Student musicians, BSQ to perform as an orchestra at Troy Music Hall

What do you call a hundred kids on stage who have never played as an orchestra before? “Exciting,” s

What do you call a hundred kids on stage who have never played as an orchestra before?

“Exciting,” said violinist Christopher Vuk of the Boston String Quartet. “Playing music is an empowering experience.”

On Saturday at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, the Ethno-Urban Orchestra, which includes 120 high-school students from the Capital Region, will perform a wide-ranging program of movie soundtracks, video game music, rock and pop.

The orchestra is part of a music education program that the BSQ began four years ago. Vuk, violinist Angel Valchiov, violist Chen Lin and cellist Christina Stripling all came from a classical background and wanted to find a way to provide more children who already were playing instruments a greater connection to the performance experience, Vuk said.

“We started with five schools in the Brookline area and got 30 kids,” he said.

Ethno-Urban Orchestra

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, 30 Second St., Troy

HOW MUCH: $36 to $16.

MORE INFO: 273-0038,

The experience of two days of rehearsals, master classes and improvisation sessions with music that the quartet had either arranged or had written was followed by a concert. The venture was so successful that they repeated it in four more cities.

Multiple contacts

The quartet has been around since 2008 and does about 60 concerts a year, so they had contacts in many places, Vuk said. They called this the Xibus program — a made-up name that Vuk thought sounded cool. The name Ethno-Urban Orchestra is being used for the first time as a way to show what the group will be playing.

Over the next few years as they added more cities, the quartet sometimes had up to 150 students per event, which caused them to hire conductor Todd Sullivan, who had experience with young orchestras and Broadway. He now travels with the quartet. But Vuk wasn’t satisfied.

“Before, we used high school auditoriums,” he said. “I wanted to ramp up the experience and to allow more kids to perform in a concert hall.”

So when he contacted the school districts and music teachers in the Capital Region, he had his eyes on the Music Hall. Although every student who wanted to participate had to send in a written application — there was no application fee but there was a $25 fee if accepted, music teachers generally choose who participates. For this show, students will come from the following school districts: Guilderland, Hoosick Falls, Saratoga Springs, Bethlehem, Averill Park, Niskayuna, Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk, Schalmont, Albany, Shenendehowa, Shaker and Monument Mountain Region High School of Great Barrington, Mass.

To make the show even more interesting, BSQ asked Scarlett Fade to sing. The program will include music from the Harry Potter and “Star Wars” films, Michael Jackson, Mario Brothers, and Charlie Daniels. The orchestra will do one part of the show and the quartet will play world music on the other half. Some of the music was commissioned from such composers as Lanny Meyers, Lucas Vital and Danny Seidenberg.

After the Troy concert, the Ethno-Urban name will apply to orchestras in eight other cities, which include New Haven, Conn.; Cleveland; Cedar Falls, Iowa; Washington; and Knoxville and Memphis, Tenn. The quartet has already lined up 160 students in the Knoxville school districts who will perform the same repertoire as the Troy concert.

“The response has been enormous,” Vuk said.

What makes it more interesting for the districts is that this is not a one-time event.

“We’ll repeat this next year in the same cities. It’s a yearly event,” he said.

All the students who have participated in the program will also be eligible for a grand Xibus event that the quartet and Music Makers Foundation will hold in April at Jordan Hall in Boston. It will be a week-long event that will culminate in a concert with the quartet, the Turtle Island String Quartet and other special guests. Selected students will also get a chance to record with jazz legend Dave Brubeck on his next disc (Navona Records).

“This will be the pinnacle,” Vuk said.

Evolving mission

In the meantime, the quartet’s own repertoire and mission has evolved since starting this program.

“We don’t do Mozart or Beethoven anymore,” Vuk said laughing. “The music is more world music or cutting-edge.”

Undaunted by the number of children and districts who want to get involved, he said the quartet was hoping to expand the program to Europe with higher-profile venues.

“We’d like to have students of all ages participating,” he said.

Categories: Life and Arts

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