Students from CAPA, Bethel Park to embark on tour with National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America
Two Pittsburgh-area musicians will join an all-student orchestra being organized by New York City's famed Carnegie Hall for its inaugural season, touring Washington, London, Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Ahmer'e Blackman, a senior bass player at the Pittsburgh School for Creative and Performing Arts, Downtown, known as CAPA, and Mark Debski, a senior oboe player at Bethel Park High School, were told this month that they are among 120 musicians nationwide chosen for the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America.
Both students were sitting at computers in their respective classes earlier this month, nervously checking their emails for a response to the 10-minute audition tapes and application packets they'd spent months to complete.
“I was supposed to be working on a paper, but I was so nervous I just kept checking my email,” said Debski, 18. “When I saw (the acceptance email) I said, ‘I got in!' and of course nobody else knew what I was so excited about.”
“I got the email in the middle of class. ... It looked like just a bunch of words, and I was just trying to find the words, ‘you've been accepted,' ” said Blackman, 17, who grew up in Highland Park and now lives in Wilmerding.
In June, they will attend two weeks of rehearsals with some of the best professional musicians from orchestras around the country. The sessions will be at Purchase College, part of the State University of New York in Westchester County.
They'll play under Russian conductor Valery Gergiev, principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, and be accompanied by violinist Joshua Bell, a Grammy Award winner, in performances at Purchase and then at the Kennedy Center in Washington.
They will finish with an international tour with stops in Moscow, St. Petersburg and London that will be formally announced later this year.
“There are national youth orchestras in many, many countries, but we've never had one here,” said Douglas Beck, director of artist training programs at Carnegie Hall's Weill Music Institute. “The tour is an opportunity for these kids to be ambassadors for their country and for their hometowns.”
About 2,500 students from around the country filled out written applications, and 1,000 sent in their audition videos, Beck said. The final group represents the best of 42 states, he said.
Trying out for the NYO took plenty of work for each, with essays and 10 minutes of videotaped performance. Blackman said he spent a year reviewing the pieces for the audition, and he played for more than two hours on-camera before he got 10 minutes he was sure were perfect.
For the past three years, both have been members of the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra, whose leaders convinced many of the 95 members to try out for the national group.
Blackman started playing piano in the first grade, then the bass in third grade, he said. Three years ago, he picked up the cello.
“What a lot of younger students don't understand is that the hours and hours of practice really are what pay off,” Blackman said. “It feels pretty good to get in, but it makes me wonder what I did any better than everyone else. ... I'd just encourage them to try again next year.”
Debski said he started playing music in the fourth grade, briefly practicing the clarinet before switching to oboe.
“I'm just overjoyed to have this opportunity to make beautiful music with very talented people,” Debski said.
Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or email@example.com.
Add Matthew Santoni to your Google+ circles.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Watershed group coordinating efforts to meet Saw Mill Run deadline
- Flag-collection effort gains steam around Pittsburgh area
- Borough takes the reins of Dormont Day
- Bellevue to repair library, add play equipment to park
- Groveton VFD receives outpouring of support after station fire
- Upper St. Clair baseball field to be repaired after mine subsidence