Chinese maestro directs high school honor orchestra

The SUSD High School Honor Orchestra performed Feb. 6 at Saguaro High School under the direction of Chinese conductor Zhang Yue. (submitted photo)

As the baton was raised, 81 pairs of eyes focused on the black-clad man standing on the podium in front of them.

Moments later, the sounds of Fang Kejie’s Reba Dance filled the Saguaro High School Auditorium, as the Scottsdale Unified School District High School Honor Orchestra began its second concert in two years under the direction of Chinese first-level conductor Zhang Yue.

The group, comprised of mostly junior and seniors from SUSD’s five high schools — Arcadia, Chaparral, Coronado, Desert Mountain and Saguaro — was recommended for the elite orchestra by school music teachers, according to a press release.

Students received the music for the Feb. 6 concert in December and have been working on it ever since, but the day before the concert was the first time the orchestra met Maestro Zhang and rehearsed as a group.

Saguaro High School Orchestra members from left are Branan Harrison (violin), Aidan Jacobson (violin), Anna Jakubczyk (viola) and Hannah Lang (cello) were among 81 SUSD musicians chosen to take part in this year’s High School Honor Orchestra.

Mr. Zhang, speaking through an interpreter, said the prep work done before his arrival made everything go smoothly.

“I really enjoyed the honor and opportunity of working with these young musicians,” he said. “They are our future.”

Works by both Chinese and western composers were featured in the community concert.

SUSD Fine Arts Coordinator Nathan Johnston said the international music exchange provided students with the chance to work with an impressive, international conductor.

“We are all reminded that music has a universally profound impact on all cultures around the world. Maestro Zhang gave our students the opportunity to not only hear, but also play pieces that will help broaden their understanding of the world,” Mr. Johnston said in a prepared statement.

The event was made possible by the Sias Foundation, part of Sias International University in Xinzheng in China’s Henan province, where Mr. Zhang is a full professor and conducts the university’s symphony orchestra.

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