Chairs set up in half-circle rows scratched at the old wood floor as music stands perched like bird’s feet held sheet music filled with dots that looked like beads strung on thin thread.
Reno Philharmonic Youth Orchestra conductor Jason Altieri said the concert orchestra practices Mondays at 4 p.m., followed by the symphony orchestra at 6 p.m. Last Monday’s practice was in preparations for this Monday’s fall concert at 7 p.m. at the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts.
“We’ve been working pretty hard this semester,” Altieri said. “We have a total of three orchestras in the youth orchestra and all three will be performing on Monday.”
Altieri said the three orchestras seat more than 150 students who seek to enrich their music studies by joining one of the Reno Philharmonic youth orchestras. The program began in 1995 as one youth orchestra and expanded in 1997 to make room for the number of students applying for the program.
This year, the Reno Philharmonic Youth Orchestra has added a third group, the Youth Strings Symphonia, which is geared toward strings players in fourth to eighth grades.
“Adding a third orchestra is very exciting,” Altieri said. “To have that size of a youth orchestra program is amazing. It is a testament to the community.”
From Strings Symphonia, students can audition to be a part of the Youth Concert Orchestra, which is geared toward preparing students’ technical and performance skills. Or, students can audition to join the Youth Symphony Orchestra, which is for advanced music students.
“Most of the students come from Washoe County but the program is for northern Nevada,” Altieri said, adding that some students drive from Carson City and Incline Village to participate. “Some school programs are very small. This affords them the opportunity to be around some of the best.”
Cello player Mary Ellsworth, 17, said she receives her high school education at home and her private instructor suggested joining the Youth Concert Orchestra for a chance to play and meet people.
“This is my third year this year,” Ellsworth said. “It’s just a really good experience. You get to meet a lot of people and the conductor is really awesome.”
Ellsworth said playing the cello came from her curiosity about the instrument.
“My mom has a cello,” Ellsworth said. “When I was 13, I tried it out and went from there.”
Ellsworth said she is excited for Monday’s performance because of the great strides the orchestra has taken since Altieri began conducting two years ago.
“It’s going to be a great performance,” Ellsworth said. “The conductor has done amazing work with this orchestra.”
Altieri said he took the job conducting the youth concert and symphony orchestras, in addition to conducting at the University of Nevada, Reno, about two years ago.
“I’m from Atlanta and came out here while touring with different professional orchestras,” Altieri said. “I just applied for this job and now I’m into my second year in Reno.”
Altieri said he couldn’t be happier with the youth orchestras and the music the students are producing.
“I’m making good music here and the students are really top notch,” Altieri said. “They’re teaching me a lot, too.”
The orchestras have been practicing since September for the fall performance and also will have a spring show. Altieri said auditions to join the orchestras are in May and the music materials for the auditions are posted on the Reno Philharmonic Web site, www.renophil.com/education/educationorchestras.html.
“Auditions are very nerve-racking, but once you get in you’re able to be a part of something really special,” Altieri said.
The concert and symphony orchestras will each play four songs on Monday. The Youth Strings Symphonia, conducted by Carol Laube, will also perform.
Songs for the concert orchestra will include an overture from Piccini, an arrangement from Dvorak’s “8th Symphony,” a march by Berlioz and a piece for strings by Hovhaness. Songs for the symphony orchestra include “Academic Festival Overture” by Brahms, “English Folk Song Suite” by Ralph Vaughan Williams, Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana by Mascagni and “Marche Slave” by Tchaikovsky.
Tickets for the Reno Philharmonic Youth Orchestra’s performance are $10 and can be purchased at the McKinley Arts and Culture Center at 925 Riverside Drive in Reno or at the door before the performance at 7 p.m. at the Pioneer Center located at 100 S. Virginia St. in Reno.