Young Music Scholars Shine at December Recital

MYAC Young Music Scholars program
Young Music Scholar MyKenzie Moton with her parents, violin teacher Danielle Taylor, and student mentor Kimie Han
Our Young Music Scholars had the chance to shine before family and friends in their own semester-end recital on December 11 at the MYAC Center. Young musicians from 3rd through 12th grade performed solo repertoire ranging from Bach to Kuchler, pieces they have worked on this semester during weekly lessons with their master teacher and their student mentor.

MYAC’s Young Music Scholars (YMS) program provides economically disadvantaged students with tuition-free private lessons and appropriate-level ensemble participation. School music teachers, mostly from Waukegan public schools, refer students to the program who demonstrate a passion for music but who lack financial resources for music education.

YMS cello instructor Martin Nocedal explained the importance of recitals for these students: “The teachers all have really high expectations for our YMS students, and it’s important to get them in the habit of regular solo performance. Solo performance can be pretty daunting, especially when you’re a young student, and the only way to get better at it is through practice and through repetition.”

YMS recitals also serve an important community building element. Extended family members come together to hear their students and others who they’ve seen grow through the program. Nocedal states, “It means a lot to the families to be all there together listening to the students. These families are heavily invested in their student’s growth, but they care almost as much about how the other students are doing. For some of them, it’s been six/seven years they’ve been hearing them play, so it really is like a family. And these recitals feel like family reunions.”

YMS recitals are equally rewarding for the YMS teachers, a time when they can see their students’ dedication pay off. Nocedal reflects, “I have found that the students in the YMS program are some of the hardest working players that I’ve ever worked with. They are not there because their parents are forcing them to be there, they are there because they love playing their instrument and this is something they really enjoy doing. They have such a great outlook and such a great attitude, that I look forward to working with them every week.”

The YMS program is funded entirely through donations, and we are eternally grateful for this support.

Hot Jazz in January

MYAC Jazz in January 2019

Each winter, MYAC jazz students have the extraordinary opportunity to learn from and perform for a notable guest artist during our weekend-long “Jazz in January” event, and this year was no exception as we warmly welcomed acclaimed trombonist, composer, arranger, and educator Francisco Torres for a masterclass and performances with students.

Francisco hails originally from Hermosillo, Sonora in Mexico, and now makes his home on the West Coast. His varied and extensive resume includes soundtrack credits on major animated films such as “Coco” and “The Incredibles”, as well as a host of TV and commercial work. He performs live as musical director for the legendary Poncho Sanchez, is a member of Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band, John Beasley’s Monkestra, and the Clare Fischer Big Band.  He’s a Yamaha recording artist with credits on albums with top artists such as Bob Dylan, Ricky Martin, Dr. Dre, Michael Buble, Frank Ocean, Pitbull, All American Rejects, Spoon, Angelique Kidjo, Ry Cooder, Brian Setzer, and Los Lobos, among others.

Though you might not know by reading his impressive bio, Francisco began his musical studies at age 15, an age that’s sometimes considered late. However, he quickly made a name for himself in various musical genres from classical to jazz to rock and pop. During the masterclass he led at MYAC, students listened closely as he recounted his journey from a teen, who just happened upon a jazz band rehearsal one day, to today. He emphasized his belief that modern musicians must be open to a diverse career path, as the music industry continues to change and develop.

Despite an unexpected snowstorm that dropped roughly 8 inches of snow on the Fort Sheridan area, the fireplaces were ablaze at the MYAC Center on January 19th and 20th as Francisco led the MYAC jazz students in individual workshops, offering his valuable guidance and instruction.

To conclude the masterclass, younger Jazz Ensemble and older Big Band and Jazz Orchestra students gathered with Francisco and MYAC Jazz Director, Neil Carson, in an exciting jam session that emphasized improvisational skills, theory, harmony, rhythm, and performance tips. The multi-age nature of the group allowed the older students to provide informal mentoring to the less experienced students.

The following afternoon on Sunday, Francisco and MYAC’s Big Band and Jazz Orchestra finished the weekend with a concert in the MYAC North Hall to the delight of a full audience of parents, friends, and community members.

This wonderful Jazz in January weekend could only be possible with the generous assistance of our community of supporters. Through this, MYAC can offer these unique opportunities to young people interested in exploring this rich American art form, in a setting where they learn from both one another and working professionals with expert instruction and unmatched performances they might not receive in a standard music program.

As Jazz Director Neil Carson explains, “Jazz in January continues to be one of the highlights of the MYAC Jazz season. Our ensembles have a chance to stretch out on new, challenging repertoire, and work closely with Francisco, whose extensive background...having worked in countless genres, offers something for all of our students, as well as our faculty.”
(photo credit: Melissa De Guzman)

Student Excellence Celebrated at Walgreens Concerto Competition

Ezra Burca, viola, MYAC Symphony Orchestra

261 students from across the U.S. competed for top prizes and scholarships at MYAC’s 22nd Annual Walgreens National Concerto Competition at Ravinia’s Bennett Gordon Hall and the MYAC Center from December 27-29.

Awards in the categories of Strings, Piano, Other Instruments, Voice, and Early Music were presented to students in both MYAC and Open divisions and at Junior and Senior levels. Numerous students earned top honors and notable recognition from judges.

Professors from Lawrence University Conservatory of Music, Butler University, Carthage College, and Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester, musicians from New York City based ensembles and major orchestras, and respected pedagogues in music education provided their assessment and feedback to the entrants via written comments. All students, regardless of their competition result, received these valuable responses and a professionally recorded video of their performance.

Generous sponsorship from Walgreens continues to make this annual competition a high quality experience for young musicians. The large number of entries received this year attests to the nurturing environment MYAC offers young soloists as host.

Whether it’s their first time or their tenth time performing, a young student must learn the task of sharing a unique musical story with the listener. It takes a special type of discipline and hard work to take the stage before professional musician-educators and perform in a solo competition.

Many former Walgreens winners have gone on to study at top conservatories and universities and can be found in major orchestras, while others have gone on to excel in other professions like business, medicine, education, and science.

Experiences like this help shape young people into the responsible and high-achieving young adults they’ll later become. MYAC is proud to host the Walgreens National Concerto Competition, and we’re grateful for the support of Walgreens and the numerous donors, volunteers, parents, and staff that make this end of year event a success. We welcome our supporters to watch the videos of our MYAC Division winners HERE.

(photo credit: Melissa De Guzman)