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Best of SNO

The best stories being published on the SNO Sites network

Best of SNO

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Not your simple symphony

Used with permission from Zoe Schnadower
The Philharmonic Orchestra will be performing a concert conducted by Daniel Wiley in which they will perform “Scheherazade” and “Childhood Memories” at Music Hall on Dec. 3 and the Concert Orchestra will be performing a selection of pieces including “Star Wars” and “The Planets” at the Corbett Auditorium at CCM (University of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of Music) on Dec. 10.

As the room goes silent, Zoe Schnadower, ‘25, can only hear own breath. She is about to play the Romeo and Juliet Overture, one of the biggest moments of her life thus far. Schnadower was given this opportunity because she is a member of CYSO (Cincinnati Symphony Youth Orchestra).

CYSO, founded in 1964, is one of the many musical programs offered to students throughout their high school education that is not only useful to have on a college application, but also crucial in developing passions.

Students in grades 8-12 who are members of their school’s band or orchestra program are invited to audition for the CYSO. The orchestra consists of two separate orchestras, the Philharmonic Orchestra, which is led by the CSO (Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra) assistant conductors Samuel Lee and Daniel Wiley, and the Concert Orchestra, which is led by Felipe Morales-Torres.

“If you have the opportunity to go to one of the [CYSO] performances, it’s [on par with] a professional level,” Schnadower said. “It’s really impressive how all these people who are in ninth or tenth grade, teenagers, can bring [play] this professional music.”

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Schnadower, who has been a member of the CYSO for two years, was looking for an opportunity to play the English horn, as she played the oboe and clarinet for the WHHS Band.

“The English horn is a big thing in orchestra and so I was very excited to experience it. The sounds they make in orchestra are way different than anything in band and it’s amazing, I love it,” Schnadower said.

In addition to weekly rehearsals, a rigorous application process is also required before joining CSYO. Applicants are given the summer to prepare an audition piece, four excerpts and a large amount of scales, before going to Music Hall and performing a blind audition, meaning that they are performing behind a screen.

“It was very stressful because I didn’t know who I was playing for, so I didn’t know how to feel behind there [the screen],” Schnadower said. “I don’t know who’s asking these questions; it’s these random people. They only listen to your sound. They’re not looking at you; it’s wild. It’s very different from other things [auditions] I’ve experienced.”

The two orchestras of CYSO are composed of a combined 200 of the region’s most gifted young musicians.

“For me, I started out not really that good at the trombone, but then the audition really inspired me to get better, and practicing the music made me get so much better at it,” Ben Krietemeyer, ‘24 said. “The biggest advice I would give to other students is practice. Because I think that by practicing, I was able to outperform some people who are probably even better than me because I was just more prepared for it.”

Krietemeyer, who is in the Philharmonic Orchestra, the higher level, plays the tenor trombone for CYSO but plays the euphonium, a baby tuba, in the WHHS school band.

“[CSYO] definitely made me try to be more of an ensemble player on trombone. Earlier I was just playing on my own, now I’m trying to control my dynamic, be more in tune, and figure out where all those weird slide positions are that I didn’t really know previously,” Kreietmeyer said. “Just sort of try and be more of a player in a group than a player on my own.”

Members receive weekly emails with links to recordings and videos prior to rehearsals.

“The orchestra is run like a professional orchestra. So you’re expected to know your music before you get there. And it can be very stressful because a lot of the pieces are like 40 minutes long and you have to make sure you [have] everything down or you’re going screw up. This expectation that you have to know everything before you get there is very stressful,” Schnadower said.

“Last year, we played this piece called the “Romeo and Juliet Overture” and there’s a huge solo in it, and I played that solo. It was like the most amazing moment of my entire life. It was really cool and we played it side by side with the CSO, so we played it with professional musicians,” Schnadower said. (Used with permission from Zoe Schnadower)

Nevertheless, the benefits of joining CYSO are vast. Members of CYSO have the opportunity to enter the CYSO Concerto Competition, in which finalists perform as part of a chamber music series and winners perform with the CYSO or CSO at music hall.

“[CYSO] helped me improve a lot in music because there’s certain things that I was struggling with before and now I’m a lot better,” Riya Tummala, ‘27 said. “CYSO will help me become a better musician, as I possibly want to be a professional musician one day.”

Tummala, who has been a member for one year, plays the flute and piccolo for CYSO but only plays the flute for the WHHS marching band.

“There’s a lot of talented people in it and it’s a really great experience for really challenging music and talented musicians,” Tummala said.

Members of CSYO are also given the opportunity to work directly with CSO musicians in specialized master classes, allowing students to work closely with professional musicians and receive advice on their work.

“I’ve gained a lot of musical musical talent from [CYSO], but I’ve also gotten a lot of my friends and core memories from it,” Schnadower said.

This story was originally published on The Chatterbox on November 15, 2023.