May 21, 2019
The New Jersey Youth Symphony (NJYS) celebrated its 40th anniversary this weekend in Newark at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center’s Prudential Hall. The truth is…NJYS has been celebrating all year long – as well they should.
Under their new Artistic Director and Conductor Helen H. Cha-Pyo, the organization is thriving! During that first 1979-1980 season there was one orchestra of 65 student musicians. Today, as Helen noted in her written remarks in the program, there are “500 hundred young musicians ages six to eighteen from 13 different counties in the State of New Jersey” performing in 14 ensembles, including three full symphony orchestras!
To listen to the Youth Symphony perform Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana under Helen H. Cha-Pyo with the Newark Boys Chorus, JP Stephens High School Chorus, Newark Academy Concert Choir, New Providence High School Chorus, Ridge High School A Capella Honors, Somerville High School Chorus and three young soloists, all recent graduates of the Cali Music School of Montclair State University was thrilling beyond words.
It brought back wonderful memories of the New Jersey Youth Symphony’s performance of Carmina Burana on tour in Hungary during the summer of 1987 that I conducted in collaboration with the University Chorus of Budapest.
The New Jersey Youth Symphony would have never come into existence without the total commitment and extraordinary mountains of volunteer time given it by the parents of the young members. These women and men from Summit, Westfield, Cranford, New Providence, Union and other towns in north central New Jersey were determined to make the organization blossom.
Jane Donnelly, founding Executive Director, Stewart Holmes, first Board President, Mary and her husband Michael J. Johnston, Anne and her husband George Shuhan, Louise Gillooly, Patricia Steadman, Betse and her husband Dr. Frank Gump, Paul Becker, Roslyn Abrams, Jean Burgdorff and her spouse Barbara Keller, Harriet and her husband Glenn Johnson, T. Richard Parker and his wife Susan, my colleagues Barbara Barstow, founding Conductor of what was the Preparatory Orchestra and later Youth Orchestra. . .Barbara also served as NJYS Artistic Director before she retired, Barbara’s husband Bill Barstow, Linda Abrams, Executive Director, and her husband Albert, and Bernard Yannotta, Associate Conductor were all absolutely critical to the founding, growth and nurturing of the New Jersey Youth Symphony. The list of individuals who subsequently joined the Board and served as volunteers would fill several pages here. My apologies for not listing them all. . .my gratitude to them is boundless. The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra (NJSO), which I served as Assistant Conductor for the 1979-80 season, must also be recognized and thanked for the major role it played in founding the NJYS. In 2012 NJYS merged with what is now the Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts. Great thanks to Judith Wharton, Jeffrey Grogan and Derek Mithaug for their vision in making that happen, and thus securing the future of the NJYS for decades to come.
As a full house sat spellbound in Prudential Hall by the sound and sight of more than 400 young instrumentalists and singers performing under the expert leadership of Helen H. Cha-Pyo, I could not help but wish that some of those founders no longer with us could have lived to be a part of this celebration. As the founding Music Director and Conductor who musically shepherded NJYS for its first 18 years of life. . .I could not have been a prouder papa!
Find out for yourself about the incredible organization that is now Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts/New Jersey Youth Symphony – worthy of both your interest and financial support.