Well, I’ve been waiting until the end of the NYO-USA tour to write one big post about Liam’s performances with the NYO-USA. If you’ve not been following along with his incredible summer, you can read more about it here and here. (And if you’re just here for colorful fabric art, skip this post and I’ll see you next time!)
First off, almost all of the photos in this post were taken by Chris Lee. The folks at Carnegie Hall really covered all their bases and had an entire team of folks (both still photos and video) that travelled with the tour to capture lots of moments of these kids rehearsing, working with young musicians in their communities, performing and some behind the scenes shots too. They posted lots of pictures, as well as little videos from each location on their Facebook page and allowed us to really see what the kids were experiencing! You can see all the video postcards here on their YouTube channel.
Their first concert was held at SUNY Purchase, which is where they spent their 2 week residency rehearsing. Here’s a fun picture of them all clowning around after their official group portrait session, Liam’s being silly in the front on the left:
My mom and step-dad drove down form Massachusetts to see this concert. They were able to take him out to lunch ahead of time, a welcome break for him from being surrounded by other teenagers and bland dorm food.
Mom was truly amazed at how good they were.
Next up was their Carnegie Hall performance, something that most musicians can only dream about! Here is a wonderful shot of David Robertson and Gil Shahamd having a bit of fun during rehearsal. They truly were perfectly chosen to work with young musicians, they were truly inspirational.
Now, at each place they travelled to, they tried to have some sort of “community engagement” activity as well as a bit of sight seeing. So for the NYC trip they had an interactive concert for 150 kids from the Department of Homeles Services, Liam tells me it was a bit chaotic as the kids were allowed on the stage while the orchestra was performing; but afterwards the kids got to ask questions of the players, Liam got to explain to some second grader how exactly music worked (from the printed page to the sound). They then split up into groups to travel to a particualar NYC attraction, Liam was happy to spend some time in the MOMA, he just wished he’d had more time there! He spent like 10 minutes staring at a Rothko – that’s my boy! 😉
Ah, Carnegie Hall, it is truly beautiful! And more importantly, the acoustics are wonderful! Liam loved playing here, it was quite exciting!
We were able to listen to the whole concert live, it was awesome! I had spent 2 and half weeks wondering what the group sounded like, and wondering if Liam was playing his best…well, they were wonderful! The archived recording of this concert if available here, if you’d like to listen to them. Liam plays principal on the first piece, the Bernstein Dances from West Side Story, so all the little trombone licks you hear are him!
They had a great audience, which makes the playing all the more exciting! They got a great write up in the New York Times, and the crop of the picture shown above that they used in the paper show Liam quite clearly standing in the back! Just a bit of icing on the cake!
Next up came Tanglewood, the Summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. My Mom, one of my brothers (the other one was visiting us here in So Cal at the same time, just before his daughter played in a big softball tournament in Long Beach) with his wife, and her parents, made the drive to Western Massachusetts to hear this concert. Liam was able to find them for a quick visit during his dinner break, it was SO AWESOME to have them there:
Tanglewood has a love hall, named after Seiji Ozawa, and the kids were super pumped to play there. Although my son is NOT into social media, a lot of the other members of the NYO were, I frequently searched for the hashtag #NYOUSA on Instagram, and was awarded my first up close glimpse of Liam in the dreaded “red pants” when he was warming up:
My family had AWESOME seats at the concert and were able to see Liam the entire time! My sister in law sent me this picture, this is what they saw when they looked down from their balcony seats:
The hall was packed and there were lots of people outside as well:
The audience was great, and there were some exciting audience members who came back to congratulate the players, here’s a picture of Yo-Yo Ma visiting with them during intermission:
He was mobbed by all the string players, so Liam was only able to just shake his hand, but he also got to talk to Ben Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic. He was quite excited about that!
The next morning, they switched from using busses, to a chartered airplane!
How fun! Although they always boarded their airplane through the terminal, they were always met on the other end by busses right on the tarmac!
The large instruments, all the percussion, and the wardrobe trunks were always put on a big truck – they had to have had to 2 drivers switching off driving to get to some of their destinations in time!
The next destination was Boone, North Carolina, where they were the closing concert in an Appalacian Music Festival. Liam actually sent me pictures of blueberry picking they did:
And here they are playing that night at the concert:
Next up was Chicago! They took a boat tour of the Chicago architecture, got to eat some real Chicago food, I believe Liam got a Italian Beef sandwich, and gave a concert to a HUGE audience at the Pritzker Pavilion in Grant Park. Chris Lee got a nice photo of Liam warming up there:
This concert was simul cast on the Chicago classical music station, so we again were able to listen to it…the wifi in the little cabin we had just arrived at in Wyoming only held out long enough for us to listen to the Bernstein and the first movement of the Britten, but it was enough, because the Bernstein is the piece where we could hear Liam the most, so we were happy!
