West Virginia Youth Symphony prepares for fifth European tour

By Elijah Newell, RealWV

The West Virginia Youth Symphony (WVYS) is raising funds to take its members on a tour of Europe in the summer of 2025. The tour will be comprised of middle school to early college students from two orchestra groups within the WVYS: the West Virginia Youth Strings, and the West Virginia Youth Orchestra. The 2025 tour will go through Budapest, Banská Bystrica, and Prague and last from June 17 through 26. The event will be the fifth European tour the WVYS has conducted, marking the 25th year since the European tour program began. 

Robert Turizziani, an accomplished clarinetist and member of the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra (WVSO), has served as the West Virginia Youth Orchestra conductor for around 27 years. He described the history of the WVYS, detailing how it was initially founded alongside the WVSO in the late 1940’s. He explained that the same people involved in the “adult” orchestra helped create the youth program, and the program did well until the 70’s, when people started to lose interest in the project. Turizziani then said that with the help of flutist Ellen Beal and several others, the WVYS was reorganized and revitalized and continuously grew until the COVID-19 pandemic.

Turriziani said that while the COVID pandemic harmed the number of students in the WVYS, the orchestra he conducts, especially the string players, performs at a high level. 

“Our string program has really done well. It’s not gigantic, but it is good, and its strong… I’ve been doing the Youth Orchestra for 26, 27 years, it’s astonishing the difference in player quality in those years. Right now, the young musicians in the orchestra play really well,” Turizziani said. 

Turizziani talked about the different locations the WVYS performs at during their tours. He said that, for the most part, the tour focuses on central Europe, taking students to perform in cities like Prague, Budapest, Auschwitz, Krakow, Vienna, and Banská Bystrica. According to Turizziani, Banská Bystrica is a Slovakian sister city to Charleston, WV, and the town’s high school organizes homestays with the WVYS so that American students can sleep at home with Slovakian students roughly their age. 

Turizziani said the average number of people who have gone on the trips in the past has been around 40. The students are accompanied by several adult chaperones, usually the students’ parents. He said that to prepare the students for the trip, the WVYS hosts a camp for the orchestra, in which they learn the music they’ll be playing on the tour and receive instruction from experts who will teach them the basics of the languages and cultures they will encounter during their trip. Along with performing concerts, Turizziani said that students will have opportunities to shop, visit historically and culturally significant sites, watch folk music performances, and try local cuisine. However, he said that some of the students’ attitudes towards new food confounded him.

“That’s probably the biggest thing that drives me nuts. I like food; I don’t understand people who, ‘I can’t eat that cause I’ve never seen it before.’ It’s a radish! It’s not going to hurt you” Turizziani said laughing. 

To fund these tours, which can be pretty expensive, Turizziani said the WVYS looks for donors to help fund and alleviate the costs the students’ families pay for the trips. He said that while corporations and even the state of WV have provided some funding for the tours in the past, the parents of the families still bear the majority of the costs, so any funding from outside parties helps immensely. Turizziani said that any individuals or businesses that wish to help financially or otherwise should get in touch with the WVYS on their website, https://wvyouthsymphony.org/, or go directly to the European donations page, https://wvyouthsymphony.org/wvys-european-tour/. Turizziani said that any donations to the program greatly help WV kids develop a broader sense of the world they live in. 

“I think it’s important for kids to realize there’s more to the world than what you see everyday… it’s a wonderful time, and if someone wants to help, just contact us, and we will find a way to work together,” he said.  

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