Join SEMYO in the 40 for 40 campaign in honor of SEMYO’s 40th anniversary. The goal is for our organization and students to perform 40 times during our 2019-2020 season and engage with our community in a way that is positive and inspiring.

To achieve a 40 for 40 performance, one or more SEMYO students must perform in public, take a photo or record video, and a student or SEMYO staff member must write a short blog post with a reflection of that performance.

Follow our progress below as we strive for 40!

Performance # 1: SEMYO Woodwind Quintet at City Hall

On Wednesday, October 9, the SEMYO Woodwind Quintet was invited to perform at the City Hall where Mayor Kim Norton declared it “SEMYO Week” for SEMYO’s 40th anniversary. We performed two pieces: Waltz No. 2 (Shostakovich) & Mov. 1 of “Early Hungarian Dances” (Ferenc). Both had their challenges: Waltz No. 2 has a lot of repetition making it hard to stay consistent in tempo while Early Hungarian Dances was difficult to keep in tune due to the frequent octave jumps. Furthermore, the City Hall’s marble walls made for a very echoey sound. However, all our late night Tuesday practices paid off and we performed at our best on that day (the snacks waiting for us after rehearsal certainly made for a very motivated practice). I can proudly say we accurately displayed SEMYO’s abilities through our performance and I hope the audience felt the same.

Alexandra B. (Flute – SEMYO Concert Orchestra)

Performance # 2: It’s Instrumental Gala

Several ensembles performed at SEMYO’s It’s Instrumental gala at Somerby Golf Club including the DOT Woodwind Quintet, a combined faculty and student ensemble, and two violinists from the Concert Orchestra described here:

This year, SEMYO held its fourth annual “It’s Instrumental!” Gala on October 11, 2019, where Evan Schuman and I (Ethan Warrington) were invited to perform a duet. It was a great honor to be featured at this lovely evening. Thanks to Susan Henke, who accompanied and rehearsed with us, we were able to perform “Fandango” by Michael McLean with great success. The varying tempos and the call-and-response style of the piece proved to be engaging challenges that the three of us had to overcome. Although I was quite nervous to perform at such a formal event, the high energy of the music made it a much more enjoyable experience. While I was performing, I felt great pride to belong to such an amazing organization like SEMYO, which provides wonderful opportunities for young musicians such as myself.

Ethan W. (Violin – SEMYO Concert Orchestra)

Performance # 3: SEMYO Students Perform at Riverside Central Elementary School

On October 16, SEMYO students Jerry, Fernando, and Zachary performed for 5th graders at Riverside school with the goal of promoting interest in SEMYO’s Riverside program. The performance, along with a presentation, took place in the school cafeteria for about a dozen students. Jerry and Fernando played excerpts on violin including pop music and a selection from a Bach violin prelude. The trio also played together on an arrangement of the song Don’t Stop Believing. The Riverside students seemed very engaged in the performance and several of them signed up for the class. It was a nice opportunity for the elementary students at Riverside to the see and the hear the instruments close-up and be inspired by other young musicians.

Corey H. (SEMYO Executive & Program Director)

Performance # 4-6: DOT Quintet on Tour!

On November 15, SEMYO’s DOT Woodwind Quintet went on an outreach tour to three middle schools in the Rochester area and performed three pieces: an arrangement of Dmitri Shostakovich’s Suite for Jazz Orchestra No. 2, three of Denes Agay’s Five Easy Dances, and Valerie Coleman’s Umoja. Each of the pieces had their respective challenges, though I believe the main challenge of the tour was  the short time to warm-up at each school and adapting to the change in space at each place. Despite these challenges, the tour was very successful and it was great to spend time with my fellow members of DOT!

Barbara C. (Horn – Philharmonic Orchestra)

Performance # 7: SEMYO Woodwind Quintet Performs at RSO Family Concert

On the 15th of November, the SEMYO Woodwind Quintet again took to the chairs and stands and performed a pre-show program for the Rochester Symphony’s Children’s Concert. We performed the first movement of Malcom Arnold’s Three Sea Shanties and a second piece entitled Five Easy Dances. The dances are a simple, yet cheerful piece that provided a nice groove for the evening. The Shanties however were exactly as the definition of their name implied: coarse and jaunty. I enjoyed our performance and hope that those who heard us enjoyed it as well.

Ethan E. (Horn – Concert Orchestra)

Performance # 8: Transformations: SEMYO Fall Concert

The first concert containing all three of SEMYO’s orchestras (Chamber Strings, Philharmonic Orchestra, and Concert Orchestra) was performed on the 17th of November. In this concert, all three orchestras performed spectacular music, bringing much joy to the audience listening. Among these pieces was the first movement Sibelius’ Symphony No. 1 (performed by concert) which is one piece that really displays what SEMYO can accomplish with just a few rehearsals. All three orchestras sounded amazing, but that symphony was especially so. The SEMYO Fall Concert is also a starting point to display the current skill for the orchestras. In other words, many people like to observe the vast improvement from a new orchestra in their first concert and their last concert in May of the next year. That being said, the orchestras were absolutely stunning in all of their pieces they performed.

