When Agnes Kline was a kid, her grandparents took her to see the Empire State Youth Orchestra, and she decided she wanted to be in the orchestra when she was a bit older.
Irene Van Ryn remembers seeing ESYO perform its Melodies of Christmas concert on television and feeling that same pull.
"I said, 'I'm going to do that,'" she said.
These days, it's Kline and Van Ryn inspiring the next generation of Capital District musicians. Now students at Shaker High School, both are members of ESYO -- Kline as a cellist and Van Ryn as a violinist.
ESYO is not actually an orchestra in and of itself, but an umbrella term for nine performing groups. Though it has a good relationship with area schools, it's not affiliated with any local districts. It's an independent activity for young musicians in the Capital District and beyond.
Talk to kids in the ensembles -- there are roughly 300 of them -- and you'll hear a lot of stories similar to Kline's and Van Ryn's. Many saw ESYO performing and just felt a natural attraction. David Luidens of Guilderland High School watched a friend perform with ESYO and, he said, "I knew that was what I wanted to do."
Robert Cosgrove of Albany High School was hooked after a percussion ensemble performance.
These clearly aren't kids who play instruments because they need class credit or because their parents make them. They do it because they love music. With ESYO, they feed off the excitement of others who share that passion.
"A lot of these kids are very dedicated to making music," string ensemble conductor Joseph Gummper said. "They find other people like them here. They find kindred spirits."
"I've never felt so much energy in a group," said Mike Dorato, a senior at Guilderland High School who plays trombone. "It almost gives you chills, it's that good. At school, it's never as deep."