YOLA at HOLA Musicians Return From Anniversary Tour

As Youth Orchestra Los Angeles celebrates its 10th anniversary at the LA Philharmonic, 77 musicians from YOLA embarked on five-stop concert tour of California, and YOLA at HOLA sent along eleven of its student musicians along with musicians from the Expo Recreation Center, Harmony Project and LACHSA.

“Some of our students have been to London or Tokyo, but they’ve never been on a tour of this scale,” said Monique Van Willingh Music Director at Heart of Los Angeles. “They’re super excited!”

The tour started on Oct. 22 in Northridge and then resumed from Oct. 27-30 with stops in Vasalia, Fresno, Berkeley and Oakland. LA Phil Music Director Gustavo Dudamel conducted the orchestra’s final performance at the Paramount Theater in Oakland on Oct. 30.

Now in its sixth year, YOLA at HOLA is one the largest programs at Heart of Los Angeles, comprising 2 orchestras and a wind ensemble, a total of about 250 students. HOLA also manages two rock bands and two jazz bands. Altogether nearly 300 students participate in HOLA’s music programs.

“I think [musicians] bring peace to the world,” said ninth grade oboe player Christina Ogata. “Music helps brings your hopes up. If you’re not comfortable expressing yourself verbally, express yourself musically!”


Another oboe player, tenth grader Madison Centeno, was even more succinct.
“Music takes you away from the bad stuff, the bad choices.”
HOLA musicians auditioned for spots on the tour, and altogether eleven were selected. Van Willingh and a cohort of academic tutors accompanied the musicians to offer support and guidance. Along with extra rehearsals, students must commit to several hours of tutoring each day.

I’m excited because we’re starting to feel what it’s like to be a professional musician,” said Ogata, “both as a privilege and a responsibility.”

One of the privileges of touring for the musicians is having another chance to perform under Gustavo Dudamel. LA Phil’s music director has conducted for many of these students before.

“He conducted [our orchestra] before when we performed in the gym in front our parents,” said Ogata, “He surprised us that time!”

Recalling the way in which Dudamel conducts his orchestra, French Horn player Vivian Trejo said, “He wants the feelings and emotions of the music, not just the right notes.”

“Now that I’m older and have more experience, I’m even more excited by the opportunity,” said Centeno.

Touring with YOLA throughout the state has been the culmination of lots of hard work, practice, and persistence.

“My first opportunity, I auditioned for the [YOLA] trip to Japan,” said Centeno, “but I didn’t make it. But I just kept practicing!”

“I felt really proud because I worked very hard and accomplished what I wanted,” said Ogata, who’s also excited for the opportunity to travel throughout the state.

The first concert took place at the Valley Performing Arts Center at Cal State Northridge on Oct. 22. The music program, which includes selections of Beethoven and Brahms, Marquez and Dvorak, is supplemented by a video program produced by LA Phil. Projected on the screen behind the musicians we see music students going about their daily lives, leaving home at the start of their days, arriving at rehearsal, and preparing to perform.


“It’s really cool how the concert interweaves the music with video,” said Van Willingh.

The LA Phil also designed a uniform “costume” of jeans, sneakers and blazers for the young performers, which struck a balance between formal wear and kids just being themselves.

Tenth grader Trejo has been at HOLA since 4th grade. She was in one of the first of YOLA at HOLA’s music programs. For her, music has presented her opportunities outside the concert hall.

“I got a scholarship to Colburn [a private school and music conservatory] because of HOLA,” said Trejo, adding that friends of HOLA have matched her scholarship to ensure she can continue at Colburn.

“I want to pursue music in college. I’ll be interested in other things, I’m sure, but I’ll always pursue music.”

A very special thanks to our amazing LA Phil partner. Opportunities like this, would not have been made possible without their tremendous partnership.

November 2, 2016