Nathan A. (Horn – SEMYO Philharmonic Orchestra)

Performance # 9 & 10: Horns A’ Caroling at Apache Mall

On Friday, December 13, members of the Philharmonic and Concert Orchestra horn sections and the SEMYO woodwind quintet performed holiday music in the Apache Mall food court. It has been a tradition in my horn studio to have my advanced students prepare horn quartets to go ‘caroling’ in public places around Rochester. I always look forward to this event and it has become a very meaningful tradition for me. I enjoy spending the time rehearsing and playing with my students and I like the experience of playing in public where no on expects it (when is the last time you saw 6 French Horns playing at a shopping mall?). It’s also an opportunity for me to teach my students basic ensemble playing skills (such as intonation, balance, and blend) and it is one of the reasons our horn sections in SEMYO play so well together.

Corey Henke (SEMYO Executive Director and Horn Teacher)

Performance # 11: Harp & Woodwind Quintet at the The Waters

About a week ago I was invited to the Waters to join the woodwind quintet in their performance. I played the harp. Most of the songs I played were Christmas carols, but I also included Hallelujah and Swan Lake. The audience gave a warm welcome and congratulated many of us afterward. An audience member sang along with some of the carols which made me feel good about my song choices. I wanted to play songs that everyone knew. Even though I made some mistakes in my songs, the audience enjoyed it, and the concert built my confidence. I’m excited for playing in the community again.

Ivy S. (Harp/Percussion – Philharmonic Orchestra)

Performance # 12: Annual Holiday Concert at the Apache Mall

As a first-year SEMYO parent, I didn’t know what to expect from a concert at the Apache Mall Food Court that the students had just a few weeks to prepare for.  Well, to say I was impressed is an understatement.  The concert was amazing!  I had goosebumps listening to the Chambers Strings play Carol of the Bells. The energy was fantastic and it sounded WAY beyond their years.  The Philharmonic Orchestra took the stage and shared classic carols that were beautiful and interestingly woven together.  Concert Orchestra completed the concert with selections old and new.  I really think the Food Court was made for an orchestra to play Pirates of the Caribbean in.   I enjoyed seeing the musicians play in a more relaxed environment, I think it brought out the very best in them.  This concert certainly shared the spirit of the holidays with all in attendance.  I can’t wait for next year!

Heather S. (SEMYO Parent)

Performance #13-16: Encore @ Apache Mall Featuring SEMYO Chamber Ensembles

On Sunday, December 15, four different SEMYO ensembles performed at different times the Apache mall including a woodwind quintet and three different string ensembles including a group of Chamber Strings students as described below:

On Sunday afternoon, December 15, the SEMYO Chamber String ensemble (the group name isn’t determined yet) was invited to perform at the Apache Mall food court. Our group consists of ten people; Heder, Laney, Rachel, Raquel, and me (Shannon) on violin: Etif and Katherine on viola: Anna, Nathan, and Sophie on cello. We played 8 well-known Christmas carols including O Christmas Tree, Silent Night, and We Wish You a Merry Christmas. We have practiced every Saturday since October. This is my first year of SEMYO as well as playing in an ensemble. I enjoyed myself making beautiful sounds together, which made me concentrate on playing violin with confidence. I was proud of our group showing a good performance as a part of SEMYO!

Shannon K. (Violin – SEMYO Chamber Strings)

Performance #17: SEMYO Ensembles at Shorewood

On Monday, December 16th, the Philharmonic String Quartet performed at the Shorewood Senior Center. We played several short Christmas carols including Ding, Dong, Merrily on High, Lullay My Liking, and In the Bleak Midwinter. We also played a more modern Christmas song; Love is Christmas by Sara Bareilles. Our group has been playing together since October, and we work very well together. I think our greatest challenge has been staying together rhythmically. The sound carried well and was balanced in the cozy lobby. Being a part of this ensemble has been an amazing experience for me personally as a new SEMYO student, both musically and socially! The residents were very complementary of our performance.

Piper Fuller (Viola – Philharmonic Orchestra)

Performance #18: SEMYO Woodwind Quintet at Edenbrook

On December 18th, the SEMYO woodwind quintet had the opportunity to play at the Edenbrook of Rochester nursing home for their annual Christmas party. We played a variety of familiar Christmas tunes such as Deck the Halls, Carol of the Bells, and the iconic Sleigh Ride. We also played a piece written for the Imani winds called Umoja, which means unity. We have performed this piece often and its high energy and joyful spirit never fails to come through. Also from the Imani winds we played a version of Jingle Bells, which was a bit of a challenge but it turned out nicely. And who could forget Let it Go, which we played with varying levels of excitement. It was a very fun night with exciting music, and I am honored to represent SEMYO and be able to improve my musical skills as apart of this woodwind quintet. 

