By Kevin Shannahan
Natchitoches Central High School’s award winning orchestra, under the direction of Syll-Young Olson, has been a fixture of the parish’s educational and musical scene for over 20 years. One would think their two trips to perform at New York City’s Carnegie Hall in 3 years would be hard to top, but this phenomenal group of young people has managed to do so.
From June 24-July 4, the NCHS Orchestra will tour and give concerts across Europe. They will start with two days in Munich, Germany where they will play for the mayor. Next, they will go on to Prague, Czechoslovakia for three days. While there, they will play a concert in the Dvorak Concert Hall, one of the oldest concert halls in Europe. Finally, they will spend two days in Vienna, Austria before returning home.
The Orchestra is a tight knit, dedicated group of musicians who spend hours in rehearsals. Their hard work and talent has resulted in three orchestra members being selected for the All-National Honor Symphony Orchestra sponsored by the National Association of Music Educators, a singular honor and a first for NCHS.
It is a testament to the bonds of loyalty forged by the students during their tenure in the orchestra that two former members, Lincoln Hall, a 2009 NCHS graduate who went on to earn his undergraduate and master’s degrees at NSU, and Amber Anderson, a 2013 NCHS Alumna who graduated from NSU with her bachelor’s in 2016, volunteered to play with their old orchestra while serving as chaperones.
The NCHS Orchestra has a 20–plus year record of musical and academic excellence. They have played twice in Carnegie Hall, sent numerous students on to All-State and now have three students invited to apply for All-National Orchestra. They will soon play in one of the oldest concert halls in Europe. Let that sink in for a moment. A group of kids from Natchitoches Parish have earned the opportunity to play in Carnegie Hall, not once, but twice, and will soon occupy the same stage in Prague where Antonin Dvorak himself conducted the Czech Philharmonic in the hall’s first concert.
There is still a need for help in getting them there. Assistance is needed for expenses such as renting the larger musical instruments as well as other expenses not included in the tour package. Donations may be sent to Olson at NCHS.