American Youth Symphony Returns to Walt Disney Concert Hall This Weekend

Nearly 400 of the finest young orchestral and choral musicians from AYS and National Children’s Chorus will perform Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem on Saturday

By Susan Payne

In its 58th season, the American Youth Symphony (AYS) is returning to Walt Disney Concert Hall this week for LA Phil’s “Sounds About Town” series. 

Nearly 400 of the finest young orchestral and choral musicians from AYS and National Children’s Chorus will perform Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem on Saturday, Feb. 25 at 2 p.m., a deeply moving performance depicting the haunting atrocities of warfare in the hopes of signifying the importance of global unity.

“Maestro Carlos Izcaray has been our music director since 2016 and he continues to inspire the aspiring musicians of AYS with a socially conscious approach to music and advocate for showcasing and supporting today’s living composers and underrepresented voices,” said Isabel Thiroux, interim executive director at AYS.

With its year coming to a close in April, AYS is planning two community events with partners A Place Called Home and Inner-City Arts, in addition to its 58th Annual Gala at Royce Hall with works by Samuel Barber, Ese-Pekka Salonen, Gabriela Ortiz and Richard Strauss. After the gala, a private post-concert wine reception will be held for donors and AYS members. 

“AYS has been providing landmark fellowships and training to virtuosic young musicians for the past 58 years through incredible performance opportunities and meaningful community partnerships. We train musicians, build audiences and provide community education,” Thiroux said. 

AYS orchestra fellows are ages 15 and up and most concerts are free to the public. In addition to the orchestra, AYS offers the following programs:

  • Fellowship program — four fellowships that provide professional development training above and beyond the rigorous performance opportunities available to all orchestra members. In recognition of the broad range of skills needed to succeed as professionals, each program provides career-specific elements of education, responsibility and leadership experience in a paid, season-long fellowship.
  • Share-A-Stand (SAS) — musicians visit partner schools as instrument-specific “String Coaches” leading sectionals, rehearsing side-by-side with students and mentoring students in creative and personal growth. SAS is currently partnered with Markham Middle School in Watts, Griffith STEAM Magnet Middle School in East Los Angeles and Robert Frost Middle School in Granada Hills. Transportation and tickets are provided to all three partner schools to the annual Hollywood Project concert at UCLA’s Royce Hall.

“We will always have different segments of our audience in mind when planning and programming, including families, fans of live-to-film performances, and we also have presented world premieres of new music every season,” said Thiroux.

Thiroux has been a part of AYS for over half of her life, starting her journey with the organization as a member of the viola section from 2001 to 2007. 

“My last concert with AYS was playing Mahler’s Fifth Symphony at Walt Disney Concert Hall. I thought that was a good way to end my tenure at AYS, but little did I know, that was just the beginning,” she said. 

In 2007, Thiroux joined the organization as a part-time administrative assistant, then became the orchestra manager in 2010. In 2015, she moved her way up and became the director of orchestra operations. 

Currently, Thiroux still holds that role but is the interim executive director while AYS searches for the next executive director. 

“I look forward to enthusiastically supporting the new executive director with all of my organizational knowledge and institutional history,” she said. 

For its 59th season that will be announced later this year, AYS is including performances at its home venues, Royce Hall and Wal Disney Concert Hall, and in the local community. 

To learn more about AYS, or to attend a local or community performance, visit www.aysymphony.org.

Tickets for the upcoming Sounds About Town concert range from $16 to $50 and can be purchased here.

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