They then travel to the Grand Tetons, and we were lucky enough to meet Liam and his roommate for dinner the night before the concert, and then hear them play at the Grand Tetons Music Festival. Sometime during their rehearsals there, a little boy came up to Liam as he was walking around with his trombone and asked him how to play it…Chris Lee captured this fabulous shot of that moment, for which I am incredibly grateful. I asked Liam if he knew Chris was taking the picture; he tells me that Chris was ALWAYS there taking pictures, so he became part of the background.
This group was apparently the largest group this hall has ever had. With 600 seats, it was the smallest venue that they played in. Liam thought that this was their second best performance, Carnegie Hall being the best. Part of it was because the audience was enthusiastic at the right times, and quiet at the right times as well. I wonder if a small part was because we were there in the audience?!
Here’s a nice shot of the low brass section, their playing the Bernstein (I can tell because of where Liam is sitting…the assistant first trombone is cut off on the left).
It was great to hear them in person, they were amazing! The energy they all played with was clearly felt by all us audience members. The interactions between the conductor, the soloist, and these young players was truly masterful, there was so much nuance in what they played, truly wonderful!
Liam came out to find us at intermission…but this point he was resigned to having his picture taken in the RED PANTS!
Some guy saw me starting to take a picture of Liam with Andrew and Logan and he grabbed my camera from me and said “you need pictures of the whole family” and made us all laugh as he took a bunch of pictures!
Early in the Summer, a reporter named Fielding Buck had contacted Liam, interviewed him and then asked if they could speak after Liam had played a few concerts. They talked during his Tetons stay, and then a wonderful story came out the following Saturday, just 2 days before the concert in Disney Hall:
Buck wrote a truly in depth article, he also talked to my husband (as Liam’s trombone teacher as well as his father) as well as Tim Higgins, Principal Trombone of the San Franciso Orchestra who coached the NYO low brass during the first week of their residency and has also worked with Liam for the past couple years at the Pokorny seminar. In print it started on the front page, and then continued inside, taking up 2.3rds of an entire page. They included 7 different pictures in the online version, truly an awesome feature of my hard working son!
Next, they headed for San Francisco! Liam had a great time at the de Young museum, and then the Weill’s threw the NYO a party. Here’s all the NYO members that were from California, Liam’s looking quite dapper in this picture, if you ask me!
The next day they played a concert at the Weill Concert Hall, which is a copy of Ozawa Hall built on the Sonoma State University campus.
The composer, Samuel Adams, was at quite a few of the concerts, but at this one his Dad, John Adams, was there as well. John Adams is a very famous minimalist composer (he won a Pulitzer in 2003), and Liam was quite excited to get to meet and chat with him for a minute.
And finally – the last concert in Disney Hall! Here they are rehearsing…at this point in the tour, some of the rehearsal time was actually devoted to reading pieces of music they hadn’t played yet. What I love to see in this picture is that Robertson and Shaham are still relating with everyone, look at them laugh! (There’s Liam in orange in the back).
Architecturally, as well as acoustically, Disney Hall is amazing. You can hear every note played, no matter where you sit. (And, FYI, the players on stage can hear every noise the audience makes as well…)
There was amazing energy this last night!
Here Robertson turns around to the audience during the Bernstein during the moment all the instrumentalists shout “MAMBO!” (This freaked Liam out a little bit! He looks up and suddently Robertson’s back is to them!)
Here the brass and percussion are giving their all in the last movement in Pictures at an Exhibition. That long black bar is a single chime, the kid who is playing it just about knocked it all the way through the loop that is holding it by the end of the concert!
We were sitting just a little off the right edge of this picture on the lower balcony. We had great seats and could see Liam play the whole time! My cousin Jess and her hubby Jim came, as well as Liam’s friend Teddy, (who he travelled with last summer during the CYMO European Tour), Teddy’s parents, and a few kids from his High School band. I’m so sad I didn’t get any pictures of them, but I had already been reprimanded by an usher for taking a couple pictures of Liam warming up on stage ahead of time…apparently they are very serious when they say no photography in the hall…obviously Chris Lee had permission!
Robertson talked more at this concert than at any of the previous ones, he was quite eloquent about what this orchestra was, and how important it was to have one!
You can here the most poignant portion of his speech in this video postcard:
It makes me cry every time I watch it!
Liam finally got his picture taken with Shaham;
and then a lot more pictures were taken after the concert. Liam came out front to say hi to us right at the end:
Here are all 3 NYO Liams. The one in the middle is a percussionist, the one on the right is a string player:
Liam with Maestro Robertson:
And the whole NYO low brass section.
Oh, what a wonderful experience it was! I am so thankful that he got to have this wonderful experience, and I am quite excited for where his journey takes him next. He truly loves playing music, everyone should be so lucky as to find their passion like he has!