A sign on a wall of the Greater New Orleans Youth Orchestra practice room reads, “Sound minds, sound values, sound lives.” The sign reflects orchestra Director Jean Montès’ view that music brings all kinds of people together, regardless of age, social status, income or race.
“I wish all the world could function as an orchestra or a choir, with each member different but working together as a team,’’ he said.
Montès is looking for musicians ages 7 to 19, both girls and boys, to fills slots in the Greater New Orleans Youth Orchestra for the 2014-15 season.
Performers in all sections will be considered, but Montès said he really needs bassoon, French horn and trombone players.
“Especially trombonists,” he said.
Montès said, with so much live music everywhere, it should be easy to find a trombonist, but most young people here don’t read music. Many of them “can make the music because they have a ‘good ear,’ but if they can’t read music, then they can’t play in an orchestra were they’re just one person in a section with several or many others, playing the same notes and the same time.”
Just as children’s and youth team sports are believed to foster cooperation, respect for others, respect for rules and the exercise that is necessary for physical and mental health, so does music support these values. In addition, studying, performing and even listening critically to music have been demonstrated to improve performance in math.
GNOYO includes three divisions to provide opportunities for young people of varying levels of ability and experience. Beginner and intermediate string players are placed in the Sinfonia or North Shore Sinfonia; intermediate string, woodwind, brass and percussion players are placed in the Philharmonia or North Shore Philharmonia; and advanced and precollege musicians in all sections are placed in the symphony.
Auditions will be scheduled throughout the day on Aug. 9 in Loyola University’s communications/music complex at the corner of St. Charles Avenue and Calhoun Street, where rehearsals also are held. Each audition will last about five minutes and will include scales, sight reading and a short section of a prepared piece. Registration is Aug. 1.
Montès said he was attracted to New Orleans because of its similarity to his native Haiti and because of a shared “vibrancy and charm — the people, the music, the food and the French language.” Born in Port-au-Prince, he spoke French first and is still more comfortable in that language, though his post-secondary education was in the United States and in English. He earned a bachelor’s in music at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, with joint majors in cello performance and pre-med. He received a master’s degree in music education from Ohio’s Akron University and a doctorate in musical arts with a major in orchestral conducting from the University of Iowa in Iowa City.
His main instrument is the cello. “Although I play all the orchestral string instruments and percussion,’’ he said. His wife, Sarah Montès, also is a cellist and sings as well. Sons Jaz and Soley also sing and play several instruments.
“Music education is a necessity in this city, and we should make it available to all, so we can preserve the heritage of the city,” he said. “Our goal at GNOYO is to provide every willing young person in the area access to a quality and comprehensive orchestral program that is exciting, engaging, stimulating, challenging and rewarding.”
Montès not only has made his home in New Orleans’ musical environment, he also loves the climate.
“I love the heat here,” he said. “After living in the northern Midwest for several years, where it was below zero for at least five to eight weeks, I never complain about the heat. I find it rejuvenating.”
For information, call (504) 861-1801 or visit gnoyo.org.