The Second International Youth Music Festival, Oxford, UK 2007

Youth Music International is dedicated to creating a musical experience of extraordinary depth and heightened artistic inspiration for students, professionals and audiences through a dynamic combination of mentorship, historically and architecturally unique environments, and stimulating collaborations.

Since 2003, Youth Music International has been making it possible for young people to experience the enrichment of working artistically within other cultures in the intimate medium of chamber music.

In a unique collaboration, these exceptional young string players from California and the UK have spent 5 days working intensively with an emminent faculty from the US and the UK, to prepare two dynamic programs of chamber music and orchestral masterpieces in the historic beauty of Oxford.

Bringing together musicians from differing cultural backgrounds, ages, perspectives, and insights creates a rich, inspiring atmosphere which is ideal for the intimate medium of chamber music. With the mentorship and expertise of professional chamber musicians as well as the leadership older students provide for younger ones, this programme sparks a permanent expansion to the creative imagination and artistic development of a young musician. The creation of this uniquely inspirational environment within the "City of Dreaming Spires" will be an unforgettable experience for them as well as the audience.

It is the mission of Youth Music International to bring this vision alive as an annual event in San Francisco, USA and Oxford, UK. YMI is a fully registered public charity (non-profit organization).

And so it began…

The Festival kicked off when 21 Americans arrived at the beautiful Wychwood School (just north of the Oxford City Center) on a sunny Saturday, August 11th. After finding their way to their rooms, they set down their luggage, changed and came back to a hot lunch and afterwards put on their walking shoes and went into the city center to explore and shop!

Sunday August 12th, Some of the Americans set off for some more sight-seeing on an early train to the ancient Roman City of Bath while others took a bus to another famous city (Woodstock) to explore Blenheim Palace (the seat of the Duke of Marlborough and Winston Churchchill's birthplace)

Meanwhile back at the Wychwood School, 19 British students began to arrive individually. While they waited for the Americans to return from their sight-seeing, they got settled and orientated in the school and some reclaimed old friends and others got to know new friends. When the Americans returned, (excited to meet the British students) we all had an introductory and welcome meeting in the dining hall. Everyone was introduced to the Director, faculty, Conductor and chaperones and we sat down to our first meal together with energy.

Later that evening, James Ross, the conductor led the orchestra in a read-through of the Elgar Introduction and Allegro in the beautiful music hall of the Wychwood School. It gave everyone a chance to break the ice and connect and get a sense of what to expect for the week.

After the first orchestra read-through, there was still time for many of the older students to visit some of the famous pubs in Oxford. For the Americans, it was a chance to experience the social institution that is a fundamental part of British community. Others remained back at Wychwood for a bit of unwinding.

Monday August 13 - In spite of some very late hours for some of the students the night before, everyone made it to breakfast by 8:30 am as the first chamber rehearsals began promptly at 9:00am. This was the first time the students all got to meet their full chamber ensembles (most of which were equally balanced with British and Americans). It was also the first time they got to work with the faculty and coaches who rotated on that first day.

After 4 hours of chamber music coaching/rehearsal, the students had a long lumch and in the afternoon, orchestra rehearsals began. It took a little while to get everyone seated for each piece as there were rotational seatings for every work. After 4 hours of orchestral rehearsals (with breaks) the students completed the longest day of the course and were ready to relax! Off to Oxford Castle for a bit of Shakespeare.

Even though they were tired from both rehearsals, socializing and, in some cases, jet lag, they eagerly arrived for rehearsals. It was inspiring to see with what dedication and commitment so many of these young people immersed themselves in the whole experience. They were spurred on to work even harder as they knew that the following day would bring the first Masterclass with renowned Guest Artist and British Violinist from the Belcea Quartet, Laura Samuel.

Wednesday August 15 - Everyone was excited and nervous to welcome such an eminent and gracious International Artist as Laura Samuel. However, her incredible warmth, spirit and inspiring musical vision really made everyone feel so much at ease and allowed them to soar to new heights. She instinctively and incisively understood immediately how to catalyze each group's energy and give them direction and insight.

After such an incredible day, Laura left everyone feeling inspired and eager to move forward. Everyone was taken by her genuine warmth and learned so much from her musical passion and guidance.

After the Masterclass the students had a long break to rest and relax then a short orchestral rehearsal followed. After orchestra, some of the older students headed for the pub while others stayed to play "quickies" (informal sight-reading) with some of the faculty, Deirdre Cooper and Glen Sheldon.

Thursday August 16th - There was yet again more nervous excitement in the air in anticipation of the arrival of International Cello Soloist, Guy Johnston (BBC Young Musician of the Year 2000). Guy's profound connection, musical integrity and his generous spirited extension of himself to each ensemble were also evident immediately and helped calm and draw out the abilities of each ensemble. His gentle but very precise guidance really gave the ensembles the extra polish and push towards their performances on the following day.

Friday August 17th - The excitement that had been building all week now reached new heights as everyone now really knew they were almost out of rehearsal time. Our first concert was upon us and would be a lunchtime concert at one of the most prestigious and renowned cathedrals and University in England: Christ Church Cathedral at Oxford University. The excitement of playing in such an incredible venue (and the site where much of Harry Potter was filmed) gave students additional energy and motivation.

We took time for a punting expedition one afternoon:


Our final concert was at the historic and gorgeous Wesley Memorial Church. We rehearsed earlier in the day, took a well deserved break at Pizza Express, then returned for our performance.