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 MTIshows.com 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.