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Symphony Youth Tour

[whitespace] Yair Samet Pictures at an Expedition: Yair Samet will lead the young musicians of the San Jose Youth Orchestra through Europe this summer.

Yair Samet and the SJ Symphony Youth Orchestra get ready for a two-week tour of Germany and Austria

By Michael J. Vaughn

WHEN CONDUCTOR Yair Samet takes the Senior Orchestra of the San Jose Symphony Youth Orchestra to Germany and Austria this month, the best he can hope for is a repeat of some of the things that happened two years ago. At the end of a run through the Netherlands, Belgium and Ireland in the summer of 1997, Samet led his young charges into Dublin's National Symphony Hall, where they were greeted with an audience of 1,700.

"It was the first time in their lives to play for so many people," Samet recalls. "It was an incredible experience, and they played just beautifully."

The highlights of this year's tour, June 24-July 6, are a combined performance of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition with a German youth symphony in Stuttgart's Mozartsaal, a performance in the tiny Tyrolean town of Trofaiach and an outdoor concert in front of Vienna's City Hall, an area that Samet says will be "packed with tourists."

Besides Pictures, the orchestra will perform a Saint-Saëns cello concerto (featuring 17-year-old soloist Erika Teraoka), a suite from Piston's ballet The Incredible Flutist and Gershwin's overture from Of Thee I Sing.

Samet points to the latter two pieces--both by Americans--as an important element of the orchestra's ambassadorial mission. "We make a point of playing pieces by Americans," he says. "I've talked to lots of people on the tours who've expressed interest in hearing works from us by Americans."

Samet, in his fifth year with the Youth Orchestra, is viewed as an "up-and-comer" by his orchestral colleagues, but at age 35 describes himself as a "baby conductor" (art music conductors commonly reach their professional primes at age 60).

He began his career as assistant conductor of the Young Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and in 1991 was invited to be the guest assistant conductor for a production of Leonard Bernstein's Kaddish Symphony with the Tampere International Choir Festival in Finland. Samet served on the music faculty at UC-Santa Cruz, where he led the UCSC Symphony Orchestra, and in addition to his Youth Orchestra duties is the assistant conductor of the San Jose Symphony.

The primary mission of the group's tour, however, is the effect the tour will have on the hearts and minds of his young musicians. "It's pretty challenging for children their age to go to the place where classical music was born," he says, "and to go to the birthplaces of great composers. It shows a lot of things about their development as young adults, because there are a lot of other things about being in an orchestra than just playing the music. They worked so hard all year to learn; I am immensely proud of them."

The San Jose Symphony Youth Orchestra performs Monday (June 21) at 7pm at the Cathedral of Faith Church, Highway 87 and Curtner Avenue, San Jose. Tickets are $10, $6 students. (408/288-2828)

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From the June 17-23, 1999 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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