Alumni Check-In: Chani Wereley (2013)

Alumni Check-In: Chani Wereley (2013)

Chani (left) pictured with Director Hugh Woodridge.

Name: Chani Wereley

Year of Graduation: 2013

Current School: Catholic University of America

What's your news!?: I currently work in DC in the fitness community while pursuing my career in musical theatre. This summer, I'm working on Bonnie and Clyde with Monumental Theatre Company as a member of the ensemble and as the Bonnie understudy. One of my recent shows, American Idiot (The Extraordinary Girl), played at Keegan Theatre and was nominated for a few Helen Hayes Awards, including best production and best ensemble. This past year, I did a show at school, a couple cabarets, and a reading of Water by the Spoonful at Olney Theatre Center. I also had the opportunity to come back to YAA as a mentor for The Circle of Life concert at Strathmore!

Chani (center in red skirt) on stage at YAA's The Circle of Life.

Chani (center in red skirt) on stage at YAA's The Circle of Life.

Tell us about something you learned at YAA and applied to your life today.: I learned to never give up. The last show I did with YAA as a student was as Kim in Miss Saigon/Madama Butterfly. During that process, I was rejected from the musical theatre programs I applied to. Rolando and Kris helped teach me to accept my failures with grace, and to use them to keep pushing towards my victories. Through their guidance, I learned resilience. I learned patience. I learned humility. I watched Rolando and Kris build YAA from the ground up (not without a lot of help and support, of course), and their work ethic inspired me then, and continues to drive me now.

Are you an alum? We'd love to spotlight you. Just fill out this form!

The Best Thank You Note

The Best Thank You Note

Earlier this year, we raffled off Hamilton tickets and an all-expense-paid trip to NYC. Read more about that here. One of the lucky winners was Jo Anne, who happened to be a Strathmore usher. Here's what she had to say after seeing the show!

Jo Anne and her husband outside of Hamilton

Jo Anne and her husband outside of Hamilton


Dear YAA,

Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you!

My husband and I had a great time in New York and enjoyed staying at The Phillips Club at Lincoln Center.  The accommodations were wonderful - roomy and very convenient.  We attended the matinee performance of “Hamilton” and, as expected, the musical was fabulous. The seats were great (Orchestra, Row G, seats 13/14) and one of the ushers even commented that these were great seats.

As an added bonus, we caught sight of Josh Groban, who was performing next door in “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812.”

We thank the Young Artists of America at Strathmore for this not-to-be-missed experience. Thank you for arranging everything, from transportation to accommodations to the show. Thank you for giving us such a wonderful trip.  We are really grateful for this opportunity.


Jo Ann

Summer Intern Spotlight: Kathryn Bailey

Summer Intern Spotlight: Kathryn Bailey

Summer is here and so are our YAA Interns. They will be working hard to make sure that our Summer Performing Arts Intensives are a huge success. Learn more about one of our interns, Kathryn Bailey below!!

How did you find out about YAA?

I am from Northern Virginia, so I heard about YAA through word of mouth. I had a few friends in their production of Phantom of the Opera in 2012, and was blown away by the professional quality of the show. I then auditioned for their first summer institute, and tried to participate in as many of their programs as I could until I graduated high school, including Miss Saigon/Madama Butterfly, Requiem, and Songs for a New World.

What made you want to be an intern over the summer for YAA?

I learned so much during my time with YAA, and always said that I had hoped to give back in some way when I was older. When I realized that my interests have shifted towards the administrative side of the arts, I decided to reach out to YAA to see if there were any opportunities to get some experience in this field. So here I am, excited to learn and grow, and begin giving back to this incredible organization!

What are you most looking forward to for this summer's program?

I am looking forward to being on the other side of a program that gave me so much as a high school student, and means so much to me even to this day. I am hoping that the work I do, both for the organization and for the summer program, somehow positively contributes to the experience of the students.

Do you have a personal connection to the performing arts? If so, can you elaborate what that is here?

Of course! I have been involved with the arts, specifically music and singing, for as long as I can remember. I am currently in my last year studying vocal music education, and am excited to see where that leads me once I graduate! I plan to get my masters in Arts Administration once I graduate to involve myself in programs like YAA for the rest of my life!

