Walla Walla Symphony Youth Orchestra showcases talented students

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Youth Orchestra3-- During the youth orchestra rehearsal musician look for conductor Benjaimin gish for guidince. 1/17/10 Joe Tierney

COLLEGE PLACE -- Before tackling the charged finale of Reinhold Gliere's "Russian Sailor's Dance," conductor Benjamin Gish gave the young musicians a brief interlude.

"Now we get prestissimo, and everything is going to move fast," he explained about the piece's sudden acceleration in tempo.

So Gish offered them 20 seconds to play freely, so that brass, woodwinds, strings and percussion exploded in a jumble of sound as each worked on difficult passages.

"Let's take the prestissimo now," Gish directed, arms raised, with the musicians now silent as they prepared for the actual take.

For several weeks, the Walla Walla Symphony Youth Orchestra has been at work mastering four classic works. On a recent rehearsal, orchestra members were putting finishing touches on the challenging pieces.

Hours of rehearsals will come together Sunday as the Youth Orchestra kicks off its second season with a free concert at Walla Walla Community College.

The orchestra will present the Gliere piece, as well as Beethoven's Symphony No. 1, Aaron Copland's "Hoedown" and Ron Nelson's "Jubilee."

Established in 2008, the youth orchestra has drawn talented young musicians from throughout the region. Youth Orchestra manager Lacey Perry said the group includes members from Milton-Freewater and Richland, with some traveling from as far as Moscow, Idaho, and Enterprise, Ore., for the chance to play as a young, classical ensemble.

The performers, who are between 12 and 18 years of age, auditioned for the orchestra by demonstrating their skills on their instruments and by sight-reading sheet music. Through donations and grants, students participate in the orchestra tuition-free.

As the orchestra's oboist, Catherine Feistner, 13, said she is being challenged while developing as a musician. Feistner is a student at Garrison Middle School in Walla Walla.

"It's really good," she said of the orchestra. "It's helped me a lot."

Feistner's talents will be heard during the night, particularly in Beethoven's symphony, where oboe and principal flute Kori Meekhof share melodic phrases.

A strong cello section, lead by Nicole Kim, will also be highlighted at the start of "Russian Sailor's Dance." But all musicians, from timpani to trumpet, will combine their talents to lift each piece.

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