The Empire State Youth Orchestra Wind Orchestra will visit Mako, Hungary for three performances, Aug. 15-22, during the annual conference of the World Association of Symphonic Bands and Ensembles.
About 50 students between the ages of 8 and 18 from the greater Capital Region will join conductor Robert Hansbrough on the trip, which is part of a cross-cultural exchange between ESYO and the Eastern European World Association of Symphonic Bands and Emsembles and its conductor, Jozsef Csikota, head of the University of Szeged's Faculty of Music.
"It is an honor to be invited to perform at the World Association of Bands and Ensembles, and this is their national conference so they're expecting us to perform at the highest level," said Hansbrough, who teaches music at The College of Saint Rose in Albany. "There are 25 other groups from all over Europe, China, Russia, Romania. We're probably the youngest group there, but they still expect the best from us. It's very important that we play well at every single performance, and I'm confident we will."
Hansbrough, in his 18th year with the ESYO, visited Hungary in November of 2017. He had met Csikota a year earlier when the Hungarian conductor had visited the U.S. and Saint Rose, serving as a guest clinician and conductor. Next week's visit also marks the second time an ESYO contingent has visited Hungary, having also performed there and in Austria back in 1989.
"We love when our ensembles are able to have a cultural experience such as this one," said ESYO Executive Director Becky Calos. "We are so excited for all involved. Music is a language that can unite us."
While the performing aspect of the trip is important, Hansbrough said the cultural experience will be even more valuable to his students.
"It's about the culture, and interacting with students from all the other ensembles that will be there," said Hansbrough. "It's a great opportunity to play, but it's absolutely just as much about listening and meeting people from all over the world.
"I hope the students learn from listening and observing other bands, teachers and clinicians from several different countries," added Hansbrough. "I expect they will enjoy themselves and even acquire another cultural perspective that connects humans regardless of their home country."
Hansbrough said the ESYO ensemble will play a regular concert performance, a popular music concert and then will march with the other bands and play the Hungarian national anthem.
"They have a celebration of the first King of Hungary on Aug. 20, so we will be performing our own 'Star Spangled Banner' and then join with the other groups to play the Hungarian national anthem," said Hansbrough. "I'm very excited for our musicians. One becomes much more enlightened and enlightens the world just by observing and reacting to citizens of different countries. I was overwhelmed by my visit to Hungary. You are not treated like a guest. You are treated like family by all."
The Empire State Youth Orchestra was formed in 1979 by Barry Richman, Lois Lyman, Eleanor Barnes and a small group of parents and music educators. The group typically rehearses on Sunday afternoons and performs four or five times each year. For more information visit www.esyo.org.