If you're in school, where?

I will be a Senior at James Madison University in the Fall finishing up my bachelor’s degree in Vocal Music Education.

Tell us something interesting about yourself that someone wouldn't guess about you.

I enjoy baking and decorating custom cakes for friends and family! (follow me on instragram @cakesbykathryn)

YAA to Sing The National Anthem at Nat's Park!

YAA to Sing The National Anthem at Nat's Park!


We are thrilled to have been invited by our friends at The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington to sing the National Anthem as the Nationals take on the Mets on Jewish Community Day at Nats Park: Grand Slam Sunday! Come join us!

When: Sunday, August 27
Pregame fun begins at 11:30am with first pitch at 1:35pm.

Where: Join us for two hours of programming before the game in the Family Picnic Area behind sections 142 and 143.

Tickets: Only $25 at this link!

YAA Senior Spotlight: Camila Maric

YAA Senior Spotlight: Camila Maric

It's summer time! That means that our seniors have graduated and are looking ahead. We'll be spotlighting seniors throughout the summer, sharing their summer plans. If you'd like to be included, fill out this form.

Name: Camila Maric

High School: Langley High School

What's your plan for next year?: Over the summer I'll be backpacking through Europe with my friends before starting school at James Madison University in the fall. I plan to receive a BM in choral music education.

What is something you learned from YAA that you will take with you?: I learned that the DMV is even more talented than I already thought! I got to work in an extremely strong ensemble of performers with kids who really wanted to be there, something I don't always get to do.


Notes from the Maestro: Rolando on Selecting Your Repertoire

Notes from the Maestro: Rolando on Selecting Your Repertoire

With fall auditions around the corner, we thought we'd sit down with Rolando to hear his tips on selecting the best repertoire for your voice. Here's what he had to say, including what he never wants to hear at an audition.

How do you know what kind of songs to pick for yourself as a vocalist? I'm sure many of our students have voice teachers, who may select pieces for them, but ultimately how do you know what to pick that works for you?

As a student, you don't. As a professional singer myself, even I have to go to people whose job is to see things from the outside. Only people from the outside can help us understand where we fit in the world. So you need one to two people in your life who you really trust, and whose opinion you value. This person will ideally have worked in professional musical theater or classical music, and has a firm grasp of what material best showcases you as an artist.

What are good resources to draw on if you just want to look around and present some of these people with some ideas of material that you might like. 

I always tell my students that the musical theater world lives in types. And so what you can do is take a step back from yourself and see what type a performer is most like you. Are you an ingénue soprano who easily sings high? Are you a belter? Are you a sassy comedic type? So you prefer to perform as part of a larger ensemble? Are you a stronger dancer? Are you an actor who enjoyes delivering text more than music? And when you see which of those types you feel you best fit into, I send students down the YouTube wormhole. There you find a musical theatre role model. You don't necessarily have to like all of the performers you find. You can like them. That's a bonus. But those singers whom you discover may be someone you feel can be a role model for you as a young artist. Once you find  few artists like you, then continue down the wormhole and see what kind of repertoire they sing in their career. If you are in ingénue soprano and you like Laura Osnes, you will probably see that Laura Osnes is has not sung … what's a good example?

She's not singing Mama Rose from Gypsy?

Exactly! She's not singing Mama Rose from Gypsy. So if you feel that you fall into her type, you see what she performs, what roles she does.

How do you feel about students performing repertoire written for older people, because the music written specifically for younger performers is a bit limited?

Right, we call it being age-appropriate. Not necessarily that the song or role has to be written for a 15 year-old performer, but it has to be something that is age-appropriate. So it's the same as the idea that you don't wear certain things to synagogue. There is certain material that you just shouldn't present. I'm not saying that young people can't present something that is edgy if that performer is emotionally ready, and vocally ready, to present something that's edgy. But performing something too advanced when not ready to do so actually makes a performer seem younger rather than older. 

Are there certain songs that you never want to hear a young singer sing in an audition?

