Nov 2, 2023
SAN FRANCISCO, CA—The San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra (SFSYO) performs five concerts in the 2023–24 season led by Wattis Foundation Music Director Daniel Stewart. Comprised of more than 100 musicians ranging in age from 12 to 21 and representing communities from throughout the Bay Area, the SFSYO is recognized internationally as one of the finest youth orchestras in the world. The Youth Orchestra provides a tuition-free orchestral experience of pre-professional caliber to talented young Bay Area musicians, with weekly rehearsals led by Stewart. SFSYO members benefit from weekly coachings with San Francisco Symphony musicians and have the opportunity to work with world-renowned artists and conductors performing with the San Francisco Symphony.
The SFSYO’s 2023–24 season opens on November 19, with Daniel Stewart conducting Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s Metacosmos as part of the statewide California Festival: A Celebration of New Music. In a program note, Thorvaldsdottir wrote, “The idea and inspiration behind the piece, which is connected as much to the human experience as to the universe, is the speculative metaphor of falling into a black hole—the unknown—with endless constellations and layers of opposing forces connecting and communicating with each other, expanding and contracting, projecting a struggle for power as the different sources pull on you and you realize that you are being drawn into a force that is beyond your control.” The SFSYO’s concert also features the Symphonic Dances from Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story and Prelude and Liebestod from Richard Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde.
The season continues on December 10 with the annual holiday performance of Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, featuring guest narrator Tom Kenny. Kenny is an actor, voice artist, and comedian who is most well-known for voicing the title character of Nickelodeon’s hit TV show SpongeBob SquarePants. The program opens with Leroy Anderson’s A Christmas Festival, followed by selections from Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite. After Peter and the Wolf, Stewart and the Youth Orchestra invite the audience to join them in a festive sing-along of popular holiday tunes. The Youth Orchestra’s performance of Peter and the Wolf is an annual holiday favorite and has been a regular part of the Orchestra’s season since 1985. Past narrators have included Richard Dreyfuss, John Lithgow, Bobby McFerrin, Rita Moreno, Kathy Najimy, Linda Ronstadt, Sharon Stone, W. Kamau Bell, SF Symphony Music Director Laureate Michael Tilson Thomas, and the late Leonard Nimoy and Robin Williams, among many other lauded actors, comedians, musicians, and public figures.
On March 17, Hiro Yoshimura, winner of the 2023 SF Symphony Youth Orchestra Concerto Competition, takes center stage to perform Alexander Glazunov's Violin Concerto with Daniel Stewart and the SFSYO. The annual SFSYO Concerto Competition provides an opportunity for an exceptional SFSYO student musician to take center stage as a soloist in an SFSYO concert of the following year’s season. The March 17 program opens with Felix Mendelssohn’s Fingal's Cave (The Hebrides Overture), inspired by a trip that Mendelssohn took to the Scottish island Staffa. The program closes with Arvo Pärt’s Fratres and the Second Suite from Maurice Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé.
On May 19, for the final concert of the Youth Orchestra’s 2023–24 season, Stewart leads the ensemble in Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 5, written during his summer holidays in 1901 and 1902. It was between these summers that Mahler met and married his wife Alma Schindler. The Symphony’s fourth movement, Adagietto, is said to be a love note to Alma and is now one of his most well-known works.
Bay Area Youth Orchestra Festival
On January 14, the SFSYO and Wattis Foundation Music Director Daniel Stewart host the ninth Bay Area Youth Orchestra Festival (BAYOF) at Davies Symphony Hall. Conceived in 2009, the biennial festival showcases some of the Bay Area’s most talented youth orchestral ensembles, including the California Youth Symphony, Golden State Youth Orchestra, Oakland Symphony Youth Orchestra, and Young People's Symphony Orchestra. Each orchestra takes turns performing onstage, and the concert concludes with a piece by the Festival Orchestra, comprised of selected musicians from all five ensembles. KPIX television anchor emerita Wendy Tokuda serves as Master of Ceremonies at the concert. Proceeds from the Bay Area Youth Orchestra Festival are donated to charitable organizations that support homeless and underserved youth in each orchestra’s local community.
Daniel Stewart, Wattis Foundation Music Director
Daniel Stewart joined the San Francisco Symphony as Wattis Foundation Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra in the 2019–20 season. He also currently serves as music director of the Santa Cruz Symphony and has conducted the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Boston Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Houston Symphony, St. Louis Symphony, hr-Sinfonieorchester, Frankfurt Opera Orchestra, and Boston Ballet, among others.
Recent highlights have included his debut with the San Francisco Symphony in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and a 10-year extension of his music directorship of the Santa Cruz Symphony. Under his artistic leadership, the Santa Cruz Symphony has seen unprecedented growth and earned a reputation for innovative programming, frequent collaborations with leading international artists, and attracting exceptional talent to its ranks.
In 2012 the Metropolitan Opera appointed Mr. Stewart the first conductor of their Lindemann Young Artist Development Program. In 2013 he made his Lincoln Center debut in a Metropolitan Opera-produced concert of scenes by Stravinsky, Mozart, Donizetti, and Berlioz. During his tenure with the Metropolitan Opera, he coached singers and conducted soloists in a range of operatic repertory.
A passionate advocate of contemporary music, Mr. Stewart’s close collaborators have included Esa-Pekka Salonen, Thomas Adès, Mason Bates, HK Gruber, and Karlheinz Stockhausen. His own compositions have received premieres at venues including the Aspen Music Festival, Tribeca New Music Festival, and Verbier Festival.
