“Participating in music has a profound impact on children and youth. When playing in an ensemble, students learn countless life skills, including the importance of showing up on time, responsibility, discipline, social skills, and the ability to view things out of the box,” shares David Torns, Associate Conductor of the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra.
As a part of the mission of the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra, the Louisiana Youth Orchestra (LYO) is beyond music lessons; it is a combination of four ensembles that provide orchestral training through weekly rehearsals.
As David Torns expresses, the LYO enhances students’ music abilities, but it also goes beyond playing an instrument. There are currently 150 students participating as members of the youth orchestra. With the help of conductors Jennifer Cassin and Chase Gillett, the LYO is able to provide music education at a very high artistic level. They focus on building trust, responsibility, and encouragement, while also holding the students to high artistic standards.
Some positions within the LYO are competitive, but not all. “Students are selected through an audition process beginning in late August,” says Torns. “Some positions in the high school ensemble are competitive, as an orchestra can only take so many of certain instruments.” However, the audition process is for placement within the correct ensemble to help each student achieve success. “We are not in the business of turning musicians away based on their inabilities, but rather giving them an opportunity to grow their skills,” continues Torns.
Local musician, Alexander Acosta played with the LYO for eight years. Having access to learning music, beyond school, had a huge impact on him. “Playing in a full orchestra is such an incredible experience. I think it is so important for young musicians to participate.” says Alexander.
Learning additional life skills is part of participation in the LYO. David Torns notes, “These students are creative, empathetic, and emotional people, and they are aware of their impact on society.” This is important because participation in the LYO is a true commitment. Practices are held at the LSU School of Music, and there are typically nine weeks of rehearsals in between each concert. While there is regular rehearsal time, Torns stresses, “Every musician has a responsibility to practice and learn their part to the best of their ability, so that when we all come together as a team, we can focus on making music together.”
The LYO also provides social opportunities. Local mom and Chair of the LYO Committee, Laura Acosta, shares, “Alex played in his school music program, but LYO provided the opportunity for Alex to play with young musicians outside of his school, which also enabled him to make new friends,”
The LYO has a positive impact on both students and their families. Laura adds, “Even though Alex is no longer an LYO musician, I continue to serve as the committee chair because I feel so strongly that the program is an important part of the young musicians scene of the Baton Rouge area.” ■