I can tell you in the classical music world, I never want to hear a classical singer in high school audition with an operatic aria. I just don't. Likewise, I never want to hear a musical theater singer sing something that is very brassy, for example, if that's not what their voice is. So age-appropriate is part of it, but also appropriate for what you are as a performer. Now that's of course only in audition. I truly believe that in lessons and in the practice room that we should absolutely try out different styles of music to help us better understand who we are as a performer. Our teachers and coaches are again our outside ears that help us determine if the material is the best way to showcase ourselves in auditions and performance. So, yes, play with different styles in private, but in public, only perform what makes you shine!



We Have to Ask with Young Artist of America, Skye Oh

We Have to Ask with Young Artist of America, Skye Oh

And now, another installment of "We Have to Ask," this time with instrumentalist, Skye Oh.

Tell us about your preparation of Circle of Life? 

In preparation for The Circle of Life many long rehearsals were scheduled, at home practice time was needed, and overall many laughs were thrown around as well as love for music. It was stressful at some times, but all was well worth it because the end result was marvelous.

How often did you practice at home?

I would practice at home whenever I got the chance (it was really crucial). I say this because I had other after school music activities (such as MCYO and pit orchestra) that took place, but I definitely practiced everyday. The length varied. I go by the saying "quality over quantity" so my practice sessions could go from anywhere between 15 minutes to 2 hours. It all depends on what you do in your time. It's better to practice 5 minutes of solid technical work and being picky rather than play random pieces for 2 hours. 

What are your plans for music in your future?

In the future, I hope to attend a music conservatory or perhaps a university with an excellent music program for college. I plan to major in music education as well be a performance major. I'd love be a conductor for high school orchestras as well as play in national orchestras. Either way, I'm performing and that's important to me. Music is my life!

What's your favorite thing about YAA?

My favorite thing about YAA is the sense of belonging and how we're all one big musical family. We all encourage each other, work hard together, and laugh together. I adore the energy, the talent, and the passion of everyone in YAA. 

What have you learned from Maestro Kris Sanz?

Maestro Sanz has not only taught me more about music and has made me a stronger player because of the difficulty of the music we play, but he has also taught me patience and perseverance. 

What was your favorite song to perform in The Circle of Life?

My absolute favorite song in The Circle of Life was "If I can't love her". It was so beautiful, and I often found myself swaying with my cello while I played the piece. 

What is your favorite type of music to listen to?

My favorite kind of music to listen to is honestly everything. I can't pick. When people ask me what type of music I listen to, I list all the genres I like and they say "you basically listed everything". I love pop, rap, classical, jazz, you name it.

What's your favorite type of music to play?

My favorite type of music to play is classical music. It warms my musical heart, and I really feel the music in my body. I honestly prefer playing classical music over any pop song

YAA Senior Spotlight: Stacie Frost

YAA Senior Spotlight: Stacie Frost

It's summer time! That means that our seniors have graduated and are looking ahead. We'll be spotlighting seniors throughout the summer, sharing their summer plans. If you'd like to be included, fill out this form.

Year of Graduation: 2017

High School: Thomas S. Wootton High School

What's your plan for next year?: Vocal Performance Major at DePauw University

What is something you learned from YAA that you will take with you?: I learned how to work with extremely talented and professional people!


YAA Senior Spotlight: Allison Lu

It's summer time! That means that our seniors have graduated and are looking ahead. We'll be spotlighting seniors throughout the summer, sharing their summer plans. If you'd like to be included, fill out this form.

Name: Allison Lu

Year of Graduation: 2017

High School: Winston Churchill

What's your plan for next year?: I'll be attending Robert H. Smith School of Business at University of Maryland, College Park.


Young Artists of America at Strathmore Named ‘One of the Best’ Nonprofits by the Catalogue for Philanthropy

As it Celebrates its 15th Anniversary Serving the Greater Washington Region, the Catalogue for Philanthropy is Proud to Honor YAA

After a careful vetting process, the Catalogue for Philanthropy: Greater Washington has selected Young Artists of America at Strathmore to be part of the Class of 2017-18. YAA has undergone an extensive review process, and has met the Catalogue’s high standards. Potential donors can be confident that the nonprofits in the Catalogue are worthy of their support.  

This year the Catalogue celebrates its 15th anniversary: since its inception it has raised $38 million for nonprofits in the region. It also offers trainings, neighborhood-based opportunities for collaboration, and a speakers series for individuals who want to learn about and engage with the needs, challenges, and accomplishments of our shared community.

