The European Union Youth Orchestra is on its first American tour in more than 20 years, with concerts in several major U.S. cities and on university campuses through April 24. The group is sharing its love of music with its American peers.
Thousands of young musicians from the European Union's 27 member countries compete each year for a shot at one of these chairs.
Even as Europe grapples with high unemployment, the EU Youth Orchestra [EUYO] offers about 140 young players a chance to get a leg up on the competition.
Young musicians ascending
Almost all of them are likely to become professional musicians.
This is Sarah Sew's last tour with the group. She's British and said the orchestra's diversity is its biggest strength.
"Part of the energy and feeling and emotion that you have in the performance is so much because of that," said Sew.
"And as part of its American tour, the European Union Youth Orchestra is taking that energy from the concert hall to the classroom with stops at local high schools. The visiting musicians, like Sew, say it's important for them to share their love of music."
Workshops like these outside Washington provide American students with a chance to meet and play with the European musicians who are all about the same age as they are.
Sew said she wants to inspire students just as she was when she first started playing.
"I remember what I felt when I first heard, when someone demonstrated to me the violin, and I was desperate to play it," said Sew.
Sharing the love
Joy Bryer founded the youth orchestra in the 1970s with her husband. She calls her musicians her children and says they're ambassadors.
"There's nothing more important than young people meeting at an age where they have no preconceived values or tolerances, working together and producing something great," said Bryer.
Sew said where the audiences or players come from is not important. Music is their common language.
"If you feel something when you hear music, don't just forget about it and let it go when the concert finishes or when the radio finishes. Remember that, keep that feeling with you," said Sew.
The Washington Performing Arts Society presented the EUYO at Washington's Kennedy Center. The group has stops planned in New York and Boston before finishing its tour near Chicago later this month.