Los Angeles Youth Orchestra News    February 2015

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 Exploring a New World

by Russell Steinberg
Our orchestra embarked on a new path this year, and it was this that inspired my choice to program the Dvorak New World Symphony. What’s new? Almost everything. Read more...


LAYO Goes to
Vienna and Prague!

by Georgia McClain, Concert Orchestra Cellist

This summer, LAYO is going to Vienna and Prague.  Approximately 70 students are planning on attending this 10 day trip.  Read more...


Russell's Notes
on Vienna and Prague

This is the trip I always dreamed of taking when I was in high school. We will be playing a Haydn symphony in Esterhazy Castle, where Haydn composed and premiered it. We will partner with advanced students from a Vienna conservatory. Read more...


Taking Music to the Community

Vivian Yang, chamber orchestra flutist, has put together the group Music from the Heart, she says, "because of my love for music and my belief that music has the ability to be like therapy in a sense and bring joy to others who are in less fortunate conditions.  Read more...


Alumni Bio

by Niv Ashkenazi, LAYO Violin Alumnus
Violist Laila Zakzook won the 2014 Lillian Fuchs Chamber Music Competition and the Honors Quartet Scholarship at the Colburn School of Performing Arts.  Read more...
Exploring a New World (continued)
We have a new home. After a year of uncertain wandering, the orchestra established its new rehearsal home at a great location—the Encino Community Center managed by the Parks Services and Recreation. That change was a harbinger for many wonderful surprises.

Our orchestra grew by 50% this year, from 80 students to over 120. Our Board attracted exciting new members with the vision and energy to help push us to the next level. I credit our entire board led by LAYO Board President Mitchell Newman for the imagination and ability that is propelling LAYO fast-forward towards funding and artistic goals it has struggled for well over a decade. Our Development Director Alexandria Dilks Pandola brought in a grant that doubled our support from the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, in addition to significant foundation grants from the Anna and Harry Borun Foundation, the Joseph Drown Foundation, the Clarence Heller Foundation, and the Pasadena Showcase House for the Arts. This year we welcome our new Program Director, Michael Armstrong, who has brought his own musical skills, youth orchestra experience, and enthusiasm to move LAYO forward,  already helping to build our brass and double bass sections.

Also new—LAYO members appeared on national television in an HBO special with the rock group the Foo Fighters and received album credit for performing on "We Are A River" on the new Foo Fighters CD.  Last but hardly least, LAYO’s first international concert tour is this coming June 2015. Already, 70 students have chosen to participate in performances in Vienna and Prague, including a concert at Esterhazy Castle in Eisenstadt—the exact spot Haydn composed and premiered his symphonies!—a concert at MuTH Hall in Vienna,  and a grand finale performance at the magnificent Dvorak Hall in Prague. To visit and perform in the places where so much of the music we love was created will be the experience of a lifetime.

Our mission is to create an environment where serious students in Los Angeles from all economic and social strata can come together and learn orchestral music on a high level, whether or not their school has a music program, and whether or not they choose musical careers for themselves. From what you’ll hear at these concerts, I’m sure you’ll agree that mission is vitally succeeding.  Please follow us on
Twitter and FaceBook
LAYO Goes to Vienna and Prague! (continued)
In Vienna, we will be visiting the Beethovenhaus in Heiligenstadt.  Here, he wrote a letter in which he writes at length and movingly of his deafness.  He also details what he wants to happen to his possessions after his death.  It is his last Will and Testament, and is known as the Heiligenstadt Testament.  LAYO will also be performing a concert in MuTh as part of the American Celebration of Music in Austria.

In Prague, we will attend a half-day guided tour of Musical Prague including entrance to the Dvorak Museum.  The Museum focuses on collecting, maintaining, and displaying documents concerning Dvorak's life and work.  LAYO will also perform a concert in the Rudolfinum "Dvorak Hall" as part of the American Celebration of Music in the Czech Republic.

Russell's Notes on Vienna and Prague (continued)
The Chamber Orchestra will play a movement from Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4. The entire orchestra will play Saint-Saëns Danse Macabre and my piece Cosmic Dust that includes projected images from the Hubble Space Telescope. The cherry-on-top will be attending a recital by the superb violinist Anne Sophie Mutter at the Musikverein, a hall that is world famous for its astounding acoustics.  Back

Taking Music to the Community (continued)
A few years ago, my grandmother was the victim of a hit and run car accident and she suffered severe brain damage causing her to lose her ability to speak.  Thankfully, she is currently in stable condition now and lives in a nursing home in New Jersey, and I visit her often there, so I have spent a lot of time in the nursing home environment.  It is a very nice nursing home, but they don't have a lot of entertainment there--they mostly watch TV or play board games and things like that--so whenever I go to visit her, I always bring my flute and play for her.  And even though she can't express it through words, I know she really enjoys it.  Unfortunately, I can't visit her as much as I would like because she lives  so far away, but I thought it would be nice to be able to bring a group of musicians together who all share a love for music and play for people tat are in similar conditions, and hopefully use music to bring them joy like it does for her and us.  Presently, our group will play at the Brentwood Health Care Center.  We will also probably play at Children's Hospital."  Back

LAYO in Concert

The Fall concerts at UCLA and Colburn were a resounding success with standing room only.  Even more exciting, though, were the many thank you notes Russell Steinberg received from audience members and LAYO musicians for the amazing concert. Read more...


