ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10)- The COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult for Capital Region performers. Organizations like the Empire State Youth Orchestra (ESYO) have had to come up with creative ways to make concerts available online for thirsty concert-goers and allow musicians to do what they love- make music.

Two ESYO musicians and local high schoolers said being able to play music with other ESYO members, albeit in smaller groups, and preparing for the concert series has been a bright spot in their lives.

Not much has been different for ESYO violinist, Georgia Burtt, in the education realm. She has been homeschooled for a number of years. She said being able to play with her peers and practicing music for the concerts has given her hope during the difficult period of isolation.

“I think that the music instruction is great. When we were first quarantined back in March, ESYO continued online. We had some speakers talk to us about college, performance, and what life is like working as a professional musician. I thought that those were incredible. Now, with the in-person rehearsals, we can directly work with our conductors and sectional coaches,” Burtt said.

“The overall feeling is one of not only playing but true passion, as this facet and outlet was taken away for so many months. COVID allowed many of us to appreciate the music we create to a new and more expansive level than before, and this is seen in every rehearsal, said Ravena Coeymans Selkirk senior Jared Lamson.

Lamson plays clarinet in the symphony romantic orchestra, one of three ESYO performing groups. “In a normal year, the winds did not play as a section very often, or even at all. This sectional experience has not only allowed for me to learn my part better, but for everyone to play more cohesively as a wind section,” he said.

The pandemic forced us to use many tools that we didn’t realize we had and forced us to think out of the box in the way we design our programs, orchestras, rehearsals, and concerts. For example, the chance to break up our big orchestra into chamber orchestras allows for a lot of repertoire opportunities that we would not have before. The fact that we are challenged by the schedule having to rehearse half of the orchestra in one room and the other half in another room forced us to engage with assistant conductors and instrument coaches that tremendously increased the personalized educational attention that our musicians would not receive otherwise.

ESYO Music Director, Carlos Ágreda

“Due to the social distancing measures and drastic changes in school programs, among other challenges, music education, in general, has faced great challenges this year.  As these ESYO students keep improving and wanting to learn, what shouldn’t go unnoticed is the tremendous efforts of their school band and orchestra teachers and private lesson instructors to navigate these challenges and keep them focused on making music at a high level,” said ESYO sectional coach and school music educator at Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk High School, John Fatuzzo.

This weekend wraps up the Tutti! Festival. Tickets for the concerts can be purchased on ESYO’s website. Concerts are streamed through ESYO’s Virtual Concert Hall.

ESYO said there is still room for some musicians who play certain instruments in the next concert cycle which begins in January. Interested musicians can get more information on ESYO’s website.

ESYO clarinetist Jared Lamson explains the difference between a symphony orchestra and a symphony romantic orchestra