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Nicholas Wallin appointed Music Director of American Youth Symphony Orchestra

May 24, 2022
Meghan O'Toole

Associate Professor of Music Nicholas Wallin aims to instill a love of music and understanding of ensemble in his students, and as the newly appointed Music Director for American Youth Symphony Orchestra (AYSO), he has more opportunities to connect with young musicians.

A primary motivator for Wallin will also be choosing a diverse repertoire of music from a diverse group of composers.

Nicholas Wallin portrait“One of the primary motivating characteristics for me when I work with my students at the College and now with the AYSO is to always be working on a wide range of pieces so we perform work by a diverse group of composers across histories, cultures, and moods,” Wallin said. “There are so many composers and voices that we can represent. We want to offer students and audiences a wide kaleidoscope of sounds to demonstrate what a symphony orchestra can do in the 21st century.”

Wallin conducts the student orchestra at Lake Forest College and also directs the professional orchestra Mid-Columbia Symphony in Richland, Washington. Taking on the position as Music Director of AYSO means he will be working with younger students who have demonstrated excellence in music.

“The feeling of having an impact and sharing my love for music with younger students is so exciting,” Wallin said of the opportunity to direct AYSO. “To direct a symphony in a comforting and nurturing and musically excellent way is what I am looking forward to.”

Wallin’s music journey began when he started taking piano lessons at 4 years old. However, piano was a solitary practice for him, and when he had the chance to pick up a second instrument through his school, he chose the biggest one he could get his hands on: the tuba.

“It was my desire to make music with other people that made me grab an instrument other than piano, and it was my desire to continue ensemble work that made me gravitate toward work as a conductor,” Wallin said. “The reason I became a conductor was because of formative experiences I had in ensembles in high school, and I knew I wanted to replicate those feelings over and over for my whole life.” 

As a conductor, he hopes to help the young musicians he works with achieve similar feelings.

“I want to instill a love of music in my students,” Wallin said. “I also want students to appreciate the process of making music as an ensemble because it’s not a simple thing. We don’t turn on a switch and suddenly perform wonderful feats of music for an audience. It takes discipline.”

The youth orchestra model enables Wallin to help the musicians under his stewardship to practice such discipline. The orchestra meets weekly on Saturdays. Between rehearsals, students’ independent practice is guided by rehearsal notes, goals, and feedback Wallin sends via email.

“With our professional players, the first time we rehearse is roughly 48 hours before the first performance. Our goal needs to be expediency, and there’s necessarily a pressure in that situation,” Wallin said. “With my students in the Lake Forest College orchestra and AYSO, the process is different. We work on ensemble skills, participate in sectionals, and focus on other areas of ensemble development. Those rehearsals can be rich laboratories of development when we get together.”

Wallin strives to help students achieve an emotional connection with each other and the audience through sound and music. “We want people to come listen and share our joy in what we’re working on, and that never changes,” he said. “We are trying to communicate through sound and move people through music.”

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