Allison H. (Oboe – Concert Orchestra)

Performance # 19 & 20: Horns (and Harp) A’ Caroling 2

On Saturday, December 21 the SEMYO horn sections and SEMYO harpist Ivy performed at different times at the Shops at University by the Salvation Army Bell ringing station.

On December 21, The horn caroling group played at Shops At Union Square. The horn caroling group consisted of five students and Mr. Henke. It was very fun to play with a small horn ensemble and learn more about how to blend and play with good intonation within the group. We played a series of four part Christmas carols and each of us were able to experience playing different parts. The First Noel and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen were my favorite! We had many passersby stay and listen to us play. It was very rewarding to see the surprise and joy on people’s faces as they heard us play. I really enjoyed playing with the horn caroling group and giving back to the community with our gifts and talents!

Elliana P. (Horn – Concert Orchestra)

Performance # 21: Violin Duo at Madonna Towers

On January 10th, Richard Xiong and I (Hans Xu) volunteered to play violin at Madonna Towers for the elderly. Even though it was past the New Year, we still played a few traditional holiday songs such as Silent Night, and O Little Town of Bethlehem. They audience loved being able to listen to songs that they were familiar with. We also played a few classical pieces such as Concerto Grosso by Antonio Vivaldi, with its tricky call and answer sections. The hardest part of this performance was being able to stay together while sight-reading pieces that we both either have never played or haven’t played in a long time. Even though we weren’t able to practice these pieces beforehand, we still managed to stay together and be able to have fun. The residents truly enjoyed our performance, and complemented us afterwards. 


Hans Xu (Violin – Concert Orchestra)

Performance # 22: Concerto Recital at the Charter House

On Friday, February 14 SEMYO presented its Concerto Recital at Charter House.  I and some other participants of the concerto competition played a total of eight concertos for the residents of Charter House. I got to say, all of these pieces are really hard, and they took us a lot of time to prepare. I played Violin Concerto in E minor 3rd Mvt. by Felix Mendelssohn. It’s a really challenging and hard piece, especially when a series of rapidly ascending and descending arpeggios occurs, requiring me and my accompanist be very cooperative with each other without falling apart. I really enjoyed playing this piece! All of us presented our skills accurately through our performance. It’s really a great opportunity for us to bring happiness to others. Really heartwarming when all the audiences started to clap for us!

Jonathon C. (Violin – Concert Orchestra)

Performance #23 Winter Dreams

Write-up Coming Soon!

Performance #24: SEMYO Ensembles @ Resounding Voices Concert

Write-up Coming Soon!

Performance #25-27: Philharmonic Orchestra on Tour

On Tuesday, March 10th, the SEMYO philharmonic orchestra toured and performed at three separate schools. Our first performance was at Kellogg Middle School, our second was at Lincoln K-8, and our third at Kenyon-Wanamingo middle/high school. We performed 3 of our concert pieces: Procession of the Sardar, A Pirate’s Legend, and Russian Sailor’s Dance. The audience favorite was A Pirate’s Legend, and one student even asked to hear it again! The biggest challenge was playing pieces we hadn’t rehearsed in several months, but after a couple of rehearsals we sounded really good. I enjoyed getting to play for other kids and I’m excited for our tour next year!

Eric K. (Violin – Philharmonic Orchestra)

Performance #28-30: Chamber Strings Tour

On March 12th, SEMYO Chamber Strings was invited to perform for a few elementary schools. I think our greatest challenge has been staying together and counting. However we all worked very hard on our pieces, listening to each other and practicing. We played a variety of music from fiddling (Donegal fiddles) to slow soothing music (Nimrod). For some people in Chamber Strings is their first SEMYO tour and the experience of playing for a younger audience is exciting. To see the excitement from the kids and their hands raised wanting to play a string instrument after playing is just thrilling and rewarding. Being a part of Chamber Strings has really made me a better violin player by improving my skills and techniques. I am very glad I’m in SEMYO and will continue to improve and play music!

Rachel L. (Violin – Chamber Strings)

Performance #31: SEMYO Woodwind Quintet Performs Live on Facebook

On March 17th the SEMYO Woodwind Quintet performed a live broadcast via Facebook featuring the work Three Shanties by English composer Malcolm Arnold. The group was scheduled to perform the work at a Young Musicians of Southeast Minnesota recital but like most events, it was canceled due to the pandemic. The students have prepared this very challenging work to a high level, so it was disappointing not to be able to perform it.  For that reason, I came up with the idea of a live broadcast via Facebook on the last day of school before the quarantine began. I did a lot of research on the different ways to stream performances and after downloading software, purchasing a microphone, and setting it up we were ready to ‘roll.’ Unfortunately, there was some technical glitches (like I didn’t realize I had to click one more button to start the broadcast and the intro was cut-off) but it was a fun project and the video displays the talent and skills of the group. The video can be found on the SEMYO Facebook page. I am very grateful for the opportunity to coach this group of young musicians and hope they have more opportunities to perform.

Corey (SEMYO Executive Director and Ensemble Coach)

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