Young People's Symphony Winds Up Its 81st Season

Janos Gereben on May 22, 2018
David Ramadanoff and the Young People's Symphony Orchestra | Credit: Vladimir Gurevich

Ipso facto, YPSO is an amazing organization. The acronym belongs to the Young People’s Symphony Orchestra, the second oldest youth orchestra in the nation. YPSO’s only senior is the Portland Youth Philharmonic, founded in 1924 in Oregon.

The current season — YPSO’s 81st — is the 29th under the direction of David Ramadanoff, who conducts 85 musicians ranging in age from 12 to 18 and hailing from 33 Bay Area cities.

The season’s last at-home performance, the Pops Concert, takes place at a June 10 matinee in Oakland’s Greek Orthodox Church of the Ascension, at 4700 Lincoln Avenue. After the concert, the orchestra leaves on a Pacific Northwest tour,

Soloists for the concert are two of the orchestra’s 2018 Concerto Competition winners: Barbara Fairweather, who will play Cécile Chaminade’s Concertino for Flute, and Riley Baker, who will play Ralph Vaughn Williams’s Tuba Concerto.

Barbara Fairweather and Riley Baker are soloists in YPSO's season-closing concert | Credit: David Knowles

The concert will also include the Rakoczy March from Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust; Dance of the Firebird and Infernal Dance from Stravinsky’s The Firebird; a movement from Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4; and music by Leroy Anderson, John Williams, and John Philip Sousa.

The Chaminade Concertino for Flute, composed in 1902, is one of the few pieces by the prolific Chaminade that has remained in the concert repertoire. “It is famous because it showcases both the lyrical and technical ranges of the flute,” says Fairweather.

Fairweather, 17, is a senior at Berkeley High School. She has been playing flute for eight years and has played in YPSO for two years. She attended the Oakland School for the Arts her freshman year before transferring to Berkeley High. Prior to YPSO, Fairweather played in the Oakland Youth Orchestra in the 2015–2016 season and traveled to Cuba with OYO in summer 2016. She will attend UC Santa Barbara this fall to study music and biology.

The Tuba Concerto, composed in 1954, near the end of Vaughan Williams’s life, was the first major concerto written for the instrument, and it remains by far the most commonly performed one.

Baker, 17, is a senior at Capuchino High School in San Bruno. His mother is a veteran Bay Area radio broadcaster, his dad is a professional jazz musician, and his twin sister Ramona is a pianist. Baker started his musical career at age four singing in the San Francisco Boys Choir and by six he was taking drum lessons, which later led to playing drums professionally in swing and jazz bands.

He started playing tuba in middle school and joined YPSO at 14. Riley has also performed with the Oakland Symphony Youth Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra and California All-State Music Education Conference (CASMEC) All-State Orchestras. He will continue studying music in college. “I just don’t think I would enjoy doing anything else other than playing music. It’s a big part of who I am as a person,” Baker says.

YPSO at this year's Youth Orchestra Festival in Davies Hall | Credit: David Knowles

At the end of each season, the orchestra honors its high school seniors with a graduation ceremony. This season, YPSO will recognize 25 high-school seniors who, in the fall of 2018, will attend outstanding universities and music schools, including Yale University, UC Berkeley, UC Santa Barbara, UCLA, and The New School in New York City.

YPSO’s 2018 Concert Tour:

June 17 — University of Washington, Meany Theatre, Seattle; joint concert with West Seattle Community Orchestra

Dvorák: Carnival Overture
Cavaterra: Overture, Peninsula and the Path of History
Stravinsky: The Firebird Suite (1945 version)

June 19 — University of Victoria, Farquhar Auditorium, British Columbia

Dvorák: Carnival Overture
Cavaterra: Overture, Peninsula and the Path of History
Vaughan Williams: Concerto for Tuba and Orchestra, Riley Baker, tubist
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 4 in F minor

June 22 — Kay Meek Centre, Vancouver

Same program as in Victoria

June 23 — Chan Centre, Vancouver; joint concert with Lions Gate Sinfonia

Same program as Seattle