The National Youth Orchestra of the USA, which comes to the Grant Park Music Festival on July 28, has strong ties to Chicago. Along with the seven Chicago-area musicians among its ranks, the NYO-USA also received coaching from three Chicago Symphony Orchestra players — Concertmaster Robert Chen, Principal Percussionist Cynthia Yeh and Principal Clarinet Stephen Williamson — before launching a national tour earlier this July.
Organized by the Weill Music Institute of New York’s Carnegie Hall, the NYO-USA selects young U.S. players to serve as international musical ambassadors and “make and share music at the highest level.” Now in its second year, the ensemble consists of 120 students chosen through auditions. David Robertson, music director of the St. Louis Symphony, leads this year’s group, and acclaimed violinist Gil Shaham also is performing on the NYO tour.
Horn player Jack McCammon, 17, who hails from Naperville and attends Waubonsie Valley High School, will address the audience during the free Grant Park concert, which begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. His performance credits include stints with the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra and the Chicago Youth Encore Chamber Orchestra.
Other area students in the NYO:
• Torin Alexander Bakke, clarinet, from Buffalo Grove (also, the first-place winner of the 2013 Crain-Maling Foundation Chicago Symphony Orchestra Youth Auditions).
• Garrett Chou, cello, from Northbrook.
• Karen Dai, percussion, from Chicago (and an alumna of the CSO’s Percussion Scholarship Program).
• Josh Davidoff, apprentice orchestra manager, from Evanston.
• Nivanthi Karunaratne, horn, from Gurnee.
• Richard Zapata, trumpet, from Chicago.
In addition, Sarah Johnson, director of the Weill Music Institute and a Juilliard-trained oboist, grew up in the Rockford area. Her experience as a teenage musician prompted her to establish the NYO-USA; she and her team oversee the orchestra’s training residency and national tour.
PHOTO: Gil Shaham (left) with the National Youth Orchestra of the USA, conducted by David Robertson, at Carnegie Hall on July 22, 2014. | Photo by Chris Lee, courtesy of the NYO-USA.