The Bakersfield Youth Symphony will give its final concert of the 2015-16 season this Saturday. And then about a quarter of the student musicians will say goodbye.
BYSO board president Rita Gomez said about 20 of the orchestra’s 80 students are graduating seniors, and, high-achieving bunch that they are, they are going on to college and other next steps in their lives. Gomez said it is unusual for the orchestra to lose so many students at one time.
“We’re going to be heavily advertising for the auditions this year,” Gomez said.
Among those leaving is 18-year-old Sharon Hong, who will serve as the soloist for Saturday’s concert. Hong, a violinist, will perform one of the most famous of tango melodies: “Por una Cabeza” by Carlos Gardel. The tango has been used in several films, most memorably in “Scent of a Woman” and “True Lies.”
“When my violin teacher first introduced me to this piece — my family and I coming from Argentina — it just inspired me to pick this piece,” said Hong, who was born in the United States.
Hong has been part of the youth orchestra for six years, joining in the seventh grade, which is the earliest the BYSO normally accepts students. Hong said she and the other students who are preparing to leave are very much aware that they have reached a major milestone in their lives.
“We’ve all grown to be friends, and we’ve all learned so much from the orchestra,” Hong said. “It’s definitely a big step in everyone’s lives.”
Hong plans to attend UC San Diego next year, majoring in biochemistry or cell biology, with the goal of becoming either a neurosurgeon or a cardio-thoracic surgeon.
“I plan to keep playing (in an ensemble),” Hong said. “But if I don’t, I think I’ll just keep playing as a hobby.”
The student orchestra, under the direction of Maxim Eshkenazy, will also perform Maurice Ravel’s “Pavane pur une infante défunte (Pavane for a dead princess);” the Overture to Giuseppe Verdi’s “La forza del destino (“The Force of Destiny);’ and the opening theme to “Star Wars,” by John Williams. The concert will also feature a student brass quintet performing the most famous tango, “La cumparsita,” by Gerardo Mato Rodriguez; “Lassus Trombone” by Henry Fillmore, and the “Florentiner March” by Julius Fucik.
The students include Gerardo Arellano, Amy Winter, Gemalene Acupan, Nicole Bonna and Cameron Kaufman.
With the end of the season, Gomez said the BYSO organization will go into heavy recruitment mode. Audition materials, including orchestral excerpts, will be available on the orchestra’s website, bysorocks.org, after June 22. To be eligible, a student must be in at least the seventh grade through sophomore year in college; must be a member in good standing in a school ensemble; and must be able to meet the attendance requirements of the orchestra throughout the season.
“The attendance is huge; it’s massive,” Gomez said. “If they miss (a rehearsal), they typically can’t play that concert, unless it’s an emergency.”
Gomez said auditions will be held on Sept. 10. There is a $25, non-refundable fee to audition, which is part of the $250 fee students pay to join the orchestra. Financial aid is available. Meanwhile, for Hong and the other students who are leaving, Sunday is a bittersweet finale.
“I know the people I’ve talked to — they all appreciate how much the orchestra has meant to them,” Hong said.