2017 Inaugural Season
The National Youth Orchestra of China (NYO-China) launched in 2017 with the goal of providing exceptional young Chinese musicians access to world-class instruction, extraordinary performance opportunities, and a platform upon which can might represent their country, and their generation – to the world. From a pool of over one thousand applicants, 105 remarkable musicians, aged 14 to 21 years old and representing all regions of China, were selected to join the inaugural ensemble. To ensure that no excellent musician was turned away for lack of funds, the entire program – including tuition, travel, room, and board – was provided at absolutely no cost to students.
In Summer 2017, these young instrumentalists gathered in the United States for a rigorous two-week training residency with world-renowned teaching artists before embarking on a concert tour of the United States and China, beginning with a sold-out premiere presented by Carnegie Hall.
NYO-China held its training residency at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania. There, members rehearsed with NYO-China’s suite of distinguished Teaching Artists, adhering to an intensive schedule of full orchestra rehearsals, sectional rehearsals, master classes, and private lessons. Members also had the opportunity to attend workshops hosted by guest speakers such as Juilliard’s Alexander Technique Instructor Lori Schiff and improvisation expert Eugene Friesen, as well as recreational chamber music activities coordinated by NYO-China’s staff. All told, the two-week residency helped prepare members for not just their forthcoming concert tour, but also their future lives as professional musicians.
Joint Rehearsal with NYO-USA
On July 16, the members of NYO-China joined their American counterparts from the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America (NYO-USA) for an afternoon of cultural exchange and music-making at the State University of New York at Purchase. Students from both orchestras were able to meet, connect, and partake in a joint rehearsal led by Maestro Ludovic Morlot (Music Director of the Seattle Symphony and NYO-China’s 2017 Guest Conductor), James Ross (NYO-USA’s Orchestra Director), and Jindong Cai (NYO-China’s Artistic Director). Later that week, the two groups attended each other’s Carnegie Hall debuts, allowing members of each ensemble to see the results of the other’s hard work.
Debut at Carnegie Hall
NYO-China premiered at Carnegie Hall on the evening of July 22, 2017. Under the baton of Maestro Morlot and featuring Yuja Wang on piano, the orchestra presented a program that included Zhou Long's The Rhyme of Taigu, Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1, and Dvorák's Symphony No. 9, “From the New World” (popularly known as the New World Symphony); Yuja performed Variations on a Theme from Carmen by Bizet & Horowitz as a solo encore. The 2804-seat Stern Auditorium was fully sold out, and the performance was broadcast live to audiences worldwide via Medici.tv. The concert was also a critical success, with The New York Times remarking that “if [the performance at Carnegie Hall] was a test run for this new venture, these Chinese musicians scored big."
Concert Tour of China
NYO-China’s concert tour saw the orchestra visit premier venues throughout China, including the Beijing Concert Hall, the Shanghai Oriental Arts Center, and the Suzhou Grand Theater, performing for over 5000 of their native concertgoers. Joined by pianist Olga Kern, students brought the delights of their Carnegie Hall performance to audiences in each city, including many of their friends and family. The ensemble was honored to be introduced in each city by acclaimed composer Ye Xiaogang, who also arranged the orchestra's encore piece Thunder in a Drought. At the end of the week-long tour, the orchestra’s members returned to their home cities with a uniquely valuable set of experiences and a new network of musical friends and colleagues throughout China.
Ludovic Morlot is a bright star among a new generation of international conductors, serving as the principal conductor of the Seattle Symphony and a frequent guest conductor of the orchestras of Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York. As conductor of the Seattle Symphony, Morlot won the 2016 GRAMMY Award for “Best Classical Instrumental Solo” for conducting Augustin Hadelich in Dutilleux’s Violin Concerto. Prior to his tenure at the Seattle Symphony, Morlot served as the conductor-in-residence at the Orchestre National de Lyon (ONL) under David Robertson from 2002 to 2004 where he led ONL’s two youth orchestras. Beyond his duties at the Seattle Symphony, Morlot is also the chair of orchestral conducting studies at the University of Washington.
Yuja Wang is one of the world’s most sought-after pianists and was named Musical America’s 2017 Artist of the Year. Born in Beijing, Wang started playing the piano at the age of six and, only one year later, began studying at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing. In 2001, she was named a Steinway Artist and in 2002, she began studying with Gary Graffman at The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Among her many other accolades are the 2006 Gilmore Young Artist Award, the 2009 Gramophone Classic FM’s Young Artist of the Year Award, and the 2011 ECHO KLASSIK Young Artist of the Year Award. Her impeccable technique, intelligent musical interpretations, and indelible star power make Yuja Wang an inspiration to young musicians around the world.
A Steinway Artist, Russian-American pianist Olga Kern is recognized as one of her generation's great pianists. The First Prize winner of the Rachmaninoff International Piano Competition at seventeen years old, Kern is a laureate of many international competitions. She kicked off her US career with her historic Gold Medal win at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, Texas as the first woman to do so in more than thirty years. Kern's discography includes her GRAMMY-nominated recording of Rachmaninoff’s Corelli Variations and other transcriptions (2004), Brahms Variations (2007), and Chopin Piano Sonatas No. 2 and 3 (2010). In 2016, she served as Jury Chairman of the Seventh Van Cliburn International Amateur Piano Competition.
Class of 2017
The 105 members of NYO-China’s inaugural class were selected through a competitive online audition process, chosen from over a thousand impressive young musicians who applied for admission. They hail from 23 different provinces / administrative divisions throughout China, live and study on three continents, and attend 38 conservatories and educational institutions around the world; among the postsecondary institutions represented include the Central Conservatory of Music, the China Conservatory of Music, the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, the Xinghai Conservatory of Music, Peking University, as well as overseas institutions such as the Juilliard School, the New England Conservatory of Music, and the Cleveland Institute of Music. Together, they represent some of the finest musical talent of their generation.