June 20, 2016

RPYO music director reflects on first season, looks to future

It’s been a great year for James Mick, assistant professor of music education at Ithaca College. In July, he was named music director of the Rochester Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, succeeding David Harman who retired after 21 years of service. Then in September, he got married. Despite a hectic schedule, Dr. Mick was welcomed with open arms by RPYO students, parents, alumni and previous conductors, including Harman who guided Dr. Mick’s first season as music director.
James Mick

“I was surprised how much support there is in the RPYO,” said Dr. Mick. “Everyone gets along and there is always someone willing to help out.”

Founded in 1970, the RPYO is an audition-based orchestra that draws the most talented classically-trained young musicians in our region. RPO Music Director Ward Stare was a member of the RPYO, and many of its alumni can be found performing with major symphonies and professional ensembles here and abroad. The RPYO performs three concerts each season, including a side-by-side with the RPO. In 2016-17, the RPYO will return to Carnegie Hall for the first time since 2013.

“The students are up for the challenge,” said Dr. Mick. “They take their lives as musicians seriously, and it’s inspiring as a music educator to see this level of enthusiasm. They are eager to perform at the highest caliber.”

The RPYO recently held auditions for the upcoming season at the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra administrative offices. 75 students’ grades 7-12 auditioned for a total of 40 open positions, left vacant by graduating seniors. The auditions were spread out over four days and involved thirteen RPO adjudicators in addition to Dr. Mick.

“It’s a true audition,” said Dr. Mick. “We expect them to prepare an excerpt of a particular piece, and also to do a sight-reading. We don’t provide feedback. It’s important for them to learn how to handle an audition.”

The 2016-17 RPYO will include nearly 100 students. While Dr. Mick isn’t ready to reveal programming just yet, he teased the possibility of something that the NY Philharmonic will also be performing when the students visit Carnegie Hall next February.

“I love getting to watch these students experience this repertoire for the first time,” said Dr. Mick. “They just devour it!”

Visit the RPYO website for more information.
The RPYO in rehearsal with the RPO for the March side-by-side, under the baton of James Mick.

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