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The Louisville Youth Orchestra's New Director Wants To Go Big

Courtesy Deana Tham

Mahler and Tchaikovsky symphonies are often big, expensive endeavors for professional orchestras, and they may seem out of reach for youth orchestras.

But the newly appointed music director for the Louisville Youth Orchestra sees opportunity in big symphonies for young players.

I spoke with Deanna Tham about her goals as the new conductor of the Louisville Youth Orchestra, and how to approach teaching orchestral music to the next generation of musicians.

Listen to the audio in the player above.

On the balance between being a teacher to young people and coaching musicians in a mock professional setting:

"You let the music do the teaching. The music, it's been around for hundreds and hundreds of years. The music that's being created now is going to be around hopefully for hundreds and hundreds of years, and it offers so much on its own.

"I don't even think about teaching. The music is teaching me, and I am just relaying that information to those students. I might frame it in a different way. I might have to coach them in, hey, if we want to get this effect, you're going to have to do these things. And those are just mechanics. But that's what the music is teaching me. I hear something that comes back from them at me from the orchestra and I go, look, it's nothing personal, it's nothing about education, this is just the way it's supposed to sound, this is what the music is supposed to do."

On her ambitions for the Louisville Youth Orchestra: 

"That's what really got me — being in that culture — really got me excited about playing classical music was playing those huge pieces, and you can do that in youth orchestra. There are limitations in youth orchestra, which is what allows me to play those, I take advantage of those limitations in the sense that in a professional orchestra, you have to program down or program smart. And it's not that I don't program smart. But in a youth orchestra, I'm trying to get as many people to play as I can.

"That opens up to things like 'Pines of Rome' is absolutely something we can do, anything that's Mahler is absolutely something we can do because the numbers are so huge. And you know what? That's what got me excited about music. And that's what I want to get these kids excited about."

Daniel Gilliam is Program Director for LPM Classical. Email Daniel at dgilliam@lpm.org.

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