More than 150 musicians of all ages took the stage at Umpqua Community College’s Jacoby Auditorium on Tuesday for the Umpqua Valley Youth Orchestra’s winter concert.
Five talent levels make up the orchestra: pre-beginning, advanced pre-beginning, beginning, intermediate and advanced. According to Director Kristin Parks, around 50 of Tuesday’s performers — members of the pre-beginning class — had never picked up an instrument before September.
“Before Sept. 1, they had never held an instrument — a violin, cello, viola or a bass — and they had never read music before,” Parks said, “and on Tuesday night they’re playing their instrument very well and reading music and playing in an orchestra.”
Tuesday’s performances included the premiere of local pianist Jaron Cannon’s original piece called “Reflection in Rain.”
“(Cannon) asked me, kind of over the summer, ‘Hey, I have this composition, can you listen to it and give me some feedback?’ and he came over and played it for me and it’s just beautiful,” Parks said. “As a musician, it speaks to my soul and it gave me goosebumps listening to it.”
Parks knew then that the orchestra needed to play the piece. Cannon has worked with the orchestra before, but last year he joined the pre-beginning class to learn the violin. Learning violin has helped him better understand how to compose and arrange the violin parts of his composition.
“The very first version that I wrote, I didn’t really know what I was doing,” Cannon said. “One of the difficulties was making it playable.”
Cannon said the current arrangement was created with the youth orchestra in mind. The piece was performed by the advance class, including violinist Willow Pearson.
“It is an honor to be able to perform (this piece) and be a part of it for the first time,” Pearson said. “I really enjoy (playing) it, because it is something a friend of ours has composed and it means a great deal to be a part of it.”
For him, the best part of working with the orchestra was getting to play a piece that is special to him with people he considers friends.