Emory Report
March 6, 2006
Volume 58, Number 22


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March 6 , 2006
Youth symphony a boon for local high school musicians

BY Nancy Condon

Exhilarating.” That’s how Scott Stewart, director of wind studies, describes his work and travel with the Emory-based Atlanta Youth Wind Symphony (AYWS), an honor ensemble of select high school wind and percussion instrumentalists.

Founded in 1988, AYWS shows off its talents with guest soloists, groups, composers and conductors. Since
Stewart came to Emory in 1999, the ensemble has grown from 60 to 80 students and added tours to its four regular concerts on campus. “Planning and implementing travel for that many teenagers,” Stewart said with a laugh, “is not for the faint of heart.”

With three free performances this month, AYWS is expanding its reach. On March 12 (2 p.m., Schwartz Center), the group will perform with the Greater Dallas Youth Orchestra Wind Symphony in a program that includes works by Bach, Ticheli, Shostakovich and more.
“This concert is the first for which we have invited one of our counterparts,” Stewart said. “We’re taking them to the Georgia Aquarium, rehearsing, and having them stay with AYWS members.

“Next year, we’ll travel to Dallas,” he said. “We hope to continue this tradition with other youth wind bands.”
Later in the month, AYWS will do an in-state exchange with the Columbus State University wind band. “[It’s] an opportunity for our students to hear some of the great college groups in Atlanta and to invite them to play in the Schwartz,” Stewart said. The two groups’ March 20 concert (8 p.m., Schwartz Center) features works by Derek Bourgeois, Robert Russell Bennett, Malcolm Arnold and David Holsinger, as well as a Japanese folk song, “Sakura, Sakura.”

Becoming an AYWS member, Stewart said, is tough. As many as 350 high schoolers audition for 80 seats. But for those who make it, a new world opens up.

“We’ve been fortunate in the past couple of years to have stunning opportunities for national exposure, including appearing on Public Radio International’s ‘From the Top’ and performing at Carnegie Hall, at the Midwest Clinic in Chicago, and for the Georgia Music Educators Association convention in Savannah,” Stewart said. “Our June 2005 Carnegie Hall performance was scintillating and capped off a week of unforgettable cultural and social experiences in New York.”

Oboist Jessica Richards, a student at Alpharetta’s Milton High School, is grateful for her experience. “The AYWS is a tremendous concentration of musical talent,” Richards said. “I have grown musically and personally. Dr. Stewart is a brilliant director who, while continuing to seek growth and new experiences for AYWS, always has a smile for rehearsal and a free moment for any student. I hope every musician in AYWS experiences the inspiration I have found.”

Many AYWS members go on to attend The Juilliard School, Eastman School of Music and other notable schools—including the one their conductor calls home.

“In any given year, there are five to 10 AYWS applicants to Emory, and usually three matriculate,” Stewart said.

Stewart runs the AYWS with some assistance from a student manager and parent volunteers. Planning rehearsals and concerts, hiring guest artists, doing library research and other prep work all are part of his weekly routine (in addition to teaching courses in conducting, wind band literature and film music, directing the Emory Wind Ensemble, giving clinics, and the typical faculty committee work). What he hopes AYWS students carry away with them is a sense that they don’t need to major in music to be lifelong music performers and supporters of the arts.

“Physicians, attorneys, teachers—everyone needs high-quality music in their lives,” he said. “[I tell the students:] Keep playing and singing, join a community group, attend concerts and donate to arts organizations.”

For more information on AYWS or other Schwartz Center concerts, call 404-727-5050 or visit www.arts.emory.edu.www.arts.emory.edu