This year, reviewers helped select 76 charities to feature in the print edition, 34 of which are new to the Catalogue this year. It also selected an additional 32 nonprofits to be re-featured on its website, and congratulated ten on growing beyond its $3 million budgetary limit. The network now includes over 400 vetted nonprofits working in the arts, education, environment, human services, and international sectors throughout greater Washington. (International charities must be headquartered in the DC region.)

“People want to know where to give and they need trusted information. Based on our in-depth review, we believe that YAA is one of the best community-based nonprofits in the region,” says Barbara Harman, founder and president of the Catalogue for Philanthropy.

The Catalogue believes in the power of small nonprofits to spark big change.  As the only locally-focused guide to giving, its goal is to create visibility for the best community-based charities, fuel their growth with philanthropic dollars, and create a movement for social good in the greater Washington region. The Catalogue charges no fees; it raises funds separately to support its work.  

MPT presents Young Artists of America: The Songs of Tim Rice on June 1

MPT presents Young Artists of America: The Songs of Tim Rice on June 1

Program features performances by 150 members of Bethesda-based student group

The broadcast premiere of Young Artists of America: The Songs of Tim Rice, airs on Maryland Public Television (MPT) Thursday, June 1 at 8 p.m.  Filmed recently at MPT’s Owings Mills studios, the program features symphonic, dance, and vocal performances of lyricist Sir Tim Rice’s musical theater and movie hits by the Bethesda-based group, Young Artists of America (YAA). YAA consists of students from more than 80 schools in Maryland, northern Virginia and the District of Columbia. The one-hour television special includes the talents of some 150 area students, and is hosted by Sir Tim Rice.

Devised and directed for Young Artists of America by London theater director Hugh Wooldridge (Chess in Concert, Royal Albert Hall; An Evening with Alan Jay Lerner, Lincoln Center; The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber) – friend and collaborator of Sir Tim Rice – the broadcast offers performances of 12 iconic songs, many of which earned Rice Tony Awards and Oscars. The program also includes segments during which Rice speaks about his career, his songs and musical collaborators, and the work of Young Artists of America.

Featured are songs from the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice musicals Joseph and the Amazing Technicolorâ Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita; Chess, with lyrics by Rice and music by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus of ABBA; Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin, with songs by Alan Menken and Rice; and The Lion King, a Sir Elton John and Rice collaboration.

The program also offers a segment taking viewers backstage with YAA as performers prepared for the MPT broadcast. The segment is narrated by YAA vocalist, Emily Reed, a Baltimore School for the Arts student, who sings Don’t Cry for Me Argentina from Evita and Nobody’s Side from Chess during the program.

Young Artists of America (YAA) at Strathmore was founded in 2011 by brothers Rolando and Kristofer Sanz, who have created the premier training organization for the region’s young performing artists.  It is the only known program in the nation where students receive mentorship and individualized instruction from renowned artists to perform fully orchestrated works of musical theater.  Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth, Grammy Award-winning composer Stephen Schwartz, and The Bridges of Madison County composer/lyricist Jason Robert Brown have mentored YAA’s students in recent years.  The organization’s mission is to provide gifted and committed students high quality performance and educational opportunities in a nurturing and professional environment.

Young Artists of America: The Songs of Tim Rice airs on MPT-HD Thursday, June 1 at 8 p.m., and repeats on Friday, June 2 at 1:45 a.m.


We Have to Ask: YAA Cellist, Jack Zhao

We Have to Ask: YAA Cellist, Jack Zhao

YAA cellist, Jack Zhao had a lot of pressure on him last month. He was performing his solo in front of hot lights, cameras and a lot of eyes in a professional television studio. He was part of the YAA performers who will be featured on Maryland Public Television's upcoming premiere broadcast of Young Artists of America: The Songs of Tim Rice on June 1st at 8:00pm. We had a chance to sit down with this Winston Churchill High School senior as we had quite a few questions that we had to ask!

What was going through your mind during your big solo, "You Must Love Me," when the camera's were rolling?

I remember telling myself to relax over and over again, and to try not to mess up. I was honestly just thrilled that I had a full solo to play! I was surrounded by so many talented cellists, and I wanted to make the most of the opportunity I was given.

