Students push themselves further in Atlanta Youth Wind Symphony


     As sports and clubs begin to ramp up at Westminster, musicians in the Atlanta Youth Wind Symphony have been training for weeks to display their talents. The Atlanta Youth Wind Symphony is the leading opportunity for high school musicians to engage in a professional environment with other hard working musicians to play high level music music.

     Founded in 1988, the ensemble aims to provide a positive musical experience for advanced instrumentalists in wind and percussion each year.

     “Atlanta Youth Wind Symphony is an honor ensemble of select highschool wind and percussion students from the Atlanta Metropolitan Area,” said Scott Stewart, the music director and conductor of Atlanta Youth Wind Symphony. “Its purpose is to provide an advanced musical experience for its members. We aim to cultivate an appreciation for music in our musicians by providing them an environment to play high level music with other hard working and talented students.”

     Throughout the week of August 1, hundreds of high school brass, woodwind, and percussion musicians gathered from the Atlanta Metropolitan area and state to audition for a spot in the prestigious ensemble. After about 90 members are chosen, rehearsals start one week later.

     The honor ensemble rehearses once a week on Mondays evenings from 7:30 to 9:30p.m. While the rehearsal only lasts for two hours once a week, the youth work on mastering repertoire diligently. The high school musicians are expected to act and play professionally, and rehearsals are conducted in a professional fashion.

     “The first rehearsal is always a run through all of the pieces,” said junior Jonas Du. “The atmosphere is definitely tense during rehearsals like those, because everyone is trying to do their best to play all of the right notes and the right rhythms. Even though the environment can be tense, it’s fun because all of the people are supportive and we’re getting to learn new music together.”

     After reading new music, sections of instruments sometimes struggle with similar parts of the music. When this happens, the ensemble will split into sections to rehearse music in small groups.

     “Sectionals are great because we get to practice with other instruments in our section like other woodwinds so that we can all move and learn the music together,” said junior Benjamin Spinrad. “After sectionals, the ensemble reforms and rehearses the music that we went over in sectionals, and it usually helps the majority of the people in the section.

     AYWS is a high level symphony, and accordingly moves at a fast pace. Practice is a necessity for the students and is essential to learning the music well.

     “Usually for school band music I don’t have to practice, but for AYWS, I have to practice because the music is so challenging and technically demanding,” said Du. “I practice for about two to three hours a week specifically for the honor ensemble, it really provides a welcomed challenge that I don’t always get at school.”

     The repertoire of music that musicians play in AYWS is college to professional level. The band focuses on original wind band music, and most of that music comes from “The Classical Era” of wind band music. This era is commonly referred to as the English wind band movement of the 1920’s through the 1950’s. After 1952, when the first wind ensemble was officially created at the Eastman School of Music, a much broader category of wind band music emerged that’s what AYWS focuses on.

     AYWS focuses on contemporary collegiate and military pieces, although the group is far from limited to one style or time period from this genre. The first concert for AYWS will be a tribute to the English contributions to wind band music, and then later on in December the ensemble will be performing more choral music Jake Runestad. In the spring, musicals choices will vary further, when the group performs tuba and trombone concertos March.

     “In October, I’m excited to play English Folksong Suite by Ralph Vaughn Williams, in conjunction with his tuba concerto and Tim’s Journey,” said Du. “Next concert will be centered around more traditionally American Music and we’ll be playing two pieces called American Symphony and American Overture.”

     AYWS aims to educate its members about music and different styles and genres of music, providing its members a platform to improve their musicianship by surrounding them with an environment of hardworking individuals.

     “The ensemble has made me a better listener, a better teammate, and a better musician all around,” said senior Claire Chen. “AYWS is something really special that I look forward to every week; it’s two hours of forgetting all the stress of school and focusing solely on making music with some of the best musicians I know. It’s a community that’s really important to me.”

     “These kids love to be in this group, because it is so challenging and because it pushes them beyond what they’re used to seeing,” said Stewart. “All of the kids who are a part of the ensemble are up for the challenge. We hope that enthusiasm and energy goes back to their into their highschools and daily lives to keep a love of music present and inspire others to pursue music too.”