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Young Musicians Create 'Living Work of Art' in Concert

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Posted: Friday, August 9, 2013 12:00 am | Updated: 1:19 pm, Sat Feb 14, 2015.

“Let’s put a spotlight on these kids,” says Gören Berg, co-director of the Livermore-Amador Symphony Youth Orchestra. “They don’t know their powers themselves, yet they don’t have the older person’s self-inflicted limitations. They can do miracles; they stun themselves.”

On Saturday, August 10th at 8 p.m., all are invited to attend the free Youth Orchestra Concert featuring 80 local musicians ranging from 6th grade through college.

“When people think of a symphony, they think of an hour and a half of Beethoven’s or Mozart’s works. It’s hard even for adults to sit through that,” adds co-director Kathy Boster. “We’re giving the audience a variety of music, with no song longer than ten minutes. Even someone who’s not versed in classical music can come, learn something and not feel overwhelmed.”

The concert opens with Morton Gould’s 1942 American Salute, a rousing piece that captures the energy and buoyancy of the nation.

“It’s based on When Johnny Comes Marching Home, a Civil War tune,” says Boster, an East Avenue Middle School band, orchestra and choir teacher, as well as a member of the Livermore-Amador Symphony. “We ask the young musicians, ‘What do you think it’s about?’ We want them to learn about it, to see the bigger picture, not just to play the notes on the page.”

Berg, the owner and artistic director of Livermore’s Sycamore Strings Academy who holds degrees from the Royal Swedish Music Academy at Stockholm University and Southern Illinois University, says the young musicians particularly like Mozart Symphony No. 25. “The title sounds kind of boring, but if you open the lid and look at it, it’s a very vigorous, furious piece. It was written by a 17-year-old composer, the same age as these kids. It connects today’s teenagers with a teenager from the 1770s. It’s no mistake the kids love it because they get to play it with all their energy.”

The program also includes Johannes Brahms’ Academic Festival Overture, Edvard Grieg’s Prelude to the Holberg Suite, Giuseppe Verdi’s Triumphal March from Aida, Girolamo Frescobaldi’s Toccata, Josef Strauss’s Ohne Sorgen Polka, Richard Meyer’s Ghosts of Brandenburg, and Johann Strauss II’s Overture to Die Fledermaus (The Bat).

“You could call Fledermaus an old, mossy piece, but a teenage student told me the other day that he was fascinated by it and went on You Tube to hear more than just the overture,” says Berg. “He discovered the overture is a mish mash of all the tunes from the operetta. I like that approach. I told him, ‘Thank you for being interested!’ It’s one example of how students pick up on things.”

The musicians rehearsed eight Tuesday evenings over the summer, beginning June 18th. “We provide recordings of the exact music they’ll be performing, so we ask them to sit down and listen to it,” says Berg. “All of a sudden, 80 young people in this area are sitting down, listening to 55 minutes of music. It’s a cultural deed that spreads like ripples on the water.”

Adds Boster, “I’ve got a number of my students in the youth orchestra. It helps them awaken or develop their passion. They realize, ‘Hey, music is something I can have fun with, and it’s okay to be serious about it.’”

This will be the fifth annual summer concert for LASYO, an off-shoot of the Livermore-Amador Symphony which began in 1963. Participants primarily come from the Tri-Valley, yet the summer program attracts musicians from surrounding areas including Berkeley, Fremont and Tracy.

“Livermore is establishing a name for itself,” says Berg. “My favorite aspect of the program is the mix of ages and levels, which is only possible in the summer because during the school year students are attached to other programs. When school starts again, participants are ready to go; they can hit the ground running.”

The free concert will be held at the First Presbyterian Church, 2020 Fifth Street, Livermore.

“We want people to come see what the kids can do. The audience will be pleasantly surprised,” says Boster. “You hear a lot about how teenagers are involved in this, that and the other negative thing. However, here are kids in that same age bracket who are doing something wonderful and beautiful. They’re creating a living, breathing work of art.”

For more information, visit www.livamsymph.org.