Mt. Airy’s Rosalind Erwin, conductor of the Drexel University Orchestra, is also the new director and conductor of the Philadelphia Young Artists Orchestra (PYAO).

Mt. Airy’s Rosalind Erwin, conductor of the Drexel University Orchestra, is also the new director and conductor of the Philadelphia Young Artists Orchestra (PYAO).

by Len Lear

Mt. Airy resident (for 20 years) Rosalind Erwin, a leader in the field of orchestral music who has worked with established music organizations all over the world, is raising a new baton to lead Delaware Valley’s most promising instrumentalists ages 10-16. Erwin, who also conducts the Drexel University Orchestra, is the new director and conductor, as of Jan. 5, of the Philadelphia Young Artists Orchestra (PYAO), one of the six program divisions of the renowned Philadelphia Youth Orchestra (PYO) led by Maestro Louis Scaglione.

Erwin, who requested that her age not be mentioned, will preside over the young string, woodwind, brass and percussion student musicians who have auditioned to become part of PYAO, the premier music education and performance program in the tri-state area for young classical musicians in middle and high school. As their mentor and teacher, she will guide them as they develop skills that will prepare them for the next level of study and performance. Many PYAO students advance to the flagship PYO orchestra due to their development while in PYAO.

“I would like to see the PYAO perform with other cultural institutions,” Erwin told us last week. “Louis Scaglione has done a tremendous job creating and elevating this ensemble to quite a high level of proficiency. I hope to continue presenting concerts of the great works of the standard orchestral repertoire, but also to present concerts involving dance, theater and perhaps works of living composers.

“There are several reasons why I have accepted this position. Foremost, I believe in giving back to that which has offered me so much success and gratification. Also, at this crucial time in our cultural history, the symphonic musical arts need all of our support. By helping to educate not only the performers of the future but more importantly the audiences of the future, I believe I will be helping to make accessible timeless works of musical art and to invigorate a new generation of cultural consumers.”

Erwin has welcomed on podiums both in the U.S. and abroad. She studied conducting with Joseph Barone, participated in master classes given by Lorin Maazel, Leonard Slatkin, David Zinman and Riccardo Muti, and was honored by the Leopold Stokowski Memorial Conducting Competition of the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Erwin was born in Montana but was raised in Doylestown and graduated from Central Bucks High School, the New School of Music in Philadelphia and Temple University’s Esther Boyer College of Music. In 2005, she and the Pottstown Symphony Orchestra (PSO) were broadcast on WHYY in pre-recorded concerts, including Tchaikovsky’s “Violin Concerto” with David Kim, concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra.

As a clarinetist, Erwin soloed with the Pittsburgh Symphony and the DePaul Chamber Orchestra, and performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Delaware Symphony.  She was the driving force behind the creation of Musica 2000/The Symphony Orchestra, presenting numerous world premieres of commissions by emerging American and Eastern European composers.

Erwin is the former music director and conductor of the Pottstown Symphony Orchestra (PSO) and has guest-conducted numerous orchestras and music festivals. In 1998, Erwin left PSO to pursue conducting opportunities in Europe. “Having seen Rosalind Erwin conduct,” said Riccardo Muti, flamboyant former music director for the Philadelphia Orchestra, “I have been pleased to recognize her musical and technical talents as a teacher and conductor.”

The Philadelphia Youth Orchestra (PYO) organization was founded in 1939 and is one of the nation’s oldest youth orchestral and college preparatory music education institutions for gifted students. The PYO affords its students opportunities to perform with professional musicians. Its faculty includes members of The Philadelphia Orchestra.

PYAO currently has 73 members, all from the tri-state area. Three are from Northwest Philly: Clara Bouch (East Falls), assistant concertmaster; Alexzandria Robbins (East Germantown), violin I, and Jasper Perry-Anderson (Mt. Airy), violin II.

Approximately 30% of all PYAO members pursue music as a career in college/conservatory. Several of the teenagers who have gone through PYAO/PYO now have professional musical careers, such as violinist Francesca de Pasquale, who is on the brink of a major career; David Rosenfeld, horn player with the Rochester Philharmonic; David Buck, principal flutist with the Detroit Symphony; and Delia Raab-Snyder, Director of Tune Up Philly and professional freelance clarinetist.

Regarding Erwin’s home for the last two decades in the Northwest, she told us, “I have lived in different parts of Philadelphia all of my adult life, and I LOVE living in this area! Beautiful aesthetically, easy access to the Wissahickon trails and, most importantly being a foodie, many truly wonderful restaurants in both Chestnut Hill and Mount Airy.”

For additional information and upcoming events, contact www.pyos.org.

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