A San Francisco native, Mr. Stewart is a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music where he studied conducting with Otto-Werner Mueller. He has also studied with Michael Tilson Thomas, Simon Rattle, Christoph Eschenbach, and Alan Gilbert. In 2010 Mr. Stewart was awarded the Aspen Music Festival’s James Conlon conducting prize. He has concertized frequently as a viola soloist and served as principal violist of numerous ensembles including the New World Symphony, Schleswig-Holstein Festival Orchestra, and the Verbier Festival and Chamber Orchestras. He has recorded for EMI with Maxim Vengerov and toured extensively in more than 40 countries.
Tom Kenny voices the lead role of SpongeBob SquarePants in Nickelodeon’s iconic hit TV show SpongeBob SquarePants, as well as in the SpongeBob feature film franchise, and in the original series Kamp Koral: SpongeBob’s Under Years and The Patrick Show. In addition to voicing Gary the Snail and The French Narrator, Kenny also serves as voice director on all three TV series.
Also familiar to Nickelodeon viewers as the voice of Heffer on the classic ’90s Nicktoons Rocko’s Modern Life, and Dog of Catdog, Kenny received the Emmy Award for Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program in 2018 and again in 2020.
Heard in commercials, video games, and movies, Kenny’s hundreds of voiceover credits include major roles in Adventure Time, Futurama, Rick and Morty, Paradise PD, Winnie the Pooh, Powerpuff Girls, Final Space, Spyro the Dragon, and in the Transformers film series.
Onscreen, Kenny was a regular cast member of HBO’s critically acclaimed sketch program Mr. Show with Bob and David, and he starred alongside his wife Jill Talley (known to SpongeBob fans as Karen the Computer), in Smashing Pumpkins’ award-winning music video “Tonight, Tonight.”
Kenny and cowriter Andy Paley wrote the song “Best Day Ever,” featured in the hit theatrical production SpongeBob SquarePants: the Broadway Musical. That show received the 2018 Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Score, and received a 2018 Tony Award nomination for Best Original Score.
Kenny’s elastic voice and energetic stage presence can be seen to full advantage in his high-octane 12-piece rock-n-soul band Tom Kenny & the Hi-Seas.
Violinist Hiro Yoshimura, 17, is a senior at Cupertino High School. He began playing the violin at age six and has won top prizes in numerous competitions, including the 2022 Pacific Musical Society & Foundation Competition, 2022 Burlingame Music Club Competition in Strings, 2020 and 2022 Korean-American Music Supporters Association Competition, 2021 ENKOR, 2021 Houston International Music Competition, 2020-2022 United States International Music Competition, and 2021 Silicon Valley Music Competition.
Yoshimura attended Meadowmount School of Music in the summers of 2019 and 2021 and was featured in The Violin Channel as part of Meadowmount's presentations in 2021. Other summer camps he attended include Music at Tateuchi in 2017 and 2020, Music Academy of the West’s MERIT Program in 2018, Music@Menlo in 2022, and Aspen Music Festival in 2022.
Yoshimura was co-principal second violin of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra in the 2021–22 season, assistant concertmaster for the 2022–23 season, and is co-concertmaster for the current season. During the 2022–23 season, he participated in programs such as Young Chamber Musicians, as part of the Pueri Quartet; and Back to BACH, as a co-regional director; along with SFSYO.
Yoshimura studies violin with San Francisco Symphony violinist Chen Zhao and Tomomi Matsumoto, and he previously studied with William Barbini at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. He has also been studying piano with Shunsuke Kurakata since age six.
About the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra
Founded by the San Francisco Symphony in 1981, the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra (SFSYO) is recognized internationally as one of the finest youth orchestras in the world. The SFSYO’s purpose is to provide an orchestral experience of pre-professional caliber, tuition-free, to talented young musicians from the greater Bay Area. The more than 100 musicians, ranging in age from 12 to 21, represent communities from throughout the Bay Area. SFSYO musicians are chosen from more than 300 applicants in annual competitive auditions. The SFSYO rehearses and performs at Davies Symphony Hall under the direction of Daniel Stewart, who joined the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra as its Wattis Foundation Music Director in the 2019–20 season. Jahja Ling served as the SFSYO’s first Music Director, followed by David Milnes, Leif Bjaland, Alasdair Neale, Edwin Outwater, Benjamin Shwartz, Donato Cabrera, and Christian Reif.
As part of the orchestra’s innovative, tuition-free training program, musicians from the San Francisco Symphony coach the young musicians every week before the full ensemble rehearses with Music Director Daniel Stewart. Youth Orchestra members also gain invaluable experience working with world-renowned artists, which have included Esa-Pekka Salonen, Michael Tilson Thomas, Herbert Blomstedt, Kurt Masur, John Adams, Yo-Yo Ma, Isaac Stern, Yehudi Menuhin, Wynton Marsalis, Midori, Joshua Bell, Mstislav Rostropovich, Sir Simon Rattle, Gustavo Dudamel, Ray Chen, and many others. Of equal importance, the young musicians are able to speak with these established artists about their professional and personal experiences, and about music. In addition to critically acclaimed appearances at home, the Youth Orchestra has toured Europe and Asia, giving sold out concerts in such legendary halls as Berlin’s Philharmonie, Vienna’s Musikverein, Saint Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theater, Paris’ Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, and Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie. Its alumni have won positions in many major orchestras throughout the US and in Europe.
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San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra
Wattis Foundation Music Director Daniel Stewart
San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra