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12-Star youth orchestra: a united Europe of music

Anna Tonini-Bossi, from Alba, plays the cello in the European Union Youth Orchestra. This EU initiative aims to promote top-level musical culture and encourage meetings between young people from various European countries. “The beautiful thing about EUYO is that the organizers and musicians we are trained by attach great importance to human value.” Ferrara houses the orchestra’s Academy while the registered office is in Rome

Each year thousands of young musicians from all over Europe audition to become members of the European Union Youth Orchestra, also known as “EUYO.” Only 114 of them will be selected. Anna Tonini-Bossi (in the picture below), from Alba (Cuneo), who moved to Vienna to study cello, is one of them. EUYO, a musical institution founded in 1976, offers youths aged 16-26 the chance to experience the European ideal in first person. It also provides the opportunity for high-level artistic career, whose history includes personalities such as Claudio Abbado (Director, co-founder) Herbert von Karajan and Zubin Mehta. Russian Director Vassilij Petrenko has been Chief Conductor of all concerts since 2015. EUYO honorary president is the President of the European Parliament, while the European Commission, through the “Creative Europe” programme, covers the costs (while musicians are not remunerated). The registered office is located in Rome while the EUYO Academy is in Ferrara where, in turn with Grafennegg, Austria, rehearsals take place before the tours that bring these young ambassadors across Europe and to world Countries. Anna, together with two violinists, a clarinet and a double bass player, represents Italy.

What are the requirements to become a EUYO player?

Auditions are held with a very high-level selection criteria. This year there were two auditions for cello in Italy. In the one held in Florence, where I participated, there were about fifteen cellists. Three of them were selected and three others were auditioned in Milan. I was the only Italian cellist to be selected in a subsequent audition. I was very excited when I learned I had been chosen to be a member of this orchestra.

What’s the secret to pass the auditions?
In my case I think the precision in executing the piece was particularly appreciated, and perhaps also the way in which I interpreted the chosen piece of music. EUYO attaches importance also to communicativeness.

When I play I always try to communicate something to the audience, I would like to transmit a message.

In an orchestra it’s harder and the goal is to blend together,  but it’s fascinating to see the magnificent performance resulting from the contribution of each player. When playing symphonies like Bruckner’s IV or Šostakovič’s X with a huge number of musicians, the audience doesn’t identify a single instrument, yet the final result is incredible and if even two or three components are missing it makes a difference.

Why do thousands of young musicians apply to become members of this orchestra?
It is always a good idea to include participation in a youth orchestra such as EUYO or the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester, the two leading youth orchestras in Europe, in one’s CV. This experience is an integral part of the professional training of every musician.

What’s the added value of EUYO?
EUYO aims to create an environment that values human relationships between musicians, not only to produce quality music but also to grow together, coming into contact with people from other countries and with the places where we perform. For example, during our spring tour we performed at the Royal Opera House in Muscat, Oman,  and it was incredible! The beautiful thing about EUYO is that the organizers and musicians we are trained by attach great importance to human value. This year, for example, the “Orchestra in the city” project was created for the city of Ferrara, where we spent about twenty days rehearsing before the spring tour. Small ensembles that were part of the orchestra performed for schools, kindergartens, old age homes

A feature of this orchestra is to highlight the value of music and the humanity of music, while other orchestras are more focused on professionalism.

 Organizers always make sure that we have at least half a day free to visit the cities where we play. These are interesting experiences and help forge ties between the musicians.

What does this commitment consist in?
Like most years, two tours are planned for 2019. The first one took place from 24 March to 25 April: twenty days in Ferrara for the preparation, with concerts in Ferrara, Milan, Udine and Reggio Emilia. Then we left for Oman, we played in Austria, Luxembourg, and finally we performed in Germany. The six-week summer tour will take place from July 8 to August 19: we will prepare the concerts in Austria, in Grafenegg, near Vienna, and perform in Vienna, Prague, Berlin, Bolzano, Amsterdam and Hamburg. There are also smaller projects that don’t involve the entire orchestra.

What does it mean to study, play and travel with people from other European countries?
Of course there are evident cultural differences, but they are never limiting. It’s an important message that the orchestra can send especially today. Interestingly, many members of the orchestra are British citizens, since it has not yet been decided whether they should be excluded from the auditions; for the most part the organisation is entrusted to British citizens, as our trainer Peter Stark.

As musicians we don’t understand why new borders are being erected:

We never perceive differences when we are together. Today it’s rather awkward to see that while nations recover strong ties people often follow an opposite direction…


As a group, are you aware of the symbolical bearing of your experience?
Before the tour we convened in the municipal theatre of Ferrara where we were introduced to the meaning of EUYO and told that as members of the orchestra to some extent each one of us is an ambassador of the EU and of our native Countries.

It’s a widespread feeling. When we are given the badge with our name and the EUYO logo, that we are asked to wear,  it’s like experiencing an investiture. Also during the concerts, female musicians are given a blue scarf with yellow stars that we drape on a shoulder. I always feel honoured to wear it.

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