The Bellflower Symphony Orchestra, formed in 1965, has gifted the local community with music for decades, but when Joseph R. Taylor took the conductor’s stand in 1991, the Los Angeles native revitalized the organization’s emphasis on youth.
Taylor, who has taught instrumental music, language arts and math in middle schools with the Compton and Los Angeles Unified School Districts for 30 years, elected to found the Bellflower Young Artist Concerto Competition in 1990, just before being named the conductor. The program has since flourished, and will soon see new talent this spring.
Tryouts for this year’s Young Artists’ Night will be held on Feb. 20. Applications, available on the website, are being accepted now. Up to 60 youth musicians will be invited to compete for a coveted spot to perform on April 23 with the Bellflower Symphony.
“We receive applications from students from Santa Barbara to San Diego to Los Angeles,” said Dorothy Westrup, president of the Bellflower Symphony. “There are few competitions like this in Southern California, so we draw a lot of interest.”
The competition is divided into three age categories: juniors (13 and under), intermediates (14 through 17) and seniors (18 through 22). First- and second-place winners from each category will be invited to perform solos, supported by the larger adult symphony, at the April concert held at the 340-seat William & Jane Bristol Civic Auditorium.
“Playing with a real orchestra is a big deal for these young musicians,” said Westrup. “It’s an amazing experience that is both difficult and different – not at all like their typical performances with smaller groups.”
All musicians are welcome, and Westrup notes they have had students play everything from violins to guitars to piano and horns.
“It is a special evening,” said Westrup. “Our community really enjoys this event and takes pride in promoting our young artists.”
In addition to the anticipated “Young Artists’ Night,” the 2016 season features a concert every season.
On Jan. 30, audience members will enjoy a “Night at the Opera.” In the summer, the Bellflower Symphony will perform a “Concert in the Park” at Caruthers Park. Finally, in November, a final performance will be held on Nov. 19, once again at the William & Jane Bristol Civic Auditorium.
Admission is free for Bellflower residents. Individual concert tickets are $12 for adults, and $10 for students and seniors. For more ticket information, call 562-867-4871 or visit http://www.bellflowersymphony.org/concerts.html.