Orchestra gets in tune – Burbank native is eager to play her first show as first violinist at the Alex Theatre.

By Joyce Rudolph
Published: Last Updated Wednesday, November 19, 2008 2:17 PM PST

Alyssa Quiogue zeroed in on what she wanted, and her dream came true — to become concertmaster, or first violinist, of the Glendale Youth Orchestra.

The 12-year-old Burbank native will perform for the first time in the role on Dec. 2 when the orchestra opens its 20th anniversary season at the Alex Theatre in Glendale. The orchestra comprises students from grades six through 12.

While the John Muir Middle School seventh-grader doesn’t usually get nervous, she said she did become a little apprehensive before trying out for concertmaster.

“I kept telling myself a little saying I got from my English teacher, Mr. Senar,” she said. “He got it from a story to inspire him to do better at something. The saying is ‘Focus on what you want, not on what you fear.’”

Alyssa is assuming the role left vacant by Erica Richardson, said Brad Keimach, the orchestra’s conductor.

“Erica finished high school early and went on to the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia,” Keimach said. “It’s one of the world’s great music conservatories.”

Alyssa won the seat by competitive audition on Nov. 4. All the violin players in the section competed, but Alyssa scored the highest.

“Alyssa was extra-motivated,” Keimach said. “I found out after the audition from her private teacher that she had worked diligently and tirelessly on the music for the audition.”

Alyssa has been taking violin for five years and joined the youth orchestra in fifth grade. She started in the first violin section and was the youngest player.

“And I still am the youngest,” Alyssa said. “And I was assistant concertmaster last year, sitting next to Erica Richardson.”

The program for the first concert of the season will be Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Coriolan Overture” and Symphony No. 8 in F, Richard Wagner’s “Siegfried Idyll” and Aaron Copland’s Hoedown from the ballet “Rodeo.”

“I really like the Hoedown,” Alyssa said. “It’s like the first American contemporary piece we’ve done. We usually play classical.”

Alyssa has a brief solo in the Hoedown piece.

“It goes a little bit high on shifting of the fingering positions on the violin,” she said.

The whole program is an orchestral showcase of the different parts of the orchestra, Keimach said.

“The two Beethoven pieces show off the dramatic, expressive power of the orchestra, while the Wagner shows off the lyrical and passionate side,” he said. “The Hoedown gives the orchestra a chance to kick up its heels and dance.”

The musicians don’t dance, Keimach added, but they all stand while performing. That’s something rarely done by any orchestra, he said, but the sound is noticeably better.

“That’s the unique thing about this orchestra,” Keimach said. “It’s also exciting for the audience. No one can believe the amount and quality of sound coming from an orchestra of that size, but the sound is vibrant, rich, full and strong.”

Standing up while playing took some getting used to, said principal clarinet player Michelle Kim, 17, of Burbank.

“At the first concert, I felt weird,” she said. “I thought it was silly. But I got used to it and my sound got louder, so I think it’s a good point to stand up.”

The Glendale Adventist Academy 11th-grader has been with the youth orchestra for three years.

Her favorite piece for the upcoming concert is the Beethoven Coriolan Overture, she said.

“Because it’s Beethoven, and Beethoven is my favorite composer, because his music has everything in it,” Michelle said. “I can’t explain it, but when I play it, I feel it.”