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The KPAC Blog features classical music news, reviews, and analysis from South Texas and around the world.

Young musicians' world opens through musical trip to Germany

YOSA musicians in Leipzig, where J.S. Bach lived and worked.
Courtesy of YOSA
YOSA musicians in Leipzig, where J.S. Bach lived and worked.

Sixty young musicians from YOSA (Youth Orchestras of San Antonio) had a life-changing experience in Germany this summer, where they performed works by composers such as Friedrich von Flotow and Felix Mendelssohn at three remarkable venues. The first was the 1950s radio facility Funkhaus in Berlin, which hosted orchestral recordings for East Berlin. Next was the glass cathedral Paulinum Auditorium in Leipzig that amazingly survived through WWII. Their final stop was the humble civic center Bürgermeister-Pohl-Haus in San Antonio’s sister city, Darmstadt.

Their program featured a mix of music by German composers, along with selections from around the world, which captured that feeling of home, no matter where you are. The expectations of their audience members were blown away. Some fellow German musicians even felt drawn to ask questions about life in Texas, according to Troy Peters, Music Director of YOSA.

“Our students, and musicians from Berlin, spent some time together because we shared a concert in Berlin. They talked about what it’s like to be in high school in Berlin versus...in San Antonio. We [also] had a tour guide in Heidelberg, Germany who had a lot of thought-provoking questions and statements about how America is perceived and... how we thought of Germans. It's a great thing for the students in YOSA to wrestle with and think about [these questions]. ‘What does culture mean? How often do we generalize or oversimplify people who are not like us?’ ... By spending time together, we all get a better sense of what the reality is.” stated Peters.

Street scene in Heidelberg, Germany.
Courtesy of YOSA
Street scene in Heidelberg, Germany.

Getting to know one another helps us discover who we are as a community. Typical Texas life is often portrayed stereotypically across Europe. However, Peters later shared how their German audiences discovered there is more to Texas than the Wild West lifestyle.

He recalled, “Right before one of the concerts, we walked by a restaurant that was called Texas Burgers. That restaurant had cactus and horses and cowboy hats and all kinds of Western movie images. That's what people think of when they think of Texas in Europe...so for them to discover that you've got this group of 60 high school age classical musicians who play at a very high level is not what they're expecting, and audiences are delighted by it. We had conversations with audience members who would say, ‘oh my goodness, this is not what I thought of when I thought of Texas, and especially I didn't imagine you playing Brahms and Mendelssohn so well.’”

The YOSA students also got the opportunity to hear the legendary tales of grand German castles. Peters recalled the students’ fascination upon learning the relation of their musical program, and popular selections that orchestras play, to the history of places they walked through.

“We went to a castle called Wartburg, which is this incredible, almost 1000-year-old castle, on the hill overlooking the city of Eisenach, and the way that the YOSA musicians, who were, in this tour, aged 14 to around 20, were just blown away and astonished by the stories of what had gone on in this space. This castle has connections to Martin Luther, Roman Catholic saints, Ricard Wagner's music, and to all of aspects of German history, cultural history, music history. It's just an incredible piece of architecture in an incredible landscape. They were so enchanted by all of that. We played on our program music by four different German composers...Well, we visited places throughout the tour that were directly related to the lives of these composers. So unprompted, we'd have tour guides talk about, ‘this is where Clara Schumann lived’, or ‘this is where Felix Mendelssohn worked.’ It was so fun to see these young musicians connect the dots and realize that the repertoire we were playing was directly connected to the lives and histories of these places.” Peters observed.

History often reminds us of how small but necessary we are in the great span of time. Composers and their effect on the world remain strong and influence the generations after them to this day. We can create great things together that outlast us and inspire others with similar passions. “That’s part of why YOSA travels every two years,” said Peters. YOSA’s curriculum strives to ensure the students have the opportunities they need to blossom into open-minded, versatile musicians.

The beautiful Paulinum Auditorium in Leipzig amazingly survived World War II.
Courtesy of YOSA.
The beautiful Paulinum Auditorium in Leipzig amazingly survived World War II.

Peters continued, “When young musicians have the chance to travel around the world and perform in front of audiences from a different culture, it gives them a bigger perspective on the value and importance of what they're doing.”

Indeed, they discovered a sense of purpose. When you have your purpose, nothing can stop you from achieving your dreams. As the mentor and music director, Troy Peters gave some insight on his philosophy in inspiring future leaders and lovers of music.

“My real philosophy is to try to just put them in front of amazing music in amazing places, with amazing collaborators. So we go to Germany, we have amazing guest soloists, we play great music, and they work hard to get better at this.” Peters admits, “I'm pragmatic. I know that our futures are not boundless for most of us, but I want people to enter adulthood hoping and wishing that their futures be boundless, because they're going to go further.”

Throughout their rehearsal time and performances, Peters noticed how the students changed, not only as musicians, but as people. The interactions were heartwarming and are part of why YOSA remains such a strong program for growing musicians.

He commented, “Seeing the ways that the orchestra becomes a tighter unit and become a more beautifully woven together group of people is always a delight that they are, on one hand, having the time of their lives, experiencing what's outside of the group in these remarkable places, and they're...building friendships. When you're 17, nothing matters more than your friends, and those relationships are so central to how we figure out who we are. We want to give kids a peer group of people who are musically focused, and who are striving to become the best versions of themselves.”

YOSA rehearsal in Berlin.
Courtesy of YOSA
YOSA rehearsal in Berlin.

Become the best version of yourself with your time at YOSA. If you or a musician you know would like to audition, dust off that instrument and get your folders ready. Audition times are every summer on the month of June.

“A lot of times people think to themselves, ‘I don't know if I'm good enough yet.’ We have more than one level of opportunity. If you're a young viola player, there's eight different levels that you could be playing at. We've got everything from 'Twinkle Twinkle' up to people who are going to Juilliard...When you're with us climbing the ladder, you're going to climb the ladder more quickly...Having YOSA in your life every week is a great way to keep yourself motivated and moving forward to grow as an instrumentalist.” Peters reassured.

As he mentioned, YOSA has multiple programs in different levels. They kick off their new season with a performance on November 3rd. Their show titled “Star-Crossed,” will include music inspired by Shakespeare’s tragic tales of young love. If you want to hear fantastic music played by the premier orchestral experience, do check out their websitefor events and audition times for your fellow budding musician. Troy Peters is a charismatic maestro with informative knowledge on all things orchestral; a sign of a great leader for young artists.

Abraham Gomez is a part of San Antonio's Ambassador Program and a 2024 Intern for Texas Public Radio, working on projects for KPAC 88.3 FM. Abraham is a full-time junior at UTSA majoring in Vocal Performance with a minor in Nonprofit Organization Management.Abraham primarily can be seen performing at UTSA School of Music events, with an upcoming show of Mozart's Don Giovanni, this October 2024 by UTSA. Some of his favorite genres of music include classical, hip-hop, r & b, and alt-rock. When he is not at school, he can be found online playing games with his friends, collecting vinyl records or saving coupons for Taco Palenque.