How was performing in a TV studio different than performing in a full theater?

Performing for a TV recording allows you the opportunity to redo things until they are totally perfect, as opposed to the one-time-deal of performing for a full theater. The pressure is still there, however, (because you don't want) to keep the rest of the orchestra and singers waiting for your perfect solo!

What is your favorite thing about playing cello?

I love how easily I'm able to express my feelings while playing the cello. There isn't any struggle to find the right words - I just play what I'm feeling and the emotions shine through.

Do you enjoy accompanying singers? If so, how come?

I really do enjoy accompanying singers because I feel they add a great deal of depth to a piece. They have such a different tone and sound from any instrument, and I think, like in the case of You Must Love Me, that they can make something feel more complete.

Watch Jack's solo and the rest of this premiere broadcast on Maryland Public Television, June 1st at 8:00pm!

A Sit-Down with Scholarship Winner: Jillian Tate

A Sit-Down with Scholarship Winner: Jillian Tate

Jillian Tate was not expecting to win the Samuel Waters Memorial Award on the Strathmore Stage at The Circle of Life: The Songs of Tim Rice performance, but she did. We sat down with her to hear more about how she plans on using it, and her hopes for the future.

Congrats on your win. Were you expecting it?

Thank you! I was not expecting to win a scholarship at all. It was an absolute shock, but I was incredibly grateful. 

Do you know what you will be doing next year? Tell us a bit more about your plans and how you expect to use the scholarship.

Next year I plan to begin college pursuing an undergraduate degree in vocal performance. I'm very excited to say I've been admitted to multiple schools with great vocal programs, although I haven't decided on a school yet.  Being a musician is an expensive profession, so I plan to use the scholarship towards purchasing a laptop for my studies. 

Tell us about your experiences with YAA. 

In my first YAA show, I was cast as Andrea in their Summer Intensive production of Once on This Island.  It was a great program where I was challenged, developed strong friendships, and strengthened my skills. Since then I've performed with YAA as Emma in Jekyll & Hyde in Concert, Glinda in The Wizard of Oz in Concert, and was a soloist in The Circle of Life

What has been your memory from your experiences at YAA?

From my experience, YAA is a very welcoming and fair organization. It's an organization where talented students who are serious about music can be involved in a professional production while having fun in the process. Not only have I gotten to work with professionals in the business, but I've also met some of my best friends through YAA. 

We Have to Ask with Young Artists of America, Joelle Walker

We Have to Ask with Young Artists of America, Joelle Walker

We sat down with Susan Herzog Memorial Award Winner and YAA Instrumentalist, Joelle Walker, to ask all the things "We Have to Ask." She was presented the award on the stage of The Circle of Life: The Songs of Tim Rice, our spring performance.

Joelle Walker

Congrats on your win. Were you expecting it?

Thank you, I was not expecting it at all. I was actually speechless. 

Do you know what you will be doing next year? Tell us a bit more about your plans and how you expect to use the scholarship.

I'm going to the University of Pennsylvania next year so I'm definitely going to use the scholarship towards my education. I'm also going to play in the Penn Symphony while I'm there.

Tell us about your experiences with YAA. 

I've been in YAA since 9th grade, so its been really cool to watch it change and grow over the past four years. I always enjoy the repertoire and leave every concert humming my favorite tunes. 

What has been your memory from your experiences at YAA?

I just love how everyone comes together bringing their passion for music to create an amazing show. And I'm grateful to have been apart of this organization for the past four years.


Notes from the Maestro: Kris's Music Picks

Notes from the Maestro: Kris's Music Picks

We sat down with our Music Director, Kristofer Sanz, to chat about his favorite music and what he recommends to his students. 

What kind of music do you think kids who want to be in the YAA orchestra should be listening to?

What we do here at YAA is a very specialized category. For our orchestra kids, a lot of them play with other classical youth orchestras, and so they may be listening primarily to classical music. But what's neat about YAA is that these guys, whether they know it or not from the beginning...they're all closet musical theatre fans! There's something about what YAA does that drew them to us. I think it's very important to them to listen to the works in the musical theater genre that have excellent orchestrations. They always have the poppier stuff that they're listening to, like Wicked or Hamilton. But there's also a lot of sweeping orchestral material that they don't necessarily know about. That's part of YAA educational mission, to introduce them to this vast repertoire. It's really pretty music. And when they hear it, they get turned on by the type of sound quality they get to produce in our orchestra. It's very different than what they do in a strictly symphonic setting.

