Breaking (Sound) Barriers: C.V. Youth Symphony Welcomes First Female Director
symphony orchestra celebrates 40th anniversary, orchestrates new sounds with some notably new faces
Lydia Park admits she didn’t see herself becoming the conductor of a youth symphony orchestra when she began her music career 20 years ago. Granted, when you’re 10, those aspirations align closer to astronaut or president of the United States. (No big deal.)
And yet, Park is the first female director of the Chippewa Valley Youth Symphony, an organization that celebrates its 40th birthday this year. In that time, no woman has ever graced the podium. Until now.
Born and raised in the suburbs of Milwaukee, Park got her first taste of orchestral life early on. She remembers becoming enamored with the cello when she was 8 years old, joining her first orchestra soon after.
“I started at the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra when I was 11 or 12,” Park said. “When I was there, it was still developing, but it is now one of the biggest ones in the country.”
Indeed, according to the MYSO website, they currently have 1,000 students enrolled in the program with an annual audience roll out of 25,000. In other words: huge.
"ALL ART IS AMAZING. EVERYBODY SHOULD BE INVOLVED IN (AN) ART. BUT I THINK THAT MUSIC JUST HAS THIS MULTIFACETED WAY OF BUILDING A PERSON."
One of the highlights of her time at MYSO was going on international tours with the orchestra. “We wouldn’t be able to speak the language but would be able to bring a gift to another place,” Park said. “That’s basically what you’re doing as a group: You’re giving a gift.”
It was experiences like these that brought Park to become so passionate about making music – especially in a group setting.
“All art is amazing,” she said. “Everybody should be involved in (an) art. But, I think that music just has this multifaceted way of building a person. To have a community like this that has an amazing culture, music opportunities, kids who want it – why not?”
The switch from player to conductor has been a surreal one, but she is looking forward to this opportunity and has plans to grow the organization as a whole over the next several years.
While Park has these big-picture plans formulating in the background, she is also looking forward to her first season with CVYS. With 35 students ranging from 11 to 18 years old, Park is grateful to the dedicated kids who still want to music after the past year-and-a-half we all have been through.
“They already have this thing that they have as a generation,” Park said, “that they made it through, and they can take that and put it into their music. Music just has this way of healing.”
That is not to say it will all be easy – Park expects some growing pains as they all settle into this new routine and establish themselves after a year of silence.
The group plans to rehearse every Tuesday for just shy of two hours at the Haas Fine Arts building on the UW-Eau Claire campus. Their first concert is slated for Dec. 14, when they will perform some holiday classics like Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker.” There will also be a spring concert sometime in May, but the music and date have yet to be set.
Community members are encouraged to attend and support the young artists and accept their gift of music made together.
Find the Chippewa Valley Youth Symphony at cvyouthsymphony.org.