In the past few years, many performing arts students have been hindered by covid in one way or another. Some schools no longer offer classes or clubs at the same depth as during the pre-covid years. Due to financial problems, other musicians can no longer afford to pursue their art the same way as before. Due to covid, many talented musicians have lost years’ worth of opportunity.
One such example in our community is the ESYO program. ESYO stands for Empire State Youth Orchestra and is a program for talented youth musicians who want to elevate their performing arts careers to the next level. The program allows grade school students in New York to play and perform with exceptional conductors and many other talented musicians from across the state. Over 600 musicians and 13 different ensembles of all different levels are involved in ESYO, ranging from strings, winds, brass, percussion, and voice. However, such a great program cannot come for free, and many musicians cannot afford to play in it.
Additionally, because musicians come from all over the state to rehearse and perform, the program was heavily impacted by covid, both financially and for the musicians’ safety. As the covid situation has slowly improved, so has ESYO; however, financial challenges remain. To combat this, we invested a portion of our summer vacation to support the ESYO program, giving back to the amazing music community that has fostered our interest in music.
ESYO hosts a number of music camps and activities every summer. So far, we plan to volunteer and support a two-week long camp and a one-day sight-reading workshop with our corresponding instruments sections. We met with the director of the ESYO summer program, Dr. Bebe, and discussed the schedule specifics, what to purchase, and also toured the camp location to better understand what the camp will feel like. Overall, the planning was a success, with a considerable amount of musicians signed up for the camps and space for both of us to not only help out with basic work but also be able to teach the musicians during the camp, plan musical trivia for the break times, and play within smaller music groups as well.
The only issue that surfaced was that ESYO already had a funder for basic music supplies, and many of the items we had planned to buy were already being funded. We were left with roughly $600 extra that we originally planned to use on music accessories for the students. We again met with Dr. Bebe and discussed how we could pivot towards other areas the program could also benefit from. We decided to spend most of the extra money on two scholarships for ESYO students who couldn’t afford the music camp. We purchased some other items for the camp, such as posters for the walls and manuscript workbooks for each student. We will place orders for gifts, snacks, and supplies in the next couple of weeks. Getting ready for the program’s start in early August will involve talking to the program managers about logistics and setting up all equipment needed for the camp, as well as learning the material covered in the camp and practicing ourselves. We are both very excited that we have the opportunity to do this and can’t wait to meet the musicians at ESYO.
-Max ’25 and Austin ’25