The Philadelphia Youth Orchestra Music Institute might be entering its 83rd year of helping young talent hone their skills, but it continues to grow and expand its programming.
In September, auditions are taking place for the institute’s brand new division, The Philadelphia Youth Symphonic Band, which will have Newtown’s own Patrick Bailey at its helm as conductor. Bailey is thrilled to offer players a “different kind of environment,” one that gives them the chance to play for an extended period of time.
“There are a lot of very strong high school band programs in the region who are able to do some really great repertoire. But the district- and region-level honor bands that are currently out there are one weekend at a time through festivals like PMEA,” said Bailey. “This is an opportunity to have that type of regional honors ensemble run for a school year rather than for a one-off event. I think the depth of learning is going to be much higher.”
In-person auditions for the Symphonic Band are scheduled for Sept. 17-18 and Nov. 15 and 22. The band accepts students ages 13 to 18 who can play woodwind, brass, percussion, piano, string bass or harp. Once accepted, rehearsals take place on Tuesday evenings, at St. Patrick Hall in Center City Philadelphia, beginning after Thanksgiving weekend and running through early June.
Band members have the chance to perform at various Philadelphia venues, including the Kimmel Center, learn from expert teachers and musicians, receive exposure to wind band literature and more.
For Bailey, who began discussing a possible Symphonic Band with Louis Scaglione, the institute’s president and music director, several years ago, it’s exciting to see it finally come to fruition. According to Bailey, every aspect of the new division has been strategically planned out to ensure students enjoy a full musical experience while still having time for other activities.
“There are a lot of different expectations on high school students. They’re working on college prep, they’re working on rigorous academics and then, in addition to that, they’re in these very high-functioning band programs,” said Bailey. “We needed to find a way to serve those students without impeding on the kinds of things they already do.”
While a key goal of the Symphonic Band is for members to gain musical knowledge and performance skills, this isn’t the only thing Bailey hopes they take away from the experience. Music, he explained, is used at the institute as a tool to help cultivate leadership, a sense of community and other skills that will help students succeed as they go through life.
Another hope of Bailey’s is for the Symphonic Band to incite growth in school music programs. As a music educator in the Pennsbury School District and music director/conductor of Drexel University’s Concert Band program, Bailey saw firsthand the detrimental effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on such programs.
“They have suffered due to COVID. The number of students who play an instrument is a little lower than it used to be,” he said. “My hope from an education standpoint is that the Symphonic Band program helps the students to grow, but also inspires in them a higher level of musicianship. They can bring those skills back to the classroom and help build those programs. It’s powerful for students to see their peers doing it. They see that it’s obtainable. It’s all about rebuilding from the inside out.”
Bailey is an alum of both the Pennsbury music program (he graduated in 2008) and PYO Music Institute. At the latter, he was a student for six years before serving as the institute’s operations director and librarian.
“I have a way of engaging with an organization and staying there for a little while,” he said with a laugh. “It’s important to find your people. It’s humbling and very rewarding to be part of communities that value music. This is true of the PYO Music Institute and Pennsbury.”
The career trajectory of Bailey makes sense given his upbringing. As the son of two professional musicians, music was always viewed in the household as “joyful and valuable.” A passion formed in Bailey, who honed his talents throughout high school and college. He earned a B.M. in music education from Temple University and an M.S. in arts administration from Drexel University, and currently plays percussion professionally.
For more information on The Philadelphia Youth Orchestra Music Institute and to sign up for Symphonic Band auditions, visit pyomusic.org.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org