Youth Symphony of Southern Oregon

Taylor Wood will be the first percussionist to perform as a soloist with the Youth Symphony of Southern Oregon this weekend.

The 15-year-old Ashland resident has been a student of percussion for more than six years. Her fascination with various sorts of percussion began in grade school with a Zimbabwean marimba class.

"It really clicked. I found percussion was easy for me to do," she said.

"I loved the rhythmic aspect of it."

At the recommendation of her private percussions teacher, Terry Longshore, Wood transferred from Ashland High School to Oregon Connections Academy online in order to focus on her music and take eight credits of music classes at Southern Oregon University.

She has studied Mbira, South African, Zimbabwean and orchestral percussion, and also plays double bass, electric bass, piano and cello.

She will perform with the Youth Symphony at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 14, at the Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater, 23 S. Central Ave., Medford and at 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 15, at the Southern Oregon University Music Recital Hall, 1250 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland.

For more than two years, Wood has played double bass for the YSSO, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing opportunities for youth to learn and perform classical music. She was one of the winners of the 2009 Youth Symphony of Southern Oregon Concerto Competition, where she competed on percussion against woods, strings and brass.

"(The Concerto Competition) gives students the opportunity to perform solo with the youth symphony the following year," said Cynthia Hutton, YSSO's music director and conductor of 15 years. "Taylor Wood was one of the winners, and the piece she auditioned on is the piece she will be performing this weekend."

Wood selected and will perform American composer Paul Creston's "Concertino for Marimba and Orchestra." She said she likes the piece because its movements have personality and tease the listener.

"It's jazzy and rhythmic, but it's also very melodic, "she said. "It's really fun to play and listen to."

Wood is part of the SOU Percussions Ensemble and has been a member of the Ashland High School Chamber Orchestra, AHS Jazz Band and the Rutendo! Marimba Band. She also placed third at the Oregon School Authorities Association's Solo and Ensemble State Competition after winning the district competition.

Following graduation, she hopes to attend a conservatory and study music.

Hutton said Wood's performance will be significant because few percussionist have the opportunity to perform solo with an orchestra.

"(In) the majority of the pieces you think about, the major portion of the orchestra is the string section," she said. "There are so many concertos for strings and wood winds but not as many for the brass and even fewer for the percussion."

"What's fun is that the percussion instruments have been in the back of the orchestra, but now, after all those years, composers are writing pieces and now the percussion instruments are coming to the front of the orchestra."

In addition to Creston's concertino, YSSO also will be performing Beethoven's Symphony No. 1.

"The sound pallet for both pieces is so unique and strikingly beautiful," Hutton said.

The Youth Orchestra, which comprises a younger group of musicians also led by Hutton, will play one movement of Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 and the "Overture to Nabucco" by Giuseppe Verdi. The Youth Strings, the youngest group of musician led by Faina Podolnaya, will perform works by G.F. Handel and John Caponegro.

Tickets to the performances in Ashland and Medford are $10 for adults and $5 for students and seniors. Advanced tickets are available at Larry's Music in Medford and Paddington Station in Ashland. Tickets to the Craterian performance also are available at the theater and at the door. Call 858-8859.

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