Youth Music Monterey, Feb 28

Jonathan_VuBy Scott MacClelland

MONTEREY COUNTY is a microcosm of contemporary American society, for better and for worse. On the bad side is the horrific murder rate among young adults with gang connections that leads all California counties in violent deaths, and the breakdown of social structures that feeds it. What’s good is those institutions of learning and arts that are flourishing under strong local support of their missions and vision. As Paulette Lynch of the Arts Council for Monterey County continually reminds us, the arts are the answer.

And she’s not the only one. Hamish Tyler of the Office of Education’s Media Center for Arts, Education and Technology (MCAET) uses his facilities in conjunction with the arts-magnet Millennium Charter High School to reiterate his own lifetime of arts-education advocacy.

Then there are YOSAL and Youth Music Monterey County whose student musicians put on a demonstration Sunday in Carmel of just how well it can work in the best circumstances. YMMC’s two orchestras, Junior Youth and Honors, wowed a sold-out Sunset Center with conductor Farkhad Khudyev on the podium and violinist Jonathan Vu—above, who will graduate from York School this spring—playing a concerto movement by Wieniawski, a 19th century Polish violinist.

YOSAL—Youth Orchestra Salinas—which uses the El Sistema educational method, has steadily gained ground in Salinas schools, many of which find themselves in the crosshairs, figuratively speaking, of gang violence concentrated in that city and others in Salinas Valley. Of the 37 YOSAL students who joined YMMC on Sunday, several are dedicated members of YMMC as well. Of course, a great many families are on the same page as Lynch and Tyler, and on Sunday went home puffed up with pride in their children.

The Junior Youth Orchestra opened the program with music of Antonín Dvořák, Georges Bizet, Quinto Maganini and Aram Khatchaturian. Like the Honors Orchestra program of Wieniawski, Anatol Liadov and Bedřich Smetana, these works all challenged the abilities of the students, on both levels. Khudyev chose them for that purpose then displayed his own artistic magic in shaping and pacing the students through their tricky parts. For the Junior group he was as much teacher as conductor. For the Honors, he was fully the artist the community has already found him to be, a man of exceptional talent and charisma. Indeed, in Liadov’s fragile and magical The Enchanted Lake, the orchestra glowed with delicate color and confidence.

In the concert conclusion, Smetana’s unique river cruise down the Vltava (Moldau), the Honors Orchestra displayed a professionalism that even the toughest critics could only marvel at. Moreover, Khudyev added many of his own interpretive details of phrasing and dynamics that enhanced the listening experience as much as they honored the composer’s plan.

For his part, Vu took on the virtuoso violin solo fearlessly. He, like the orchestras on their own, got a standing ovation. Then, at the end of the program, the concertmaster, Steve Yoo of Carmel High, called on the audience to give Vu another ovation, confessing that his “obese ego” was responsible for cutting the first one short.