A young musician sits in the lobby of The Reno Philharmonic Orchestra building. She is playing violin with her case open, soliciting change — a practice otherwise known as busking. On any given night, depending on the size of the crowd, she can make anywhere from $100 to $300. This particular practice, however, may not be what you first think. These kids are not homeless; they are not busking for money to buy a warm meal or a hot shower. These are members of the Youth Symphony Orchestra, and they are taking turns playing as a fundraiser to pay their way to a performance at Carnegie Hall. Yes, that Carnegie Hall, the prestigious concert venue in Midtown Manhattan designed by William Burnet Tuthill, and funded by Andrew Carnegie in 1891, known for its strong role in the development of classical music in the United States.

The likes of Yo-Yo Ma, Lang Lang, Joshua Bell, and Pavarotti have graced the stage that so many musicians work their entire lives to perform on. This May, eight of Truckee/North Lake Tahoe’s very own will travel to New York City with the Reno Youth Symphony Orchestra — a subset of The Reno Philharmonic, to perform on the world famous stage. These talented musicians are Eleanore and Frances Hamiltion, both Moonshine Ink contributors; Thyra Altunin; John Humphreys; Jenna Elliott; Addi Wingate; Sarah Brown; and Jordan Goldman. This group — along with 80 other young performers from Reno, Carson City, and surrounding areas — will be practicing overtime until the performance in May.

The Reno Philharmonic Youth Orchestra program is made up of three tiers based on varying ability levels. The highest of these levels, the Youth Symphony Orchestra, is made up of musicians aged 11 to 18. It is this orchestra that has been invited to perform at Carnegie Hall. Every year the orchestra holds open auditions; this year’s auditions must have been particularly stress evoking as the philharmonic had already been invited to perform at Carnegie Hall, but the exact members of the orchestra had just not yet been decided.


“The YSO students will be performing a level of classical music most have never attempted,” an announcement released by the Reno Phil said. “Working toward a performance this prestigious will be the catalyst for all YSO musicians to reach the next level of musical accomplishment.”

The orchestra, conducted by Jason Altieri, is set to play The Firebird by Igor Stravinsky, The Slavonic Dances by Antonín Dvořák, and a concerto that is still to be decided.

The fundraising efforts for this program are as impressive as the performance itself. The entire trip — including airfare, room and board, and operational costs — totaled out at $3,000 per musician. Students are asked to pay for half their way; however, if their families cannot afford the price tag there are scholarships available through The Reno Phil.

The other half of the cost is being procured through various local fundraising efforts. The main source is the raffle of a diamond necklace, generously donated by the Diamond Vault Reno, whose owner, Mark Miller, sits on the philharmonic’s board. Raffle tickets are $20 a pop and the orchestra expects to raise roughly $15,000 through ticket sales. The remainder of funds are being secured through grant writing, individual donations, and student busking.

This trip will be an incredible learning experience for these young musicians on so many levels. For many of them, this will be their first trip to Manhattan. Additionally, the entire experience of touring on such a large scale promotes emotional development and enhanced social skills, while increasing mental cognition, creativity, and the love of music, a Reno Phil press release stated.

“Being able to play at Carnegie Hall is a huge privilege,” Eleanore Hamilton, a 15-year-old violinist said of performing at Carnegie Hall. “I would not be going if it weren’t for the rest of my orchestra. It is not just me playing at Carnegie Hall, but it is all of us; one fantastic musical force working as one.”


  • Ally Gravina

    Ally Gravina is a freelance journalist and former Moonshine editor based in Graeagle. She has a master’s degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, where she specialized in arts and culture reporting.

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