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Publication Date: Friday, March 01, 2002

Youth Symphony season begins Youth Symphony season begins (March 01, 2002)

Performance by pianist and former St. Francis High teacher Jon Nakamatsu to highlight season

By Candice Shih

'Tis the season for youth symphony concerts. ECYS has got Nakamatsu and CYS the history. Here's a guide of what to expect this month from these two groups and more.
El Camino Youth Symphony

Jon Nakamatsu came home. But if you missed his performance last Saturday with the San Jose Symphony, there's no need to panic. He's coming back to the Bay Area in just a week to perform Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 2 with ECYS at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 9 and Sunday, March 10. "It's a big event. I'm looking forward to it," said Nakamatsu.

Nakamatsu, best known for his win at the 1997 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, is also locally remembered as a Stanford University alumnus and former Saint Francis High School German teacher.

Although Nakamatsu now tours nationwide with 60-80 concerts a year, he still makes regular stops in the Bay Area. "Playing for the hometown crowd is really fun. You can't disappoint the people who supported you for so long," he said on Sunday.

With all his popularity, one might wonder why he would take the time to headline a youth symphony benefit concert.

Michail Gelfandbein could tell you that. The associate conductor of ECYS met and befriended Nakamatsu through the latter's teacher, Marina Derryberry, prior to his Van Cliburn win.

About a year ago, Gelfandbein attended a solo recital by Nakamatsu with Camilla Kolchinsky, conductor of the ECYS Senior Symphony. "We talked about the possibility of him playing with ECYS. He said 'Okay. Why not? I can do it,'" said Gelfandbein.

Gelfandbein recognizes that Nakamatsu's willingness to perform with a youth orchestra is "unusual," but Nakamatsu seems appreciative of the opportunity.

"Everyone wants to be there and everyone wants to play. There's a kind of exuberance," said the former high school teacher.

In addition to Nakamatsu, the 39-year-old ECYS will accompany cellist Gelfandbein on Bruch's Kol Nidrei. The Palo Alto-based youth orchestra led by Kolchinsky will also perform Franck's Symphony in d minor and Borodin's Polovetsian Dances.

The March 9th concert will take place at Messiah Lutheran Church in Redwood City. On March 10th, ECYS will perform the same program at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills. Tickets for the benefit concert are $25 for adults and $15 for students and seniors. Call 327-2611 or visit for more information.

California Youth Symphony

It's a joyous occasion for CYS as well this week, as it celebrates its 50th season with an anniversary concert.

California's first independent youth symphony was founded by Aaron Stern in 1952. According to Executive Director Jim Hogan, youth orchestras were "novel at the time. People didn't think young people could produce classical music at a performance level."

CYS proved them wrong. It became the first youth symphony to tour overseas when it went to Japan in 1963. And today it continues to attract and show off highly talented young musicians. "We're more popular than ever. We have larger audiences. We're doing something right," said Hogan.

On Sunday, March 3 at 2:30 p.m., CYS's history will be honored in its 50th Anniversary Concert at the Flint Center in Cupertino. The headliner will be the world premiere of Conductor Leo Eylar's Tonescapes, a 16 minute, 2-movement work commissioned specifically for this event by CYS.

Joining Tonescapes on the program are Rachmaninoff's Symphony No.3 and Shostakovich's Cello Concerto No. 1. Sixteen-year-old cellist Naoya Kanai, winner of CYS's Young Artist Competition in the instrumental category, performs the solo.

Although CYS has grown in size throughout the years, Hogan said, "The basic philosophy and mission have remained the same: to provide the finest classical music opportunities for students in the Bay Area."

Tickets are $12 for adults and $6 for students and seniors. They can be purchased at the door or by calling 325-6666. A repeat performance will also take place on Sunday, March 24th at 2:30 p.m. at the San Mateo Performing Arts Center.

Peninsula Youth Orchestra

PYO celebrates its fifth anniversary this season. Although relatively new, the senior group of PYO already has 105 members, and like its older cousins CYS and ECYS, it supports preparatory groups and travels internationally.

PYO will perfor at 7 p.m. on Sunday, March 17 at Skyline College Main Theatre. Mitchell Sardou Klein will conduct the program featuring PYO Concerto Winner Connie Chou of Hillsborough.

Chou will play Mendelssohn's Piano Concerto No. 1. The program also includes Mendelssohn's The Hebrides Overture, Prokofiev's Lieutenant KijÚ Symphonic Suite, and Rimsky-Korsakov's Russian Easter Overture.

"It's a good concert for us ... We're honoring our charter members, of which there are about 30 and doing a little presentation on that," said General Manager Sara Salsbury. "When we started five years ago, we had about 150 people (total) and 30 of them are still with us, which is really exciting."

Tickets for either concert can be purchased at the door and are $6 for adults and $3 for students and seniors. For more information, call 325-7967 or visit

Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra

PACO continues an 18-year-old tradition this month. Meant to coincide with Bach's birthday, March 21, the PACO Bach Celebration will take place at 8 p.m. on March 3, 10, and 17 at the Valley Presbyterian Church in Portola Valley.

The concerts will feature the young elite string players and professional guest artists on three all-Bach programs.

The first Sunday concert will include performances of the Christmas Oratorio part 5, the Harpsichord Concerto in F, and the Orchestral Suite No. 1 in C directed by harpsichordist Jonathan Salzedo. The second concert consists entirely of the Brandenburg Concertos (Nos. 3, 4, 5, and 6) directed by George Thomson.

The third and final concert features the Concerto in D Minor for Two Violins, Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring, the Trio Sonata from The Musical Offering, and the Flute Sonata in G Minor directed by Barbara Day Turner.

Tickets are $12 general for each concert and $10 for students and seniors. For more information, call 856-3848 or visit


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