If you had to pick three shows that you had to recommend, what would they be?

To get specific, anything that was orchestrated by some of theatre's great orchestrators, like Robert Russell Bennett, William David Brohn or Jonathan Tunick. So Showboat, South Pacific, as well as all the Rogers and Hammerstein works have a lot of sweeping orchestral parts. And also a lot of the new stuff that's actually been written specifically with a symphonic orchestration in mind. Often, by the time a show is taken to Broadway, it's been truncated down to a smaller pit band. So for me, when we're looking for a show to produce at YAA, we study resources like or Tams Whitmark, the companies that license these great shows. You can actually go show by show, and they list the orchestrations available. So I will actually go through, and if something looks like it's full and lush, I will listen to it. And nine times out of 10, it is usually a beautiful score. We are also at the point where we are having to commission orchestrations to accommodate our unusually large orchestra. What a great problem to have!

So add Rogers and Hammerstein to your playlist?

It's very important. It's from a time when full orchestral sounds were still part of the musical theatre landscape.

Read more about Kris and his Orchestral Program at YAA.


Alumni Check-In: Kathryn Bailey

Alumni Check-In: Kathryn Bailey

We checked in with YAA alumnus, Kathryn Bailey ('14), to chat about her Junior year at JMU.

Current School: James Madison University

What's your news!?: I am currently in my third year studying Vocal Music Education at James Madison University. I am the President of the American Choral Directors Association at JMU, and I am the Director of a small children's choir in the Shenandoah Valley. I am currently looking into exploring the entrepreneurship/administrative opportunities in the Music Education field!

Tell us about something you learned at YAA and applied to your life today.: YAA was the part of my high school experience that challenged me to explore myself as a performer, as a musician, and as a human being. My current solo practice techniques were acquired from YAA, and my love for both opera and musical theater was heightened through my various experiences with the company. On top of all that, I made friendships that I can confidently say will last forever. I am from Virginia, so YAA was an incredible opportunity that brought me into the Maryland theater scene, and eventually connected me with other opportunities after I graduated high school. Being a part of the Young Artists of America family is something that more and more people around the VA/DC/MD area are aware of, and respect. I am so proud to have been involved with such a caring, supportive, and hard-working company, and I wish it all the best in the future.

A Sit-Down with Scholarship Award Winner, Zoe Lee

A Sit-Down with Scholarship Award Winner, Zoe Lee

From The Circle of Life: The Songs of Tim Rice in Concert stage at Strathmore, Zoe Lee heard her name being called. She had been announced as the recipient of the Susan Herzog Memorial Award. We sat down with Zoe to ask her about this experience and what her plans are for the future. 

Congrats on your win! Were you expecting it?

No, it was completely unexpected. I’ve only done three shows and one summer intensive, and there are so many talented people in this program. The caliber of the students that participate in YAA is just incredible, and really, they are all just as deserving of this award.


Do you know what you will be doing next year? Tell us a bit more about your plans and how you expect to use the scholarship.

Right now, I’m not entirely sure where I’ll be going to college. I’m still waiting on a few schools to get back to me, but I will most likely be attending the University of Michigan – College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.  In LSA, I’ll have the opportunity to take a wide range of classes, and I’m thinking about majoring in biochemistry with a minor in music.  So I won’t be stepping far away from my love of music and musical theater. I’ll probably use the scholarship to help out with the cost of books.

Tell us about your experiences with YAA. 

When I first auditioned for YAA, they were casting Jekyll and Hyde. Unfortunately, I had gotten cast in a major role in my school’s play, and so I couldn’t do YAA. The second time I auditioned, I was cast as an understudy for one of the snakes in Children of Eden and I’ve been hooked ever since! Everyone is incredibly talented and gives so much effort to put on the best show possible.  YAA has taught me a lot about vocal technique, professionalism, and work ethic. I’m really lucky to have been part of such a great program.

What has been your memory from your experiences at YAA?

