WSO to perform Side-by-Side with high school students

Young musicians from Jamestown, Lafayette and Warhill high schools will have the chance to perform alongside seasoned veterans on Sunday, during the Williamsburg Symphony Orchestra's latest Side-by-Side concert.

"This is a very special concert," said Carolyn Keurajian, the symphony's executive director.

The annual Side-by-Side series provides local students the opportunity to perform in a full orchestra, and in the past it's been set up in conjunction with the WSO's Youth Orchestra.

Music teachers at the schools have wanted to host a Side-by-Side concert of their own for years, and Sunday marks the culmination of that effort. Teachers hand selected band and orchestra students for the show, which features 96 total musicians including WSO performers.

"There's no better way for a student to improve," she said. "It just helps you raise yourself to another level."

The concert commences with the WSO performing the overture from "The Barber of Seville" while the students watch and listen onstage.

"We really wanted them to have that experience so they can hear it from within," Keurajian said.

The students will join in for three other pieces: Johannes Brahms' "Academic Festival Overture, Opus 80," Klaus Badelt's "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" theme and "Danzón No. 2" by Arturo Márquez.

WSO Music Director Janna Hymes will lead the performance. She selected music with the help of the teachers.

"They wanted exciting pieces that the students would be excited to learn how to play," Keurajian said.

Keurajian said that after past Side-by-Side concerts, parents told her about how moved they were and how their kids were filled with pride.

"Out goal is to create a love of music for people," she said. "It is changing students' lives and it's helping them make decisions."

The WSO hopes to alternate between the school district and the Youth Orchestra for future Side-by-Side concerts.

Keurajian emphasized its positive impact on students both mentally and socially. She was once herself a student musician who was able to perform with professionals, and this concert series is one way for her to pay it forward.

"It changed my life," she said. "That's why I love these types of concerts."

Birkenmeyer can be reached by phone at 757-790-3029.

Want to go?

The Side-by-Side concert commences at 4 p.m. on Sunday at Warhill High School. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children; kids 7 and under are free. Purchase online at

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