Ready to Grow: Rivers Youth Orchestras Are Moving Full Steam Ahead

RSC Conservatory News

Auditions for Rivers Youth Orchestras have arrived! Scaled back during the COVID years, these ensembles are roaring to life and pre-pandemic levels.

Growth has been a long-time theme for RYO. Back in 2001, it launched with one Preparatory Orchestra for elementary school-aged students. RYO Music Director and conductor of the Rivers Youth Symphony Christopher Memoli explains, “We thought the kids would join us for a year and then go on to other orchestras, but they all returned. So we added Sinfonia (conducted by Susan Memoli), and then Philharmonia (conducted by Colleen MacDonald), Youth Symphony, and Primo (conducted by Chris Brainard). [ed. Whitney Tandon currently conducts the Preparatory Orchestra.] The program got bigger and bigger, and we now have 270 kids ages 7 through 18 spread throughout five ensembles—but we are hoping to grow back to 300 musicians.”

Memoli credits RYO’s success to its “student-centered and welcoming” approach. He says, “We make great music in a dynamic environment with fun conductors, who are amazing musicians themselves. Our philosophy is based on fostering a love of classical music. That starts with choosing music that students can connect with and are inspired to play at the highest level.”

Music continues to be a part of students’ lives in college, as most play in college groups and many major in music. They also often come back to RSC to play in the Rivers Symphony Orchestra, which Memoli conducts. There are currently 10 RYO alumni in the RSO.

Memoli, who also serves as director of music for Weston Public Schools, knows first-hand the influence that a positive experience in youth orchestras can have on a student. He began his music career in a youth orchestra, playing violin in the American Youth Philharmonic. In high school, he discovered another passion: conducting.

“I had music teachers in high school who made conducting look like a lot of fun. I started studying conducting, and I ended up getting a master’s degree in it. I love inspiring students as a conductor and seeing the excitement in their eyes during performances,” he says.

Memoli adds, “I’m looking forward to an amazing RYO season and expect to place all students who audition in our groups. There is a place for everyone at RSC.”

To learn more about the RYO, click here.

To learn more about the RSO, click here.