LAYO Has a New Home

Russell Steinberg on our move to the Encino Community Center:

It took almost a full year and investigation of almost 40 different venues to find our new home after Milken Community Schools announced the orchestra was no longer welcome to use its facilities. 


LAYO Member Spotlight

by Kate Perry, Chamber Orchestra Violinist
Name: Kira Markman
Instrument: Violin
Age: 16
School: Homeschooled

In addition to violin, Kira also plays piano, mandolin, ukulele, guitar, viola, and kazoo (she's looking for kazoo college scholarships).  Read more...

Alumni Bio

by Niv Ashkenazi, LAYO Violin Alumnus

Luke Santonastaso holds a B.A. and M.M. in Violin Performance from UCLA's Herb Alpert School of Music where he studied violin with Guillaume Sutre and Movses Pogossian. Read more...
 “How are you raising money to go to Vienna?”  We love hearing the great stories about how LAYO musicians are raising money to go on this amazing trip.  We’ve heard of money being raised through garage sales and by ‘busking it’ at the 3rd Street Promenade.  Share your stories with us at on LAYO’s Vienna Facebook page, or contact

LAYO in Concert (continued)
Please find excerpts below:

"Angela Woo has inspired me to want to be a conductor but it wasn't till I saw you conducting where I REALLY got inspired! The short time in LAYO, I really felt welcomed immediately and it made my love and appreciation for music grow. This program has really been the most life changing, inspiring thing I have ever taken part in. I know there's like a month in between before we start up again, but I really do want to thank you for everything from the knowledge you have given me, to the encouragement and music you have given us as a whole. I can only hope that one day I will be as amazing and talented as the amazing Russell Steinberg. Literally the Dvorak brought tears to my eyes because it was the first time that I actually could understand the music and appreciate it as much as I did."

"Hi! I haven't had the chance to tell you yet how much I enjoyed the LAYO concert. It actually had a huge impact on me. The Dvorak piece particularly really moved me and I realized how much music affects me and how I feel the music with my whole soul. I had been so shut off to feeling anything for a long time and that piece really connected me back to myself again. It sounds silly but I feel like I found a part of who I was again that I had lost."

LAYO Has a New Home (continued)
The possibility of the Encino Community Center became a reality because of LAYO Board Vice President Tiffany Harris who often works with Charles Singer at the Parks and Recreation Services for the playgrounds created by her wonderful non-profit Shane's Inspiration. This new location has been a fabulous new home for the orchestra. All the facilities are on a single level—no stairs!—and it is an easy location to get to and to park. Further, as far as I know, we are the very first orchestra to reside in Encino, which is a vibrant cultural community, and I think the potential for outreach and connections that can help build our orchestra is natural. The most mind-boggling thing of all is that after we moved away from Milken to the Encino Community Center, LAYO's enrollment immediately increased by 50%! I have great hopes that this new location will be a home and powerful building base for the orchestra for many years to come.  Back

LAYO Member Spotlight (continued)
When not practicing, homeschooling, or dying her hair a new color, Kira can be found at Jeff Muller's violin shop in Los Angeles, where she is learning the trade of a luthier.  She spends about 12 hours a week at the shop, and her first violin, complete with a dragon's head scroll, is almost finished.  Kira also enjoys rock climbing and playing in String Project LA, a jazz string group for young musicians.  In the future, she hopes to learn the saxophone.  Back

Luke Santonastaso Bio (continued)
During his time at UCLA, Luke has been a winner of the Atwater Kent All-Star competition, a member of the Maxwell H. Gluck Outreach Foundation String Quartet, and a graduate Teaching Assistant in the department of Musicology. In addition, Luke has served as concertmaster for the UCLA Philharmonia Symphony and Early Music Ensemble. He is currently a member of the American Youth Symphony and Young Musicians Foundation Debut Orchestra. He also serves as principal second violin in the Los Angeles based opera company, Pacific Opera Project. Luke has attended the summer Aspen Music Festival and School, 2010 - 2011, as well as two chamber music residencies at the Incontri in Terra di Siena chamber music festival in Italy, 2012 & 2014. He has worked with world class artists such as Midori Goto, Lynn Harrell, Maxim Vengerov, Gilbert Kalish, Jacques Israelievitch, Levon Chilingirian, and The Borromeo String Quartet. Luke is now teaching violin, coaching youth orchestra, and working as a freelance musician in the greater Los Angeles area.  Back

Laila Zakzook Bio (continued)
Laila has held principal and assistant principal positions under the batons of conductors such as Leonard Slatkin and Philippe Entremont, within the Banff Festival Orchestra, Manhattan School of Music Orchestras, Oberlin Wind Ensemble, and the Colburn School of Performing Arts Chamber Orchestra. Recently, Laila appeared at Carnegie Hall with the Mimesis Ensemble in the premiere performance and subsequent recording of Sumeida’s Song by Mohammed Fairouz.

In 2011 and 2013, Laila held residencies at The Banff Centre. Laila has also participated in The Heifetz International Music Institute, Zephyr International Chamber Music Course and Festival, and The NYU String Quartet Seminar.

This year Laila begins her studies at The Glenn Gould School of the Royal Conservatory of Music, having previously studied at The Manhattan School of Music and The Oberlin Conservatory. Laila has worked closely with teachers such as Karen Ritscher and John Hayhurst, and performed in masterclasses for Robert Vernon, Carol Rodland, Jeffrey Irvine, Gilad Karni, among others.

Laila plays on a modern viola by Peter Beare and Mario Miralles, granted to her by the Maestro Foundation in Los Angeles. 
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