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Tuning up the orchestra at Trent

Trent University is now home to a group of up-and-coming classical musicians.

The newly-formed Kawartha Youth Orchestra, an independent orchestra conducted by the Peterborough Symphony Orchestra’s music director Michael Newnham, is using Trent as its home base. The group of 29 musicians, ranging in age from 10 to 24, meets weekly at Wenjack Theatre to practice and will perform three concerts there this year. As well, the strings section meets at Traill College on Monday nights to practice in the senior common room.

"Trent has given us rehearsal and concert space, and we have agreed Trent students can be involved in the orchestra," explains Mr. Newnham. "This type of relationship sets a precedent for co-operation between the two organizations."

Mr. Newnham began conducting the Peterborough Symphony Orchestra over one year ago and has delivered a series of fantastic concerts to local classical music fans. Given the strong arts community in the Peterborough area, he is excited to see a youth orchestra develop.

"A youth orchestra is an important educational ballast for music that is crucial in a community like this. It makes such a big difference for young people to be able to play together," says Mr. Newnham.

Orchestra auditions were held in the summer and there was substantial interest from local youth. "The response was much larger than we had anticipated," comments Mr. Newnham, who is assisted by two music coaches. Ben Bell coaches the brass and wind sections and Witold Swoboda coaches the strings.

Lakefield-area resident Karen Lander is a founding director of the new group and has taken on many administrative duties. She brings valuable experience with the La Jeunesse orchestra in Cobourg to this experience.

The Kawartha Youth Orchestra will perform three concerts this season, the first of which will be held on Sunday, November 24, from 3 – 5 p.m. in the Wenjack Theatre. The program for this concert includes Bellini’s "Overture to ‘Norma,’" selections from Handel’s "Water Music," Bartok’s "Rumanian Folk Dances" and Grieg’s "Norwegian Dance no. 1, op. 35." Tickets for the concert are $10 for adults and $5 for students (with a student card), and are available on campus at the Conference Centre office.

Mr. Newnham is excited about future opportunities for the Kawartha Youth Orchestra to interact with similar groups based elsewhere in the province, such as the Niagara Youth Orchestra, which he also conducts. "There is a very large well of youth orchestra activity in this country," says Mr. Newnham enthusiastically, "and this group has large ramifications for the development of music and the arts in Peterborough."

Posted November 13, 2002

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Last updated November 20, 2002