Southeast student practices his way to Powell Hall for season opener in St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra
Students across campus await the first day of Thanksgiving Break, but for sophomore music major Kyle Shewcraft, that day will mean the fruition of a dream after many months of practice.
On Nov. 17, Shewcraft will take his seat in Powell Hall as principal trombone for the 47th season of the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra.
At Southeast, Shewcraft performs with the studio jazz ensemble, plays principal bass trombonist in the wind symphony, plays principal trombonist in the Southeast Missouri Symphony Orchestra, and will be performing with the percussion ensemble around Christmas and in the opera shows in January.
Shewcraft has been playing the trombone for nine years, and he is excited about making the cut for youth orchestra. But, seeing his name on the list was not the case in years prior.
“About three years ago, I auditioned and did not make it. Then I decided I just wanted a hiatus and came down to SEMO,” Shewcraft said.
Then one day, his private trombone teacher, Gerry Pagano, who also plays trombone for the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, informed Shewcraft that members of the youth orchestra’s trombone section were leaving, and that he should audition.
“So I did. I sent him an application and began the process of preparing for the audition. And with his help, I was able to get a spot,” Shewcraft said.
In June, he auditioned live at Powell Hall, where he was up against 13 other trombonists for four available spots. The entire orchestra is made up of almost 120 members, and accepts anyone from ages 12 to 22.
“So you get there, and everyone’s crammed into one of the rooms downstairs. You sit there and warm up, and you have an audition slot to go on stage,” Shewcraft said. “They conduct it just like professional auditions: they have a screen, and so you don’t see the panel and the panel can’t see you, they announce your number -- you know, the whole ‘You’re not allowed to talk.’”
He said he waited two weeks after his audition before he received the email.
“I was surprised that I made it. And then to my further surprise, two months later I was notified that I was playing principal trombone, which is the highest-ranking member of the section,” Shewcraft said.
The youth orchestra rehearses once a week, usually in Powell Hall, but sometimes at an offsite location. Shewcraft said his practice regimen ranges from two to four hours a day, with less on weekdays due to a heavy playing load. But due to endurance, he does not practice on days he rehearses with the symphony.
“It’s pretty difficult to play in a hall that seats 3,000 people, so it kind of takes it out of you,” Shewcraft said.
Although the experience at a professional hall prepared him for future auditions and jobs, Shewcraft said it is still a lot different than being a professional musician.
“We’ll have many months to prepare this concert repertoire. And in an actual, professional ensemble, you’ll have one week,” Shewcraft said. “It’s a lot slower pace than a professional ensemble, but you get the same experiences, just over a longer period of time. And it’s nice to see how things progress. They’ve come a long way.”
He said it’s been affirming overall for what he wants to do in his future of performance.
“It’s really solidified that I want to perform,” Shewcraft said. “I’ve been working with some extremely talented young people and getting to work in depth with a world-class conductor. And it’s just nice to get to play in Powell Hall, and play some of the best repertoire written for the symphony orchestra.”
For the season opener, the St. Louis Youth Symphony Orchestra will be performing “Abstractions” by contemporary composer, Anne Klein, Borodin’s “Polovtsian Dances”, and the feature piece of the night, Dvořák’s “Symphony No. 8.”
The concert will take place at 8 p.m Friday, Nov. 17, at Powell Hall in St. Louis. Tickets are only $1 and can be bought at www.slso.org under the “Education” tab.