Kids keep scores

Burbank Leader

Instead of watching "Lord of the Rings," "Chicago" or "Gladiator," Pasadena Young Musicians Orchestra will re-create the films' music with an 84-member orchestra.

The orchestra's spring concert "Lights! Camera! Music!" will be Sunday in Sexson Auditorium at Pasadena City College. The performance will feature music from film genres including action, historical adventures, space odysseys, comedies and musicals.

The orchestra has a more than 50-year tradition for students in 10th grade through college. Members live throughout Southern California, and many are from La Cañada, Glendale and Burbank. More than 30 schools are represented in the orchestra.

Orchestra members will perform movie scores, a concept parents and music coaches were interested in. Each orchestra coach chose a piece to conduct for the final concert of the year.

"Robin Hood Prince of Thieves," "The Pink Panther" and "The Children of Sanchez" are some of the highlighted songs. Musicians will perform Richard Strauss' "Also sprach Zarathustra" from the film "2001: A Space Odyssey," said Jo Stoup, conductor of the orchestra.

"[Strauss] didn't write it for the movie, but here it is, and now more people know it as the opening for '2001: A Space Odyssey,'" Stoup said.

The challenge behind the concert is the diversity in conducting and the various conductors for the performance.

"It's good for the kids to work under a lot of different conductors and styles," Stoup said. "They're having so much fun with it."

The concert will feature creative arrangements and more physical performances, where orchestra members stand up to play, in addition to a classic orchestra.

Estelle Chase, winner of orchestra's Instrumental Competition, will perform the Grieg Piano Concerto, a piece that was featured in films "The Seventh Veil" and "Lolita."

Another orchestra performance will be a John Williams tribute, a medley of Williams' famous work from "Star Wars," "Indiana Jones" and the Harry Potter movies.

La Cañada High School senior Ling Rao plays harp in the orchestra. Ling has spent the past six years playing the instrument.

This is Ling's final performance with the orchestra, as she will attend the University of Rochester in the fall to major in environmental studies and possibly minor in music.

One of the selections Ling will play in is "Robin Hood Prince of Thieves," a performance she calls swashbuckling and adventurous.

Another musician is Jonathan Sie, a 15-year-old trombone player who attends Glendale High School. Jonathan likes that the audience will recognize the pieces he performs in.

"I'm looking forward to having the chance to perform a bunch of pieces that people are familiar in movie soundtracks," Jonathan said. "We have to be flawless [because the audience is] familiar with everything we play. It's really fun because you're there performing things they know."

Like Ling, he looks forward to the John Williams tribute, which is an arrangement of original scores that professional musicians performed at Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

"For the concert it's going to be really cool because everybody knows these titles," Jonathan said. "It's not your typical classical performance with lots of quiet things that people tend to not be interested in, although those are good pieces. It's something everyone can listen to."

Burbank High School student Ryan Itagaki looks forward to performing the original trumpet parts with his friends. On the high school level original scores are not always accessible to players.

"Over the whole course of the season, it's been really exciting for me," Ryan said. "This is on a completely different level.""In general, most typical high school libraries don't have the same original parts."

Ryan said this orchestra is unique because they play original orchestrations.

"Playing with people who know about it and can say, 'Oh yeah this is really cool I've played this before,' " he said.

Tickets for the Pasadena Young Musicians Orchestra are available at the door. The suggested donation price is $5 for adults and $3 for students and seniors. Children younger than 12 get in free. For more, call (626) 403-1086 or visit

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