When Barbara Scowcroft was asked to direct the Utah Youth Symphony in 1986, she had no idea she'd still head the state's leading youth orchestra more than two decades later.
"The here and now was so overwhelming. I never really allowed myself to think otherwise," she told the Deseret News. So, when she assumed the helm of the orchestra, she didn't put a time frame on how long she planned on staying. And she has no intention of stepping down anytime soon. "These past 21 seasons have been an absolute joy," she said.
The Utah Youth Symphony, which numbers approximately 130 members, will give its annual spring concert Saturday in Abravanel Hall. On the program are two works, Alexander Borodin's "In the Steppes of Central Asia" and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's "Scheherazade."
This will be the first time the orchestra will play "Scheherazade."
"You have to wait for the right package of people and sections to come along," Scowcroft said, revealing the secret behind programming for the youth symphony.
You can't always program a certain work because you don't always have the right players or you don't have a certain section that's strong, she added.
This year, everything fell into place with a solid brass section and a wonderfully talented concertmaster who allowed Scowcroft to finally program Rimsky-Korsakov's most popular work.
Andrea Hughes is the orchestra's current concertmaster. A student of Utah Symphony concertmaster Ralph Matson, and a soloist at last year's Salute to Youth concert, she'll play all of the solos in "Scheherazade." "She is fantastic," Scowcroft said. "She's worked really hard and she's ready for it."
One of the thrills in being the youth symphony's music director is seeing the young musicians blossom and develop. Hughes is a fine example of that development, Scowcroft said. "Andrea is a junior now, but I
first met her when she was a freshman, and it's been great seeing her develop. The quality of her sound and her attention to beauty is just amazing. She has become a leader, and I often have her demonstrate something instead of doing it myself."
Once they leave the orchestra, many of the former members pursue a musical education and go on to professional careers in music. A couple of the more notable youth symphony alumni are former concertmaster Jenny Oaks Baker, who until just recently was a member of the first violin section of the National Symphony Orchestra, and Kristopher Tong, currently the second violinist of the Borromeo String Quartet.
Their success is undoubtedly due in part to the fact that Scowcroft likes to challenge her orchestra. The works they play aren't simplified arrangements, but the original scores. "It's hard," she said. "That's why we only have two concerts each season."
Despite or perhaps because of what Scowcroft expects from her musicians, the players always rise to the occasion and excel. "They look forward to playing this music. Sometimes someone even comes up to me and suggests a piece, and a few time I've said OK."
It's rewarding seeing how the orchestra members respond to classical music, she said. "It's exciting having them experience this and get better at what they do. I try to deepen that experience for them and have them see what classical music can do for their minds and souls."And as hard as these young musicians work, Scowcroft realizes that none of it would be possible without their parents' commitment and efforts. "The parents are really wonderful, driving them to music lessons and to orchestra rehearsal every Saturday morning. They are super-dedicated people, and I want to express my intense gratitude to them. Their support makes this happen."
If you go . . .
What: Utah Youth Symphony, Barbara Scowcroft, conductor
Where: Abravanel Hall
When: Saturday 7 p.m.
How much: Free