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California Dreamin' Takes Talented Young Musicians of Pacific Symphony Youth Wind Ensemble on Tour to Austria for Participation in Prestigious Music Festival

Orange County, Calif. — June 26, 2017

It’s a dream come true for Pacific Symphony Youth Wind Ensemble’s (PSYWE) outstanding, young student musicians, who are about to see their 10th anniversary season culminate in a once-in-a-lifetime, nine-day international tour. Regarded as one of the premier youth wind symphonies in the nation, PSYWE—an 81-piece band made up of woodwind, brass and percussion students in grades 8-12, led by Music Director Gregory X. Whitmore—takes flight on July 3-12, along with Symphony staff and students’ family members, with stops in Austria’s “City of Music,” Vienna, and Mozart’s birthplace, Salzburg, for participation (by special invitation) in the Summa Cum Laude International Youth Music Festival.

“This feels amazing!” exclaims Maestro Whitmore. “The tour is the culmination of a two-year process of planning, discussions and meetings. I am so excited for the students to have the opportunity to perform and experience Salzburg and Vienna. My hopes and dreams are that the students will not only have the life-changing opportunity to make music in the home of classical music, but will also be able to immerse themselves in the cultural experiences we have planned. If the students come back changed for the better, having broadened their horizons—we have succeeded!”

The tour will be the first in PSYWE’s decade-long history, and has been part of a larger celebration of the ensemble’s 10-year anniversary season (2016-17). One goal of the tour is for PSYWE to play music in acclaimed European concert halls with passion and deep collaboration with one another—in alignment with the theme of the anniversary season, “Collaborations & Celebration.” Students will be transformed through performances in the famous Musikverein, the MuTh and the Vienna Konzerthaus. PSYWE’s tour programming will include highlights from each of the concerts that took place over the past season, plus several compulsory works by Viennese composers, as required by the Festival.

“The past season has prepared PSYWE for the tour in many ways,” says Whitmore. “First, we had a concert season to personally come together as an ensemble, which makes the opportunity to travel and perform abroad that much more substantial. Additionally, our performance literature will come from the season we have just completed, so we have had plenty of time to develop our program artistically.” 

A final “Bon Voyage” concert on June 30, offering a preview of the tour repertoire, takes places on PSYWE’s home turf—just days before the students departs for Austria. The concert is being held in honor of not only PSYWE, but also the donors who helped make the tour possible. Whitmore explains that, “the ‘Bon Voyage’ concert is a way to offer those not traveling with us a chance to hear our tour literature. We will also take this opportunity to celebrate the PSYWE, as we set off on the ensemble’s very first tour. Additionally, the ‘Bon Voyage’ concert will give us the opportunity to celebrate and thank the generous donors who have assisted in covering our tour expenses.” 

The Festival takes place in Vienna, which apart from being regarded as the “City of Music” because of its musical legacy, is also said to be (appropriately) “The City of Dreams,” because it was home to the world’s first psychoanalyst, Sigmund Freud. While in Vienna, goals during the Festival include meeting and interacting with students from around the world and across cultures, and to grow and bond as a PSYWE family.

“PSYWE was selected for this honor based upon the artistic caliber of the ensemble,” says Whitmore of the Festival. “As one of only a few youth wind ensembles associated with a major symphony orchestra, the PSYWE is uniquely positioned as both an artistic and educational experience for aspiring musicians. This positioning has allowed the PSYWE to develop artistically and take advantage of such amazing performance opportunities.”

One of the advantages of the Festival is that there will be many different types of youth ensembles from all over the world participating in the festival, including a wind ensemble from Japan, an orchestra from Spain, a saxophone choir from Italy, a marching band from Australia, a women’s choir from Oregon and many others. PSYWE will have the opportunity to see, meet and cheer on the many different ensembles from all over the world in their music-making, ensembles that approach their art with the same kind of passion and enthusiasm as they do themselves.

A final goal of the tour is for the students to immerse themselves in all of the historical and cultural opportunities that abound in some of the world’s most important cities. From Dusseldorf to Munich to Salzburg, where the students enjoy a full day in this city of visual drama—framed by mountains, crowned by the Hohensalzburg Fortress and divided by the Salzach River. Salzburg has been an endless source of inspiration to those who created its mighty Baroque churches and palatial Residenz, and to its famous son, Mozart. The students will see such sights as Salzburg Cathedral, St. Peter’s Abbey and the Getreidegasse. Highlights include a visit to Mozart’s birthplace.

The students then move on to Vienna, the capital of Austria and its biggest city, which boasts numerous notable musicians who were born there, including: Franz Schubert, Johann Srauss I and II, Arnold Shoenberg, Fritz Kreisler, Alban Berg, Anton Webern among them. Many other famous musicians flocked from other parts of Austria and Germany to work in Vienna, such as Joseph Hayden, Wofgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Liszt, Fran von Suppe, Anton Bruckner, Johannes Brahms, Gustav Mahler and others.

It is here that the students have their first chance to rehearse and perform as part of the Band and Orchestra Competition in the Vienna Konzerthaus, followed by performances in the Golden Hall of the acclaimed Musikverein, and the MuTh Concert Hall—the newest concert venue in Vienna and home to the Vienna Boy’s Choir. Highly courageous music and theater productions find a stage in
the MuTh, a play on the German
word Mut, or “courage.” The MuTh’s stage gives the performers almost as much space as the Vienna State Opera House.

PSYWE will also rehearse with members of the Festival’s faculty at the University of Music and enjoy a visit to the ‘Haus der Musik’ (House of Music). This relatively new museum attributes great value to interactive
learning experiences, while covering the history of the
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and the city of Vienna as a center of music-making (Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Mahler, Schubert and others
are documented). Plus, there are the more experimental sections of futuristic composition (The Brain Opera) and sound experiences.

While in Vienna, the students will also have the opportunity to see the sights, soak in the culture and sightsee. While there, students will encounter such sights as the Parliament, City Hall, Hofburg Palace, the Cathedral and the Vienna Central Cemetery to see the tombs and memorials of famous composers Beethoven, Mozart, the Strauss family and Brahms. Rounding out the fun will be a visit to Prater Park (where they will also perform) and to Schonbrunn Palace. On their own, students may choose to also see the Hofburg Palace, the Museums Quartier and the Spanish Riding School.

The Gala Winners’ Concert and Awards Ceremony takes place at the Konzerthaus, where PSYWE may perform again at the adjudicators’ discretion. Afterwards, there will be a farewell dinner reception at the Vienna City Hall hosted by the Lord Mayor of Vienna.

“There is a great quote by Mark Twain that sums up my feelings about this opportunity,” says Whitmore: “‘Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.’”

Representing more than 20 schools in and beyond Orange County, PSYWE offers performance opportunities to young instrumentalists through high quality and innovative artistic experiences. While this tour is the first for PSYWE, it is the fourth for Pacific Symphony Youth Ensembles (PSYE), which also includes Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra, which toured Bulgaria in 2011 and China last June, and Pacific Symphony Santiago Strings (PSSS), which in March 2016 travelled to Tampa, Fla., to take part in the American String Teachers Association National Orchestra Festival. Representing 72 schools, the PSYE perform in the world-class Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, as well as at other venues in Orange County.