If you think classical music is boring, violinist Keith Lizardo says, “Then you should listen to more classical music. Have a listen to Beethoven. Don’t judge it, just have a listen to what the composer is trying to say.”
The 16-year-old from Woodcroft has been playing violin since he was eight and is currently in Year 10 at Parramatta Marist High. “I initially started playing in a primary school program. I love that the violin can have a huge range of emotions. It can tell people different stories and make people feel different things.”
Earlier this year, Keith joined the Western Sydney Youth Orchestra (WSYO) which was founded in May. It’s based in Parramatta and open to musicians aged from 12 to 25. As a branch of Sydney Youth Orchestra, the group is covering the music of Brahms, Handel, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky while studying the essentials of orchestral playing and practice.
Almost a quarter of young people in NSW live in Western Sydney, one of the biggest urban sprawls in the world, yet almost all rehearsal opportunities are based in the city. When WSYO’s conductor James Pensini was learning the trumpet he would frequently commute four hours in a day to get from his Blue Mountains home to the orchestra in the city.
“Young Western Sydney musicians might have been dissuaded from auditioning for SYO because of the distance to our main operations in Sydney city,” says SYO CEO Yarmila Alfonzetti. “So we’ve shifted ourselves to where the musicians are, bringing SYO to them.”
WSYO has also offered scholarships for students to join the orchestra. “Sometimes the very best players aren’t in a financial position to join the organisation and pay for the tuition, the camps and the tours,” said Pensini.
“Some might be the only person in their school who plays an instrument to their high standard and they’re just begging to sink their teeth into something more meaty.”
As well as music Keith enjoys basketball and gaming, and he says that joining the orchestra has added to his social life, “I’ve made so many friends there.” Anyone who’s every trained classically knows it takes a lot of dedication and the members of WYSO spend three hours together every Monday night.
As Keith said in a speech before WYSO’s first performance:
“We all belong together, we’re family, we’re one voice, one collective instrument. We’re not performing individually to show off. We’re not performing for ourselves, we’re not performing just to say we’re good. Well, we kinda are… but we perform to tell a story.”
His advice to aspiring classical musicians in the West is to join the WSYO. “There’s auditions coming up soon, have a go, don’t be shy.”