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Youth Symphony in tune for Okanagan spring concerts

Vernon, Penticton and Kelowna performances to showcase blooming talents
Dryden Bennett, recipient of Kelowna’s Teen Honour in the Arts Award, is a featured composer in the Okanagan Symphony Youth Orchestra’s spring concert May 28 and 29, 2022. (Contributed)

Astounding talent, dedication to excellence, and passion for music will be on full display when the Okanagan Symphony Youth Orchestra wraps up the 2021/2022 season with its spring concert.

Like its professional counterpart, the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra, the OSYO performs in all three Okanagan cities.

Performances take place Saturday, May 28, in Vernon’s Trinity United Church at 7 p.m., and on Sunday, May 29, both at the Penticton Trade & Convention Centre at 2 p.m. and at Kelowna’s First Lutheran Church at 7 p.m.

“We are so very proud of the accomplishments of our OSYO musicians and are delighted to feature two soloists and two composers on this concert,” said co-conductor Rosemary Thomson.

Original works by Dryden Bennett (Mayflower Fields) and Alex Thiessen (The Lagoon) will be performed. These pieces were products of their participation in the OSYO’s Student Composition Program, one of several opportunities available to Youth Orchestra members. This year, the participants were mentored by B.C. composer Jennifer Butler.

Bennett “fell in love with music” at his first rehearsal with the OSYO, three years ago.

“Hearing these new sounds from the orchestra truly inspired me,” said Bennett, who started composing in March 2020 to keep a connection to music while the pandemic put OSYO rehearsals on hold. “I quickly became passionate about composition — I would compose every day until I came up with something that I thought sounded good.”

In addition to professional and student premieres, Bennett recently received the Teen Honour in the Arts award presented by the City of Kelowna at the 2021 Civic Awards for his endeavors in composition.

Thiessen is a multi-instrumentalist in his third season as a violist with the OSYO; he is also an accomplished pianist and vocalist who has been recommended to represent the Kelowna Kiwanis Festival at BC Provincials. Thiessen took serious interest in composition in 2021, writing a piano suite for a Grade 12 project. This season he has enjoyed exploring the different sounds and textures available in an orchestral setting through the OSYO composition program. Reflecting on his earliest piano lessons, Thiessen remembers thinking “What is the point of playing these songs? I should be writing them.”

The OSYO also provides concerto performance opportunities to ‘soloists in the making.’ This concert provides a rare opportunity for something seldom considered to be a solo instrument — the timpani. Percussionist Emma Barnett will prove otherwise with her performance of a movement from Ney Rosauro’s Concerto for Timpani, composed in 2003. Barnett has been playing percussion for seven years. Her teachers have included OSO percussionists Dominique Bernath, Katie Rife and Lonnie Burma. She has plans for post-secondary studies in math, and eventually both math and music.

Flutist Alice Nie, the second concerto soloist featured on this program, will perform Fantasia de Carmen by Georges Bizet (arranged by Guiot/Egner). Nie is an accomplished young musician, having formerly held the position of Principal Flute/Piccolo with the Winnipeg Youth Symphony Orchestra. In addition, she won the Gold Medal for Royal Conservatory Level 10 Woodwind. She’s been playing flute for nine years and has participated in numerous festivals, including the Winnipeg Music Festival and Syrinx Festival.

Rounding out the concert program will be Camille Saint-Saёns’ Symphony No. 1 and Bedřich Smetana’s The Moldau. The latter was meant to be performed jointly by the OSO and OSYO in a “side by side” performance in February, which traditionally features the OSYO alongside their professional OSO mentors and teachers on stage performing one work together. Unfortunately, pandemic restrictions this year meant only a small number of OSYO musicians had that opportunity. The Spring Concert gives the entire Youth Orchestra the opportunity to ‘sink their teeth’ into a work that Thomson described as “a magnificent score that takes us on a musical journey from gentle stream to majestic river, mirroring the journey of every music student.”

The young musicians are excited to present their first spring concert in three years, said co-conductor Dennis Colpitts.

“Come out and support these very talented students as they dazzle and amaze you with their artistry!”

The OSYO’s lower ticket price point makes high quality classical music affordable for a wide market of music fans. Tickets can be purchased through

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Jennifer Smith

About the Author: Jennifer Smith

20-year-Morning Star veteran
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