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ESYO hits the right note

"I love conducting students, especially kids who are really into their music and instruments," Gummper said. "You explain something, and when they do it, you see them turn to one another and say, 'Oh, that's how it's supposed to be.'"

"It's getting them that first experience and seeing that light come on," said David Beck, a music teacher in the Bethlehem Central School District who conducts the repertory orchestra.

Before she joined ESYO about seven years ago, music director and youth orchestra conductor Helen Cha-Pyo had worked only with professional musicians. She was intrigued by the chance to work with youths.

"I thought this would be a very meaningful way to make music," she said.

Cha-Pyo sees herself filling multiple roles: "I am a coach, I am a teacher, I am a motivator," she said.

She is also high energy.

Standing in front of the youth orchestra during a recent rehearsal, she conducted with a flourish, making large sweeping motions with her arms. She regularly stopped and addressed different sections with suggestions.

"She wants the kids to improve," said Mike Reinemann, a clarinet player from Niskayuna. "She's very warm and inviting."

That warmth made an impression on Abbie Zimmermann-Niefield, who initially wasn't interested in ESYO. But when the group needed extra bass players, Zimmerman-Niefield decided to give it a try.

"I ended up really liking it," she said. "Helen keeps it fun."

Beyond that, Zimmermann-Niefield liked how "everyone is interested in music" and that she had a chance to play good music.

That music, after all, is at the heart of ESYO. All those hours of rehearsals translate into more 30 shows each year. Sarah Vero, a lawyer who serves as the president of ESYO's board of directors, played cello in the group when she was a student at Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake. She remembers hearing recordings of ESYO's concerts, and she couldn't help but be impressed.

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