go back
November 9, 2021

Choosing the Music: Fun and Serious Work

By Evan Ross Solomon, Artistic Director


Each year, one of the most fun parts of my job is choosing repertoire for our ensembles. It is also a challenge: as Artistic Director, I must balance the pedagogical needs and desires of our students, the interests of our principal conductors, and the current trends in concert programming.


It’s a great joy and an honor to work with all of our conductors to choose music for our 10 ensembles. In particular, choosing music for the Youth Orchestra, our top ensemble, is a challenge. 


The orchestral repertoire is vast, so finding the right piece is like finding a needle in a haystack. Since we are coming back from the pandemic and the absence of our regular weekly rehearsals, we programmed two traditional works, the Schubert Unfinished Symphony, and the Karelia Suite by Sibelius. These works are geared to re-energize our group and reinforce the ensemble playing skills that may have been forgotten over the long layoff. 


This year, we are fortunate to have a very strong string section, so we also chose a rare but very charming piece by Swedish composer, Dag Wiren. His Serenade for Strings showcases our students and challenges them to play together as a section. 


We are especially excited to include two new works by contemporary composers of color—works that were commissioned by and for us through a partnership led by the National Orchestral Institutes K-12 educational commissioning project. 


At the winter concert, the Youth Orchestra will play a piece by Adrian B. Sims, a local composer whose work, Undiscovered Pathway, is an atmospheric work for string orchestra. It starts with a very transparent and serene, slow opening section where the different sounds of the instruments slowly emerge and coalesce. It builds and builds to a climactic moment followed by a fast, exciting ending to round out the piece. It has a cinematic vibe to it, and makes great use of the colors of the instruments. 


The ensemble will later play a work by Kerwin Young, iconic hip-hop producer and member of the GRAMMY Award winning group Public Enemy, who has become a prolific classical composer. His work, SULWE: A Symphonic Journey, will be performed this spring. 


DCYOP is committed to making sure our students can see themselves represented in the music they play. And we take seriously our larger obligation to be stewards of progress in diversifying the classical music world.


We go through a similar process for each of our nine ensembles, considering and narrowing down our lists of many pieces of music through extensive discussions with our composers. Together, we chose music that showcases and challenges our student’s abilities to create a program that we believe is fun, challenging, and representative of what we are trying to do at DCYOP!