The Halls are Alive with the Sound of Music


Vibrations of the strings and instruments echoed through walls of Western Academy of Beijing's Founders' Theatre on Sunday.

Along with students from several prestigious international schools around Beijing, WAB's Middle and High School musicians performed in the Beijing International Youth Symphony Orchestra in a special free concert. Also in attendance was the Middle and High School affiliated with the Central Conservatory of music, as well as support from local professional musicians from the China National Symphony, China Opera Symphony Orchestra, and the Dunshan Symphonic Wind Orchestra.

"Youth orchestras are quite common in the US and Europe, but do not exist here in Beijing unless you are part of a local conservatory," said Michelle Yip, Director of Western Academy of Beijing's Instrumental Program. Yip hopes to change this trend, starting at WAB.

WAB's Music Director Mark Armstrong was a force in bringing the concert together. A similar group, called the Beijing Youth Orchestra, was established by Dulwich College in Beijing but hadn't performed in several years. The goal is to host two concerts each year, Armstrong said, to showcase the talents of Beijing's young musicians and to give the students a chance to play symphonic orchestral music in a formal setting.

The concert featured Steve Lee, a WAB Grade 9 student, who was the winner of the 2017 Beijing International Schools Young Musician of the Year Competition. Lee performed the first movement of the Grieg Piano Concerto, which he learned in only a month and a half. The orchestra also performed the first movement from Schubert's "Unfinished" Symphony No. 8 and finished the concert with a march by Berlioz in his "Hungarian March" from the Damnation of Faust.

Cathy Chen, a WAB Grade 12 student, was the orchestra's concertmaster. Rebecca Shwenk, also a WAB Grade 12 student, performed all the horn solos.

"Our hope is to create a youth orchestra that incorporates young musicians in the international community," said Yip, who was part of the team with Armstrong and other schools' music directors to organize the performance. "This would then give young people the opportunity to experience a standard orchestral repertoire and collaborations with professional musicians in concert."

Reactions to the performances from the audience and students alike were extremely positive. Yip wants to continue to build on the success of this Beijing International Youth Symphony Orchestra and organize two concerts a year.

To learn more about the arts opportunities available to students, visit our WABX page.