RAHWAY — The two principal orchestras of New Jersey Youth Symphony (NJYS), Youth Symphony and Youth Orchestra, perform on Sunday, Jan. 20 at 3 p.m. at the Union County Performing Arts Center (UCPAC) located at 1601 Irving Street in Rahway. Tickets to the concert are $15 for adults and $10 for students and seniors and can be purchased in advance from UPAC online at www.ucpac.org. The concert is open to the public and is especially suited for families.
The concert is a tribute to the memory of long-time New Jersey Youth Symphony supporter and champion Mary Johnston who passed away in June 2012. Johnston was an integral part of NJYS since its founding in 1979. She served on the Board before and after her Presidency and subsequently continued as a Community Advisor. During her tenure as president of NJYS during the 1984-85 and 1985-86 seasons, the orchestra made its second highly successful European tour, participating again in the annual Music Festival for Youth in Neerpelt, Belgium, where it garnered another First Prize. Mrs. Johnston also oversaw the strengthening of the NJYS chamber music and music listening programs. These two areas were very important to her, having co-authored the NJYS founding mission statement that encouraged NJYS members to “reach their highest potential as performers and listeners.” Under her leadership, NJYS chamber music instruction, guided by Bernard Yannotta, grew to include a weekly 45-minute small ensemble session with a coach, while new NJYS members participated in music listening classes with the Music Director.
Johnston had a lifelong passion and talent for music. As a teenager, she won a state-wide piano contest and in college directed her sorority choir to a first place win in a national competition. She went on to earn a degree in harp and music education from the University of Kansas in 1961. After moving to Summit, New Jersey in 1967, Mrs. Johnston played harp for many years with a variety of free-lance music ensembles including orchestras, show pits, and pop groups. She also founded First Strings, a harp and string rental business that provided high-quality instruments to aspiring students. She was gifted with wonderful communication and organizational skills, which she generously utilized in her many personal, community and philanthropic endeavors.
In memory of Mary Johnston, NJYS’s premiere orchestra, Youth Symphony led by NJYS Artistic Director Jeffery Grogan will perform Gustav Holst’s epic seven-movement The Planets. During the last movement, guest choir Continuo Arts Foundation Singers and the Chanticleers, Continuo Arts’ middle and high school ensembles, will join the orchestra.
Additional concert repertoire includes Lowell Liebermann’s Concerto for Flute, Harp, and Orchestra. Stefán Ragnar Höskuldsson, principal flute of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, and Zach Hatcher, harpist of NJYS, are featured soloists. Youth Orchestra led by Simon Lipskar will play selections that include Beethoven’s Egmont Overture, Veljo Tormis’s Overture No.2, and Rimsky Korsakov’s Russian Easter Overture.
New Jersey Youth Symphony (NJYS), the orchestral and ensemble organization of Wharton Music Center (WMC), a non-profit charitable organization, offers music education for grades 3 through 12. NJYS is located at 570 Central Avenue in New Providence. NJYS, one of the foremost youth orchestras in the state, has ten orchestras and ensembles for which auditions are held annually. NJYS’s premiere orchestra, Youth Symphony, has performed in internationally-renowned concert halls such as Carnegie Hall in New York City and Musikverein in Vienna.