ASYO Chamber Orchestra, Jerry Hou, conductor, performs Beethoven's Overture to The Creatures of Prometheus. (video frame / ASO)

How the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra addressed performing under pandemic

Mark Gresham | 16 APR 2021

On Sunday, April 11, The Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchetsra streamed its spring Crescendo concert, which was recorded in March.

Normally the ASYo, involving over a hundred young musicians performs as a single, unified large orchestra. Under the last 13 months of pandemic conditions, however, that has not been possible, and solutions needed to be found to make possible for ASYO performances to continue safely, at least in a streamed video format with no live audience in the hall.

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For convenience of our readers, we’ve embedded the video farther down on this webpage. But first, here’s what ASO associate conductor and ASYO music director Jerry Hou had to say to EarRelevant earlier this week about some of the decisions which led up to the successful production of this ASYO event:

When we started the season, we were not even sure we would be able to meet in person. We began with an online orchestra bootcamp, digital masterclasses with members of ASO. This evolved into our Digital Academy.

In November and December, we began testing out rehearsing in person. ASYO was bound by the same regulations and restrictions as ASO, so a maximum of 35 people onstage, rehearsals of 90 minutes maximum, 6ft distance between players, and plexiglass shields separating wind and brass players.

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In a normal year, ASYO has over 100 young musicians, so the only way to serve the same number of students was to break the orchestra down into smaller groups. A chamber orchestra was the start, because we couldn’t get enough string players to balance out a full brass section.

To engage all the brass players, we created the brass ensemble. The string orchestra allowed for us to accommodate players who were cautious about sharing the stage with unmasked wind and brass players. The wind dectet allowed us to serve the remaining wind players. In addition, we have 5 percussionists, 2 pianists, and 3 harpists.

In choosing the repertoire, I wanted to find a balance of traditional and more modern. For the chamber orchestra, the Beethoven and Ravel were standard repertoire, but the Montgomery allowed us to feature the principal string players. Both the Ewazen and Enescu gave challenging and substantial music to the wind and brass players.

For the string orchestra, I wanted to go for something more challenging, as well as incorporate piano, harp, and percussion. The Mahler was a natural choice, allowing us to work on beauty of sound. The Martinu Double Concerto is an amazing piece that is not performed often due to its difficulty, and I wanted to find a piece that would challenge the musicians as well as feature our fabulous pianist.

Watch the concert in the embedded video below:

Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra: Crescendo concert

Total Duration: 1:52:49
Click the “expand” button in lower right corner to enlarge (recommended)
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Chamber Orchestra

• BEETHOVEN: Overture from The Creatures of Prometheus
• Jessie MONTGOMERY: Banner
• RAVEL: Le Tombeau de Couperin

Brass Ensemble

• EWAZEN: Symphony in Brass

Chamber Winds

• ENESCU: Dectet

String Orchestra

• MAHLER: Adagietto from Symphony No. 5
• MARTINU: Double Concerto for Two String Orchestras, Piano and Timpani

To learn more about the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra, visit

The concert is freely available for viewing on YouTube and on the ASO’s Education Community website at