Classically Trained: Young ensemble plays worldly music

It's a group where you've got to keep your winds about you.

The Pacific Symphony Youth Wind Ensemble performed a program Sunday titled "We the People: Folk Music From Around the World" in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. It included some performances by its associated chamber groups, which were first formed this season.

This youthful group sounded best when playing the works of Frank Ticheli, a renowned wind band composer, longtime partner of the Pacific Symphony and USC music professor. Within the serenity of Ticheli's arrangement of "Amazing Grace" or his jazz-inspired "Blue Shades," the wind ensemble's wide variety of instrumental colors and sounds came out nicely.

The educational ensemble under the auspices of the Costa Mesa-based Pacific Symphony features wind and percussion players ages 13 to 18 from throughout Southern California. It was formed in 2007 and had its first performance in May 2008. The students use Saddleback College in Mission Viejo as their primary rehearsal space.

The audition-only group has about 50 players. The students get to attend concerts of their parent Pacific Symphony, work alongside the professional symphony musicians and basically get good musical training.

They're led by the enthusiastic Joshua Roach, a 28-year-old conducting master's degree student at USC who's already led groups like the Pacific Symphony, the Downey Symphony Orchestra and the USC Thornton School of Music's orchestra. He started with the ensemble in January 2010.

Roach, an Arizona native, said he has always liked working with high-school musicians.

"You get this discovery of what they're capable of and, I think, some of their biggest growth spurts happen then," he said after Sunday's concert.

With the group that's still in its infancy — especially compared with its sister group, the Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra, alive and well since 1993 — he said he hopes to explore different methods of learning and musical experiences, up the group's skills ante, gain a few more members and perform at festivals or tour.

Roach said he and Pacific Symphony music director Carl St.Clair agreed that the group "shouldn't be just something where they sit in a group and they play. This should be something that exposes them to professional musicians, to singing, to conducting and arranging."

The latter was made wonderfully evident with the performance of Daniel Ellis' "Suite for Percussion 2: The Journey," a great rhythmic number that Ellis said evokes the start, perils and completion of a journey. Ellis is a percussionist with the wind ensemble and a senior at Capistrano Valley High School in Mission Viejo. He's undecided right now of where he's headed next, but he wants to major in music and business.

The Pacific Symphony Youth Wind Ensemble, already a talented group in its formative years, shows a lot of promise and is clearly good training ground for young musicians. In an environment where many public schools have had to cut back on such arts education, this group should be a welcome haven for young Newport-Mesa musicians and beyond.

BRADLEY ZINT is a copy editor for the Daily Pilot and a classically trained musician. E-mail him story ideas at

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