CHRIS LEE / Courtesy photo

Ray Anthony Trujillo, a 17-year-old violinist from Elk Grove, was chosen to join the first National Youth Orchestra of the United States.

Elk Grove musician chosen for first National Youth Orchestra

Published: Sunday, Jul. 7, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 6AANDE
Last Modified: Monday, Jul. 8, 2013 - 8:47 am

The recipe for getting invited to join the first national youth orchestra based at Carnegie Hall?

It contains the following ingredients: grow up in the environment of an Elk Grove music store, start violin lessons at age 2 and follow that with 15 years of hard work.

Then add the most important ingredient: talent.

These elements came together to form the standout 17-year-old classical violinist and jazz saxophonist Ray Anthony Trujillo.

Trujillo was recently chosen from among more than a thousand applicants to join the 120-member National Youth Orchestra of the United States, which, run by Carnegie Hall's Weill Music Institute, is being hailed as the first of its kind in the nation.

For the past week Trujillo has been in New York in rehearsals as part of the orchestra's two-week residency at Purchase College, State University of New York.

Trujillo and his peers will work closely with top-notch players recruited from the nation's top orchestras.

After next week the orchestra will make its inaugural tour led by conductor Valery Gergiev, with stops in Washington, D.C., Moscow and London.

For that tour the orchestra will perform Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto with violinist Joshua Bell. The program includes Shostakovich's Symphony No. 10 and Sean Shepard's "Magiya" – a piece co-commissioned by Carnegie Hall especially for the inaugural tour.

"Playing with the first national youth orchestra will be quite an honor," said Trujillo. "It's exciting to be part of something like this. Ten years from now, people will look back at this and see it as part of history."

Trujillo was chosen for the orchestra during a months-long audition process that involved more than 2,500 applicants. Players had to be U.S.-based musicians between 16 and 19 years old. Applicants were asked to perform specific repertoire for submittal. The applications, in turn, were vetted by specialists and professionals in each orchestral instrument category.

The list was winnowed to 1,000 applicants who were asked to perform more demanding repertoire, including a work with piano accompaniment. They also had to submit a detailed essay.

"First and foremost we were looking for outstanding young instrumentalists – people who not only play their instrument well technically but who were saying something musically through the material," said Doug Beck, director of Artist Training Programs for Carnegie Hall's Weill Music Institute.

"We were also looking for general signs of curiosity about the world and a willingness to be part of an ensemble, which is why we asked applicants to submit something with piano accompaniment," said Beck.

He said Trujillo fit the bill.

"We knew a little about him by way of his reputation since he was one of the concertmasters in one of the orchestras that performed at Tanglewood last year," said Beck.

Carnegie Hall executive and artistic director Clive Gillinson came up with the idea of creating a national youth orchestra, Beck said. "Clive was a member of the British national youth orchestra as a young cellist. He found that to be a transformative experience."

When Gillinson came to the United States in 2005 to lead Carnegie Hall, he was astonished that there was no national youth orchestra, despite the fact that such orchestras have existed for many years in Europe and other countries.

Regional youth orchestras, on the other hand, are well represented in the United States, and Trujillo is a product of one: the Sacramento Youth Symphony, where he performed for seven years.

He credits his time there as crucial in honing his talents as a string section player.

"I learned to play a wide range of the classical literature," Trujillo said. "I learned it can be fun to work hard to give great performances. I learned to be part of a team."

For a talented musician like Trujillo, who is contemplating a music career, participating in the National Youth Orchestra will likely be important.

"We hope this experience will provide him a window into a number of the facets of musical life," said Beck.

In Sacramento, Trujillo has been one of the more noteworthy players to perform in the Sacramento Youth Symphony. He rose quickly amid the ranks of string players at the youth symphony, eventually performing as assistant concertmaster of the group's top-level Premier Orchestra.

"Ray Anthony was quite young when he joined the Sacramento Youth Symphony, but even then he showed skills beyond many of his peers," said Michael Neumann, artistic director of the Sacramento Youth Symphony.

"As time progressed, he matured and worked diligently and bypassed the majority of his orchestra mates in the Premier Orchestra," said Neumann.

Neumann was most impressed with Trujillo after he won the orchestra's concerto competition – twice.

"During one competition he did the last movement of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto and on another he did a movement of a Wieniawski concerto. Both are difficult pieces, and he played both very well."

Trujillo's music career started early. At age 2, his parents, who own the Happi Music Land music store in Elk Grove, taught him the violin. A year later he was in a Suzuki program. When he turned 4, his father, a jazz musician, introduced him to the saxophone.

"An alto sax was too big for me, so my dad was able to purchase a curved soprano sax as opposed to the straight sax that Kenny G plays," Trujillo said.

At 9 he began playing the alto and tenor sax. With his father in the lead, Trujillo played with some of the best jazz players in the region – and with some nationally known ones, too.

Throughout his school years, he studied classical violin, including stints with William Barbini, a former Sacramento Symphony violinist and current member of the Chamber Music Society of Sacramento ensemble.

Although he is a deeply committed musician in the classical realm, Trujillo does not hesitate when asked about his ultimate goal: He wants a career as a jazz musician.

Trujillo said he hopes the summer experience will help him attend a music conservatory. A graduate of Capital Christian High School, Trujillo is taking general education classes at Cosumnes River College, and he has his heart set on a conservatory like Juilliard or the New England Conservatory of Music.

His plan is to pursue a double major: violin and jazz saxophone, with a composing minor thrown in for good measure.

Call The Bee's Edward Ortiz, (916) 321-1071. Follow him on Twitter @edwardortiz.

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