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*This youth orchestra gets a lesson in Beethoven

October 5, 2009 |  2:04 pm


It was another Saturday morning for the YOLA Expo Centre Youth Orchestra. Instruments were out; sheet music rested on music stands.

Time to jam … sort of.

A week before their big performance was to take place under the direction of Venezuelan maestro Gustavo Dudamel at the “¡Bienvenido Gustavo!” concert, there was no time to waste.  The opening notes of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" whimpered out at first, as the cellists slowly ran the bow against the strings. Then the notes quickly built up speed. 

YOLA “Stop! Stop!” conductor Bruce Kiesling yelled. “Nobody rush. Every note gets its time. We’ll have lots of time to play really fast, but right now we’re going to nurture each note. We only get to play together once a week; we might as well give it our all.”

The young musicians tried again.  


After a full run-through, Kiesling brought out a portrait of Beethoven.  The composer’s “funny” gray hair caused the children to burst into laughter.

“He’s crazy,” said timpani player Adam Hart, 11.  “Look at his hair!”

Then a lesson plan ensued.

“He could imagine a whole symphony in his head without hearing it,” said Kiesling.

A look of astonishment came over 11-year-old Diana Melgar’s eyes. She’s been playing the cello for two years and finds playing 16th notes hard, so the thought of Beethoven “imagining songs in his head without having ever heard it is … cool.”

“Beethoven once played with Mozart,” Kiesling added.

A smile flashed across flute player Estefania Sanchez’s face; she’s a fan of both composers.

A few more Beethoven factoids were given -- "He lived in Germany" and "He lived in the 1700s" -- then the orchestra played the piece again with more gusto. Then once more. 

Every minute with this orchestra is nurtured.

-- Yvonne Villarreal

To read about one violinist’s journey to the Hollywood Bowl, check out today’s story.

@Update: The LA Phil has just made the YOLA video available on its website here.

And to see Times photographer Lawrence K. Ho's earlier slide show with audio on YOLA click here.

Above: YOLA performers arrive at the Bowl for rehearsal. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times