First a bit of history. The first time I heard the Atlanta Youth Wind Symphony was my sophomore year of high school. Eric Whitacre was in residence, and their concert was mostly Whitacre pieces. I’d first heard Eric Whitacre’s October the year before at All State, and we’d played an all-Whitacre show in marching band that year (the year before was Willy Wonka… we played weird shows). I wanted to see the man himself in action, and two musicians from band played in the AYWS, so a couple friends and I went up to the concert. I was mesmerized. It was such an awesome concert, and the level of musicianship was incredible, and I even met Eric Whitacre after the concert (he was gorgeous! and cool). I decided to practice up and shoot for a slot in the clarinet section that fall. And lo and behold, it worked!
I was in awe of Dr. Stewart. He was such a dynamic conductor, and I liked the music we played, and to top it all off, we ended up playing all kinds of cool places, including Midwest in Chicago, Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center! I had a great two years in the AYWS playing some really awesome music with some really awesome musicians.
When it came time to apply to colleges, I’d just assumed I would go to UGA, like everyone from my school. Dr. Stewart suggested Emory might be a good fit, and even helped me get a music scholarship.
Four more years of awesome music ensued, and a trip to Greece(!) and a degree in music performance. All thanks to Dr. Stewart. He even encouraged me to follow my dreams and take a risk move to LA after college, where all the cool, creative people are. And he was right. Dr. Stewart always gives the best advice.
Anyway, I was ecstatic when I heard the AYWS was coming to LA to play at Walt Disney Concert Hall. It’s a really cool hall, and I was half hoping that they might be short a clarinetist and need a sub. I’d hoped to meet up with Dr. Stewart earlier in the week, but we finally managed to rendezvous for a few minutes at a pub in Santa Monica while the kids explored the Santa Monica Pier.
We did not need those sunglasses. June Gloom was at its gloomiest, and all of Santa Monica was cloaked in thick fog. That’s LA for you.
Their concert was this past Saturday. One of the guys from my high school who had played in the AYWS with me, Billy, told me he was coming to the concert weeks back and proposed dinner with Ryan and his fiancée before the concert. I failed to get a reservation at Baco Mercat (seriously, that place is impossible to get into!), but discovered Blue Cow Kitchen via Yelp.
It had a little menu (that’s usually good, because the food is focused), and the food was okay, but not great. And I totally forgot to take a picture with Billy and Hope (we all got there late, had to eat fast, and dash over to the concert), but instead, here’s a picture of what we ate.
Fried egg-topped pork belly banh mi on top, turkey club tacos on the bottom. I’d get the banh mi again, not the turkey club.
It was cool catching up with Billy, since I really hadn’t seen him since high school. And I had no idea he was in San Diego now. It’s a small world.
The concert consisted of 3 groups, but we only stayed for the first 2 (AYWS was on 2nd). The Toronto Youth Wind Ensemble played admirably, and got bonus points for playing Whitacre’s Sleep. The AYWS, as predicted, blew it out of the water. Dr. Stewart always puts on a good concert. And because I broke the rules a bit, now it’s photo montage time.
Taking the stage for Carolyn Bremer’s Early Light, which I got to play with Dr. Stewart a few years back at Midwest in Chicago.
Overexposed so you can see the details of the hall and the organ better.
Bruce Broughton’s Excursions for Trumpet and Band, Robert Frear on the trumpet solo. The kids got to rehearse with most of the composers of these pieces, which is always a treat.
not pictured: Cindy McTee’s California Counterpoint: The Twittering Machine, which had an awesome piccolo solo. You go, pic player.
Katie Curran taking the stage for the third movement of Frank Ticheli’s Concerto for Clarinet and Wind Ensemble. She tore it up. Very impressive.
Last up was some Indiana Jones. John Williams is a great choice to end a concert in LA, especially after all the studio tours the kids had done all week.
And the crowd goes wild!
Great concert, AYWS!
Fuzzy dark phone pictures outside.
There was also an awesome sunset as we came outside, but not a great viewing angle.
Congratulating the maestro, post-concert. That’s Thomas, another AYWS and Emory alum. We played together at Emory for two years and book took lessons from Laura. He drove up from San Diego for the concert.
Hall in the background.
And one with Ryan, the non-musician. But he’s learning.
We failed to meet up with the group in Long Beach, so Ryan, Thomas, and I grabbed a beer instead and caught up.
Good times were had by all. Good music was played by the AYWS. And now another generation of the AYWS has experienced the magic of a Stewart trip.