‘The Secret Garden’ and ‘West Side Story + Roméo et Juliette’ Highlight Young Artists of America’s 2014-2015 ‘British Invasion’ Season by Rolando Sanz

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Last season was a dream for us at YAA! We opened the season with a gala performance of SHOW BOAT in Concert at the Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club in November 2013. Over 90 students were joined onstage by guest mentors from the Washington National Opera, Strathmore, National Philharmonic and The Catholic University of America. We could not have been more pleased with the turnout: a standing room only crowd of 500 people who reveled in the glorious music by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II.

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Last spring, we were honored when Broadway legend Jason Robert Brown accepted our invitation to come to Maryland for the regional premiere of the fully orchestrated version of his song cycle, SONGS FOR A NEW WORLDJason spent 4 days mentoring, rehearsing and performing with our 90+ students. This unique opportunity to perform this groundbreaking work with the composer himself (who incidentally had just opened his Tony-award winning musical The Bridges of Madison County) was not lost on the students, and they thrived and excelled under his guidance. We were especially humbled when Jason himself devoted an entire blog post on his website to YAA, gushing about the YAA program and his time spent with us. His thoughts can be read here.

We could not be more excited to announce Young Artists of America’s upcoming 2014-2015 Season! The season is titled British Invasion as both productions are based on the works of famous British playwrights, namely Frances Hodgson Burnett and the master, William Shakespeare. Both YAA productions were conceived to continue our quest to expose our students to a varied array of musical styles and genres, all the while focusing on what YAA does best, the MUSIC! In true YAA fashion, both productions will of course include the full symphonic scores, provided by the 54 piece YAA Youth Orchestra in the fall and  the 90+ piece Maryland Classic Youth Orchestras Philharmonic in the spring.

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In choosing repertoire for each season, we are always on the lookout for works that would best showcase our students and also expose them to repertoire they might not otherwise experience, all the while always working to emphasize the musical aspect of musical theatre and opera. Often, as with our selection for our upcoming spring production, this takes us back in time to the last generation of musical theatre and sometimes even back a century to the height of operatic music. However, there are those composers today that are still writing contemporary scores that utilize the sonorities of a full orchestra in telling their grand musical story. Our first production next season is such an example.

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The score of The Secret Garden is the perfect piece to showcase the strengths of our YAA instrumentalists and vocalists with its lush symphonic orchestrations and sweeping vocal melodies. Composer Lucy Simon, along with orchestrator William D. Brohn (Ragtime, Miss Saigon), do a masterful job of setting this classic children’s tale to music and bringing the words of Pulitzer-prize winning playwright, Marsha Norman (The Bridges of Madison County, The Color Purple) to life.

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After our wildly successful opera/musical pairing of Madama Butterfly & Miss Saigon at Strathmore in 2013, we decided to create another unique pairing of classical and contemporary works for our return to the mainstage at The Music Center at Strathmore this coming March 2015. As in 2013, YAA will again collaborate with the exceptional 90+ piece MCYO Philharmonic and guest vocalists to bring Shakespeare’s tale of the two most famous star-crossed lovers to life. West Side Story + Roméo et Juliette will tell this famous tale through both scores, weaving together music that was brilliantly composed by Leonard Bernstein and Charles Gounod 90 years apart.

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At YAA we are always looking to augment our performance opportunities for students with educational opportunities as well. We are happy to announce the return of our popular Summer Institute for Singers in Summer 2015.

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Also, since our inception, students have been asking for opportunities to coach and improve on their auditioning skills in preparation for college and summer program auditions. As a result, we are pleased to announce a new initiative in the fall called Audition Intensives that will give instrumental and vocal students the opportunity to present their audition repertoire in front of a panel of experts and to work on them in a masterclass setting. This is a unique opportunity for students to practice their auditioning skills while also receiving crucial feedback as they prepare for major auditions.

As you can see, we have a full season ahead of us, and we very much hope that you will join us for our 2014-2015 performances!