(NEWARK, NJ) -- The NJSO Youth Orchestras will release Our Voices, an album of original student compositions composed during the program’s 30th anniversary season, on August 6. The album marks the culmination of a season-long NJSO Youth Orchestras creative composition project in which nearly 200 students collaborated in small groups to explore their own musical voices and compose new works drawing from all the genres that inspire them.
The album, which will be available to stream for free at njsymphony.org/ourvoices, features 25 compositions by groups of middle- and high-school student groups from all levels of the youth orchestra program. NJSO musician coaches and teaching artists guided each group; NJSO Youth Orchestras Artistic Director José Luis Domínguez, a celebrated composer, orchestrated and arranged the works and digitally recorded each composition using Logic Pro.
The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra gave the world premiere of The Enchanted Forest, one of the student compositions, at the Orchestra’s virtual Spring into Music Gala concert on May 12. Other works on the album include Calypso, a tone poem inspired by Greek mythology; variations on the Korean folk song “Arirang”; works that grew out of improvised jam sessions, and more.
One piece was entirely arranged, orchestrated and recorded by student composer Ben Rosales. One work for jazz band and orchestra features recorded performances by jazz musicians Yoojin Park (violin), James Borowski (bass trombone), Cristian Monreal (bass), Bryan Pezzone (piano) and Dan Graziano (drums).
Domínguez says: “The NJSO Youth Orchestras have set an incredible and leading example within the inevitable virtual world that musicians have faced due to the pandemic. Making music together is the very essence of what we do, and thanks to our amazing team of staff, coaches and teaching artists, and their bravery in facing reinvention and adaptation, we continued to serve the students and the community with innovative approaches. This digital album is a testament to that.
“For this project, all of our outstanding students across the Youth Orchestras’ four ensembles were assigned to composing groups, working with me, NJSO coaches and teaching artists in search of their voices. Even students with less experience in music theory became composers in a wonderful collective process. Every coach and teaching artist had a different approach, and outstanding creative results came from that. During class sessions, faculty would help to guide students to bring forth their musical ideas, melodies and motifs. The composing groups submitted their musical themes to me after every class, and I began the process of arrangement and orchestration to provide the most immediate feedback.
“The traditional process of writing, scoring, rehearsing and playing takes a very long time. I wanted our students to have audible feedback of their creativity as soon as possible; therefore, an entirely new approach was necessary. Our students deserve the best results, and I used the most professional and inspiring sound libraries available—the same software used by the most acclaimed film composers and sound engineers.
“I would like to take this opportunity to express my utmost gratitude to the entire faculty and staff of the NJSO Youth Orchestras for their commitment to our students. To our courageous young composers: Congratulations on your extraordinary journey! Arranging, orchestrating, performing and recording your music has been one of the greatest joys of my musical career.”
The album is available August 6 at njsymphony.org/ourvoices.
M&T Bank is the NJSO Youth Orchestras 30th anniversary season sponsor.
Cover art by Jacqueline Zhou