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The One American in SEYO
Dilon Bryan, Graduate Student in Horn Performance, University of Georgia
Last August, I had the good fortune to be the only U.S. musician in the Sistema Europe Youth Orchestra. SEYO generously offered me that opportunity because I was born in Birmingham, England—the site of the “SEYO 18” Festival—and was back visiting the city after living in the States for 14 years.
I was musically trained in the U.S. from the age of 11; my principal instrument is the French horn, and I also studied cello and trumpet. I earned my undergraduate degree at Columbus State University. But I never had the experience of being in a Sistema program. So playing with SEYO was an eye-opening and heart-opening experience for me.
Playing with so many people from Europe was a real treat, and I made many new friends. The most striking element of the daily sectionals and rehearsals was the great passion and love they have for this craft. In my own experience, music students in conservatory environments sometimes think they are “too cool” to express zeal. Especially for older students pursuing graduate degrees, it’s easy to forget why we do what we do. And we’re often afraid to care too much about the music because this puts us in a vulnerable position. However, performing from this defensive position doesn’t lend itself to great communication with audiences.
For the young musicians of SEYO, in contrast, there was no holding back: they gave their all, all the time. For example, the way they played “Danzon No. 2” by Arturo Marquez was electric, every time. Sure, there were things that needed to be refined during the earlier rehearsals, but the players never forgot that “Danzon” is a fiesta. The piece opens with a beautiful clarinet solo, and our principal clarinetist found a way to bring out a new color every single time, which inspired us all to play with the same spirit.
In general, I found that the musicians were eager to learn from the orchestra conductors and sectional leaders, who shared their wisdom and artistry with huge energy and no inhibitions. It was also amazing to discover that we could all come together from so many different places, and in playing music, we could understand one another deeply despite verbal language barriers. Playing with the Sistema Europe Youth Orchestra was an unforgettable experience – just the inspiration I needed.