LA Youth Orchestra Italy Tour 2017

Music making, joy, collaboration—all abundantly evident during the LA Youth Orchestra's second international tour, this time to Italy. Fifty students from all across Los Angeles performed in three dramatically different Italian venues—a modern concert hall in Cremona shaped like the inside of a string instrument, an elegant marble outdoor venue in the Tuscan spa town of Montecatini frequented at one time by Verdi and Puccini, and a grand finale in a private chapel in Rome's famous square, the Piazza Navona. Two of the concerts included Italian students. Our students joined in their music and they in ours.

We played Schubert's Unfinished, Mozart's 32nd symphony, and overtures by Mozart, Beethoven, Rossini, plus my short overture titled Alternative Energy. This music was our present to Italy. But Italy gave us memories we will remember our entire lives. I want to share some images that convey the magic of this trip!

Despite a 6 hour delay at the airport, LAYO students just chill on the floor getting to know each other better.

Despite a 6 hour delay at the airport, LAYO students just chill on the floor getting to know each other better.

Two of our advanced violinists enjoying the Venetian canals.

Two of our advanced violinists enjoying the Venetian canals.

One of the groups outside Venice's Jewish ghetto, one of the oldest in the world.

One of the groups outside Venice's Jewish ghetto, one of the oldest in the world.

Poster for our Cremona concert

Poster for our Cremona concert

Setting up for rehearsal in the Arvedi Auditorium in the Violin Museum of Cremona. The hall is designed to feel like being inside a string instrument! Here we have a big problem to solve. The fire marshall instituted new regulations a day before and we were told only two thirds of the orchestra could play on the stage...So we put a third of the players in audience seating!

Setting up for rehearsal in the Arvedi Auditorium in the Violin Museum of Cremona. The hall is designed to feel like being inside a string instrument! Here we have a big problem to solve. The fire marshall instituted new regulations a day before and we were told only two thirds of the orchestra could play on the stage...So we put a third of the players in audience seating!

One of our trumpets preparing before our Cremona concert. The maturity and demeanor of the students made us all very proud. Their professionalism was evident to our audiences and all the Italians we encountered.

One of our trumpets preparing before our Cremona concert. The maturity and demeanor of the students made us all very proud. Their professionalism was evident to our audiences and all the Italians we encountered.

A magical moment in the Cremona cathedral where we heard a rehearsal of Monteverdi's music taking place.

A magical moment in the Cremona cathedral where we heard a rehearsal of Monteverdi's music taking place.

This young Cremonese luthier walked us through all the steps to creating a cello. We learned that most of this craftsmanship uses the same tools as in the 17th century. Some of the modern adjustments are just convenience—ultraviolet lights, for instance, to dry oil varnish faster. Luthiers average about one new instrument per month.

This young Cremonese luthier walked us through all the steps to creating a cello. We learned that most of this craftsmanship uses the same tools as in the 17th century. Some of the modern adjustments are just convenience—ultraviolet lights, for instance, to dry oil varnish faster. Luthiers average about one new instrument per month.

Here was his actual workshop—so small, so beautiful. Imagine spending fifty years at this table constructing string instruments! This discipline, dedication, and artistry made a huge impression on the students.

Here was his actual workshop—so small, so beautiful. Imagine spending fifty years at this table constructing string instruments! This discipline, dedication, and artistry made a huge impression on the students.

This was the beautiful outdoor venue in Montecatini. The acoustics are excellent because the floor, walls, and columns are all polished marble. This concert went late into the evening with a cheering full audience.

This was the beautiful outdoor venue in Montecatini. The acoustics are excellent because the floor, walls, and columns are all polished marble. This concert went late into the evening with a cheering full audience.

As the tour continued, the students bonded together closely. One of moments I won't forget was a day we all went to the beach and the entire orchestra was together frolicking in the small waves of the Mediterranean. I wish I had had a waterproof camera to record that!

As the tour continued, the students bonded together closely. One of moments I won't forget was a day we all went to the beach and the entire orchestra was together frolicking in the small waves of the Mediterranean. I wish I had had a waterproof camera to record that!

Our final concert was in Rome directly across from this incredible Bernini fountain in Piazza Navona—the Fountain of the Four Rivers. The "in joke" that I captured here was that Bernini was a competitor with the architect Borromini who was creating the chapel directly across from the fountain. You can see the sculpted figure seeming to recoil from his view of the chapel, as if Bernini is giving his criticism of his competitor. It makes a great story, but alas seems to be apocryphal.

Our final concert was in Rome directly across from this incredible Bernini fountain in Piazza Navona—the Fountain of the Four Rivers. The "in joke" that I captured here was that Bernini was a competitor with the architect Borromini who was creating the chapel directly across from the fountain. You can see the sculpted figure seeming to recoil from his view of the chapel, as if Bernini is giving his criticism of his competitor. It makes a great story, but alas seems to be apocryphal.

Here is the interior of that chapel—called Sant' Agnese. If Bernini was critical, it must have been with envy. This is one of the most stunning interiors we have ever played. The reverberation is huge but very pleasant. This final concert had a standing room only crowd. The orchestra really focused and we gave a beautiful interpretation especially of Beethoven's Coriolan Overture and Schubert's Unfinished symphony.

Here is the interior of that chapel—called Sant' Agnese. If Bernini was critical, it must have been with envy. This is one of the most stunning interiors we have ever played. The reverberation is huge but very pleasant. This final concert had a standing room only crowd. The orchestra really focused and we gave a beautiful interpretation especially of Beethoven's Coriolan Overture and Schubert's Unfinished symphony.

A final celebratory picture with some of the gang in the Piazza Navona after the concert. These students already engage in so many interesting and world-building activities. I learned much about them during the tour. Several are headed off to colleges this fall. I don't think they will ever forget this experience.

A final celebratory picture with some of the gang in the Piazza Navona after the concert. These students already engage in so many interesting and world-building activities. I learned much about them during the tour. Several are headed off to colleges this fall. I don't think they will ever forget this experience.

I told our guide I wanted to stay in Italy for a couple of weeks after the tour. I knew I needed some recovery time—we had very little sleep so that we could visit so many places. Anyway, our guide was an expert and I asked him to place me wherever he thought I could best relax but also enjoy something unique about Italy. He placed me on this organic farm in a remote part of Tuscany. I had to drive 2 miles on a dirt road to reach the farm house you can see here at the top of the hill.

I told our guide I wanted to stay in Italy for a couple of weeks after the tour. I knew I needed some recovery time—we had very little sleep so that we could visit so many places. Anyway, our guide was an expert and I asked him to place me wherever he thought I could best relax but also enjoy something unique about Italy. He placed me on this organic farm in a remote part of Tuscany. I had to drive 2 miles on a dirt road to reach the farm house you can see here at the top of the hill.

Here's the farm house at sunset. It was an idyllic environment, with views of the Mediterranean and Tuscan wheat fields and vineyards.

Here's the farm house at sunset. It was an idyllic environment, with views of the Mediterranean and Tuscan wheat fields and vineyards.

One of the amazing products I enjoyed on the farm was the apricot preserves. You can see the apricots being dried here.

One of the amazing products I enjoyed on the farm was the apricot preserves. You can see the apricots being dried here.

This is the paradisiacal infinity pool that is also part of the farm. I alternated days composing here on the farm with days of driving adventures through the Tuscan hillsides. But that's a tale for another blog!

This is the paradisiacal infinity pool that is also part of the farm. I alternated days composing here on the farm with days of driving adventures through the Tuscan hillsides. But that's a tale for another blog!