

On the last day of camp, they wore “concert attire” – as you can see, very relaxed atmosphere.

Since my children had no orchestra experience, they were placed in the entry-level orchestra called Prelude. Erin Archer is the conductor of Preludium, the equivalent of this entry-level for the regular youth orchestra, and so she directed Prelude during String Camp. They played Over the Rainbow and the main theme from Pirates of the Caribbean. The theme of the camp was “That’s Entertainment!” and so all the repertoire was from movies and musicals. Continue reading »

This string camp is highly recommended for players who want to audition for youth orchestras at the end of August. I did not think I would want to start driving weekly to Knoxville again, but we signed up for the camp for a fun and educational summer activity. I also thought this would help the kids with their morale. They have been a little down about their violin experience and have been telling me how much more they enjoy the piano.

Boy and girl with music T-shirts

Wednesday is music T-shirt day. It was fun shopping for these shirts for them.

I figured a bit of ensemble playing and seeing other kids their age play would help. What do you know? It did. Not only do they want to audition for and hopefully join the orchestra in the fall, my son actually got inspired to appreciate the sound of cellos. On the last day of camp, he came to me and said, “I think I would like to learn how to play the cello.” I told him I was not opposed to it and we can talk to several people in Knoxville about finding the right teacher and instrument.

KSYO string camp costume day

Thursday is costume day. So I took Princess Elsa and Master Ninja to String Camp that day.

The string camp consists of two hours, Monday-Thursday: rehearsals, activities, snacks, music appreciation, workshops. On Friday, they stay there from 9am through 3:45pm. After rehearsals and team-building exercises, they get a pizza lunch and a movie (a musical). Then, it’s time for tuning and for joining all the other orchestra levels to rehearse Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 – a camp tradition. The little kids just play open string G half notes if they get lost in that piece. Nobody is worried about it. The bigger kids usually carry the melody as first violins.

At 2:30pm, the concert begins. It is such a glorious celebration of music and children. We parents of course are busy filming and blinking back tears of pride and joy. String Camp was a great experience for us and I highly recommend it. If you live near a city with an orchestra, you might want to inquire if they offer youth symphony opportunities.

Here’s hoping that my children will get into KSYO this Fall!