It started on a back porch in Chautauqua!
In the summer of 2014, Three Rivers Young Peoples Orchestras (TRYPO) Executive Director, Lindsey Nova, and TRYPO Board President, Paula Rehn, were invited to Chautauqua, NY, to visit a group of young musicians, guests of Jim Cunningham (WQED-FM) and his wife, Laurie. For three summers, the Cunninghams had been renting a house so students could attend Chautauqua Music Camp and study chamber music together. Most of the students that summer were members of TRYPO, and a few were joining the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra (PYSO) that fall. Lindsey and Paula saw the potential for the program to grow, and TRYPO's Board of Directors agreed to assume responsibility for the residential camp the next year.
August 2015, TRYPO expanded the Chautauqua program to two houses, invited members of both TRYPO and PYSO, and doubled attendance to 26 campers! Lindsey and Craig Johnson, Executive Director of PYSO, invited members of their board of directors to visit Chautauqua, attend the students' final performance, and discuss the possiblity of forming a shared chamber program in Pittsburgh. Carolyn and Bill Byham, avid arts-supporters in Pittsburgh, agreed to host the group for lunch at their summer home in Chautauqua. It was on the Byham's back porch, surrounded by sunshine, good food, and the students' love of chamber music, that the seeds of YC² were planted.
For several years, TRYPO had been working with City Music Center (CMC) of Duquesne University to offer chamber music education and performance opportunities to their members. Since 2000, PYSO had been partnering with Chamber Music Pittsburgh to offer their Montgomery Fellowship Quartet program to a quartet of PYSO members, which includes a year of chamber music coaching with a member of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PSO), performance opportunities, and other benefits.
Fall 2015, TRYPO, PYSO, and CMC combined efforts and began the Youth Chamber Connection (YC²). Within the first three days, dozens had signed up; and by the end of September, 60 musicians had been assembled into 15 chamber groups, ages 8-18, coached by members of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the Pittsburgh Opera Orchestra, CMC faculty, and other area music educators. The students performed over 75 times across Western Pennsylvania during the inaugural 2015-16 year. YC² began an enrichment program for its members, offering master classes, tickets to professional chamber music concerts, and group chamber events.
Summer 2016, YC² in Chautauqua, the new name for the Chautauqua program, doubled attendance once again, filling four houses with 50 young high-school-age musicians for a week in August. Conductor Eddie Leonard, Music Director of Chamber Orchestra of Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh Philharmonic, joined the team and prepared the students to perform three world premieres written by Pittsburgh teen composers.
Fall 2016, YC² placed 85 students in 21 chamber ensembles, which performed over 100 times during the 2016-17 school year, including initiating a new Pop-Up Concert series of simultaneous performances in seven neighborhood branches of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.
YC² in Chautauqua 2017 again has filled four houses, and is continuing its sixth summer collaborating with Chautauqua Institution, and their Chautauqua Music Camps Director Pete Lindblom. Maestro Leonard has been named Conductor in Residence for the week, and the students have been invited to perform Faure's Requiem along with Chautauqua Music Director Jared Jacobsen and the Chautauqua Choir.
Fall 2017-18, YC² launched a new program called Community Connections. This mini-track is available to students at all levels of musicianship. Several times a year, Community Connections members will be invited to participate in a performance event designed to take classical music out into the community, to reach neighbors who rarely hear live music.
If you have ideas for a performance opportunity for one of our chamber groups or our Community Connections program, contact Laurie Cunningham, YC² Manager.