With the conclusion of the 2004 Young Artists’ Competition in January, the Peoria Symphony Guild now progresses to the Student Concerts, slated for April 28. This year’s chair, Deb Beyer, has been immersed in planning sessions since last August, when she and Sandy Peterson, the long-time coordinator of the Young Artists’ Competition, met to begin their cooperative venture.

Approximately 6,000 young people, in grades three through high school, coming from a 90-mile radius of Peoria, will have the pleasure of seeing and hearing the Peoria Symphony Orchestra under the direction of David Commanday at the Peoria Civic Center Theater. For some, it will be an introduction to classical music in an auditorium setting; for others, it will be a happy anticipation of yet another unique concert by the symphony.

In the early years, four concerts were scheduled for two days during March, but last year, a conflict with the District 150 calendar necessitated a change to April. This year brought another change: Confronted by ever-rising production costs, the consensus was to consolidate, arranging three, 45-minute programs in one day without diminishing content or purpose. It was a challenge, but it proved to be possible.

The new schedule allowed the Guild to reduce the costs of the programs by more than $14,000. "We aren’t de-creasing concert capacity, nor did we increase the prices of student tickets. And the Civic Center has already agreed to an April concert for at least the next five years," Beyer said.

Last September, Beyer mailed information to 500 school principals, outlining stipulations for the Young Artists’ competition, as well as guidelines for the Student Concerts. In March, a second mailing to the schools revealed the winner of the Competition in January, along with concert schedules, reservation forms, bus information, and permission slips for parents to sign.

Such an undertaking also involves other contingencies: the orchestra’s availability, Civic Center bookings, student transportation, travel plans for out-of-town musicians, and luncheon details.

The Guild is fortunate to have the full cooperation of Commanday concerning the selection of music for this widely diverse audience. Much of the music has been played at regular orchestral performances during the season, but Commanday likes to add some icing to the cake: music chosen purely for the gratification of his youthful listeners. This year’s "dessert," as he puts it, is composer John Williams’ Harry Potter theme. Other music includes: Rossini’s "Overture to Barber of Seville," Mozart’s "Overture to Abduction from the Seraglio," Mendelssohn’s "Overture to the Hebrides," Bartok’s "Concerto for Orchestra," and Bernstein’s "Overture to Candide."

Another of the exciting elements of the Student Concerts is the introduction of the winner of the most recent Young Artists’ Competition. Claire Kim, a 13-year-old eighth grade student at Washington Gifted School, on January 10 was deemed the winner following her interpretation of the last movement of Mozart’s "Piano Concerto No. 21 in C." A piano protégé of Eleanora Sverdlin, she also plays oboe in the Central Illinois Youth Symphony and has been a violinist in the Prep Orchestra and Central Illinois Concert Orchestra.

On April 20, Kim will perform at the Guild’s Annual Spring Luncheon at the County Club of Peoria and will be awarded the Alice Oakley Memorial Scholarship. On April 28, Kim will make her piano debut at the Peoria Symphony Orchestra’s Annual Student Concerts.

In addition to their hostessing duties on the day of the Concerts-greeting the school buses upon arrival and ushering students to their seats-Guild members will also provide lunch for the musicians between the second and third concerts. All of this is possible due to the artful planning of Beyer, the symphony staff, Civic Center personnel, Sharon Reed and Marcia Merriman of the Fine Arts Department at District 150, and the tireless crew of Guild volunteers.

For more information, call 637-2787. AA!