COVID-19 cancelations have been hard of musicians of all ages, but for last spring’s high school seniors it was especially heartbreaking. Not satisfied to let all her practice go to waste, a 2020 CYSO grad took matters into her own hands. Social Media Team member and Symphony Orchestra violinist Shreya Dudeja spoke with 2020 grad Lauren Makinney about the front yard concerto performance Lauren organized over the summer.
After winning her York Community High School’s concerto competition, Lauren Makinney was scheduled to perform Koussevitzky’s famous Double Bass Concerto at a school concert in May. Due to COVID school cancellations, she never got to experience this. That’s when Lauren and a few of her peers decided to organize a safe, socially distanced concert that would allow her to finally perform the concerto she worked so hard to prepare.
A group chat was created in May to build a small orchestra that could accompany Lauren’s concerto performance. The orchestra was given the dynamic, tongue in cheek name “West Suburban Community Youth Volunteer Orchestra of the Greater Chicagoland Area” (WSCYVOGCA). In addition to calling on many of her current and alumni friends from CYSO, Lauren employed friends Marina Akamatsu, a fellow 2020 grad and member of Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra, as conductor and Liam Popovsky, an incoming freshman at UW-Madison, to transcribe all of the musicians’ parts.
According to Lauren, the concert was organized with a lot of uncertainty. Everyone was concerned that the concert would end up getting cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns, even though the musicians planned to be safe and distant while wearing masks if their instruments allowed. Everyone was extremely eager for the chance to play in a group setting again, and rehearsals began to come together in July. Lauren gathered with the conductor and members of each section, but the full orchestra only came together for a single rehearsal before the performance—a decision made to limit musician’s possible exposure to COVID.
The concert, which took place on the front lawn of the Makinney’s Elmhurst home, left Lauren in awe of how many people came out to be part of the audience. Although it was her concerto performance, it was attended by not only friends and family, but even people she’d never met before. It was clear that attendees were longing to see their loved ones perform in an orchestra again, something they hadn’t been able to experience since before March. All of the musicians were elated to be able to make music with their peers after months of isolation and Lauren finally had her big moment in front of an adoring crowd.