I’ve met the most amazing people during YAA. I’m a pretty shy person, but everyone is so open. Over the summer, I was able to get to know a lot of the people who do the shows during the spring and fall, so this past show, it’s been really fun to just talk with everyone during the breaks.  I’ve become friends with many YAA students, and we keep in contact through social media, and even get together outside of YAA. 

Notes from the Maestro: Kris Talks Orchestra for Music Theatre

Notes from the Maestro: Kris Talks Orchestra for Music Theatre

Kristofer Sanz, our Music Director, sits down to talk about the importance of orchestra musicians collaborating with vocalists and dancers. NEW - Our Summer Intensives welcome instrumentalists this year for the first time ever. Registration is open now! More here

A lot of the students in our orchestra come from symphonic backgrounds. So why should they bother to learn about musical theatre when they may think that they won't necessarily pay this repertoire in the professional world?

As a musician, if you're going to continue in the field and go out and do this, it's important that whenever a gig or opportunity comes along, you have to take it. Being able to play any genre, you are a much more valuable musician...rather than just being a person who is just a classical violinist, or a classical cellist, or a classical pianist. You have to be able to play in all the musical styles.

So is there anything that you have to do differently when you are a musician in an orchestra playing with vocalists, any compensation you have to make?

I actually believe it's a lot more difficult to play in this type of setting with vocalists and dancers than to play a purely symphonic work. When you add vocalists, you add a whole new level of organic musical matter to what is going on. The orchestra musicians have to learn how to breathe with the singers and how to wait for the singers. It's also a different type of conducting for me. And it's a different type of watching the conductor for the orchestral students.

How is it a different type of conducting for you?

When you do symphonic music, you could basically start the musicians and technically step back, and it would just go. They're so well-rehearsed that it would work by itself 90% of the time. When you add a singer, however, there's new communication needed. Usually in this type of setting, there's a singer either in front of you, or behind you, or above you. There always needs to be some kind of coordination between what the singer is doing to the conductor, and then to the orchestra. So the conductor acts as a kind of channel that connects the orchestra to the singers.


We Have to Ask with Young Artist of America, Claire Hebeisen

We Have to Ask with Young Artist of America, Claire Hebeisen

Young Artist of America, Claire Hebeisen

This is the first in our "We Have to Ask" blog series which will provide insight into our performances from the performers themselves. Kicking it off with gusto is violinist, Claire Hebeisen.

Tell us about your preparation of The Circle of Life

In addition to practicing my individual part, I did a lot of listening while following along with the score. This enabled me to practice how I would lead in rehearsal. My sister, who was in the YAA chorus, helped me write in several line cues before the first rehearsal with the singers so I would be absolutely sure where I was in long stretches of rest.

How often would you practice at home? 

I would usually practice the YAA music close to two hours a week and then three hours for the weeks leading up to the show and the recording.

What are your plans for the future in music?

I will attend music school or conservatory next year. (The school is yet to be determined.) I am very passionate about chamber music and would love to form a professional chamber group. I intend to audition for orchestras after graduate school and to begin a private studio. Thanks to YAA, I have also considered auditioning to play in the pit for Broadway shows.

What's your favorite thing about YAA?

YAA gave me the opportunity to perform some incredible music that I would never have been introduced to otherwise. I also appreciate the supportive environment of YAA and the combination of its fast paced rehearsals and attention to detail.

What have you learned from Maestro Kris Sanz?

Mr. Sanz helped me to become a good leader. By giving me so much responsibility and expecting a very high level of performance from us every week, I felt that he taught me what it takes to be a proficient concertmaster. Under Mr. Sanz, I also learned many things about what it is like to be a professional musician. I am very grateful to him for all he has given me in my years as part of YAA.

What was your favorite song in The Circle of Life to perform?

If I Can't Love Her was my favorite. I fell in love with the colors and the lush melodies in the strings as well as the incredible vocal part. It was a very entertaining and emotional piece to play.

What's your favorite kind of music to listen to?

I listen to classical violin and piano works, most musical theater, and pop/rock songs from the 80s.

What's your favorite kind of music to play?

I love to play Romantic music, especially violin sonatas and show pieces from the time period. My favorite orchestral music to play is anything composed by Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich, or Mahler.