by Andrea Cassutt, Executive Director
Our students then are much like wild geese. They can look – and sound – a little chaotic as they take flight, in the early stages, until they learn and find recognizable formations – the structures of music, instrumentation and ensemble playing. Once they do, they rely on each other, and can also be drawn up and forward by the student playing beside or in front of them. Together they share the effort, work and play together, finding their way forward.
While we like to think of youth as a carefree time, we know more and more that kids struggle with many aspects of school, community and growing up. Music supports students in many ways and often helps a person find what it is they love, and learn what it means to love it. From this knowledge and love, excellence and art begin to emerge. Music itself, our coaches, conductors, and fellow musicians, can help a student weather and navigate personal happenings, even as life and the world simply move on.
And core to SFYSA’s mission is the last line of Mary Oliver’s poem:
We strive to make sure every student, every child interested in music, whether it be jazz, mariachi or orchestra, can find his, her or their place “in the family of things.”
By Andrea Cassutt
The summer adventures of our students and teachers have them following their musical hearts all over! With 230 students last year and 8 staff, we’re sure there are at least that many stories about how the summer is going, but we’ve heard a few already.
Discovering New Instruments
In her adventures at Texas Tech Band and Orchestra camp, flautist Abby Wilson (SFYSA Youth Philharmonic and Jazz Performance) is playing in the top ensemble, and also learning bass flute. She had the chance to try contra bass flute and loved it. Her younger brothers Sam and Aden are also practicing and working on their musicianship this summer. Sam went to Hummingbird music camp for Viola and Chess, and Aden is taking lessons and getting ready to join our Prelude String Orchestra in the fall. Joshua, one of our Elementary String Viola players has branched out to take guitar lessons this summer in Albuquerque, and his teacher is impressed that his learning and understanding of string instruments has crossed over so well.
Returning to beautiful and beloved places
One of our new conductors, Carla Kountoupes, teaches at Sitka Fine Arts Camp in Alaska during the summers! It looks a magical place on the coast, which she clearly enjoys. We look forward to her returning inspired and in touch with wild places to lead the Prelude String Orchestra this fall.
Going far away
Kayden plays violin in our Youth Philharmonic, and he also plays the piano. His talent and love for the piano have taken him all the way to Switzerland this summer for a Julliard program in the Fine Arts held at the Collège du Léman boarding school campus. Students from all levels of experience and all different nationalities attend and we can’t wait to hear how it was!
Staying close to home
Many of our students and families will be here in Santa Fe for the summer, hard at work in jobs, and hopefully also finding time to practice and attend the many musical events in our city! We hope everyone is exploring the free music at the Santa Bandstand on the Plaza and in the Railyard!
The Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival has a special youth concert series each year. https://www.santafechambermusic.com/concert-calendar/youth-concerts/
Whether traveling, practicing or attending performances, we wish you a musical summer!
By Andrea Cassutt, Executive Director
Small feet, small hands and arms, and small bodies GROW. Children in our Elementary Strings program, an SFYSA program modeled after El Sistema and recipient of the 2010 Piñon Award for Excellence in Education, are small humans. To them a full-size violin can seem almost as big as a cello! Violins start at 1/16th the full-size for very young children, and those instruments are adorable!
While experts don’t agree how early it is best to start a child on a string instrument, they tend to agree that by around the age of 6 is ideal.
Once a child is ready, early stringmusic education is important for developing fine motor skills, important aspects of mental and emotional well-being, and setting the stage for a lifetime of learning.
Children enrolled in our Elementary Strings program all receive an instrument free of charge
And just like with their shoes, kids outgrow their violins. Especially after a summer of activity, which is when they grow most, a child can return to our Elementary Strings Program in need of a larger violin. Because we provide every child in this program with an instrument, they simply turn in their outgrown violin and start the year with one that fits them just right. Wouldn’t it be great if kids shoe stores did the same?
Several people have asked and wondered if the Santa Fe Youth Symphony Association closes or goes away during the school summer vacation. The short answer is no, AND there are a number of other things we want to share with you.
Pictured here is our Executive Director, Andrea Cassutt, acknowledging and introducing our staff at an end-of-season party for the staff and Board of Directors. From left to right: Susan Brown (Administrative Assistant), Jesus Gachupin (outgoing Mariachi Director), Sarah Gachupin (outgoing Elementary Strings Director), Ryan Finn (Youth Philharmonic Conductor), Andrea Cassutt (Executive Director), Carla Kountoupes (Prelude String Orchestra Conductor), Elizabeth Young (Intermezzo String Orchestra Conductor), Chris Ishee (Jazz Director), and William Waag (Director of Orchestras). We had a wonderful celebration together after an afternoon board retreat with an outside facilitator hired to work with us on program excellence, student access, and the overall direction of the organization.
Other activities for the summer months include: getting settled in our new office space, reviewing and refining audition requirements for our ensembles, clarifying curriculum, hiring a new Elementary Strings Director and Mariachi Director, as well as staff training and team building. We have grants to research and apply for, retreats and tours to plan, sectional coaches to schedule and scholarship money to raise. Some of our staff is also off at conducting workshops or vacationing with their family to rest and rejuvenate for the coming season.
While we seek to include swimming pools, rafting trips, hiking, camping and adventure in our summer months, we also strive to be ready to have our best season yet. Our office is open through out the summer, and we are hard at work. More exciting news on our 24th season to follow!
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Our Mission is to inspire and engage the youth of Northern New Mexico's multicultural communities through excellent music education, the guidance of music professionals, and performance opportunities from small ensemble to full orchestra in Jazz, Mariachi and Orchestra.