"We have a whole bunch of beautiful recordings of American music that otherwise might not have been recorded. We reach out and explore new music in the works of young composers. We champion them in a way other orchestras simply don't," said Miller. "Nationally and internationally, we commission and play pieces by emerging writers and are working towards creating a composer education program that will further reach out to them. We want to help develop a whole new generation."
Exposing "the next Beethoven" isn't the only way Albany Symphony tangles with young musicians. For years, its Magic of Christmas concert has been a community favorite and engaged local children in a valuable way.
"Collaboration with professional musicians is really important and the chance to work side by side [with them] is really neat for the kids," said Noel Liberty, director of The Music Studio.
Students from the school, which has been around for more than 30 years, have performed on Orff instruments at the concert for four years. There was no holiday music written for the xylophones, so Liberty had some specially created by a composer who writes for Prairie Home Companion.
"The fact it's live music is really important, as is the relationship with the symphony. The musicians really treat the kids as professional musicians. I don't know if people realize how lucky [the Capital District] is to have an accessible symphony that goes out of its way to visit schools and make themselves a part of the community," said Liberty.
Her students also entertain in the lobby before family concerts by singing and playing Orff instruments and the piano. Miller said getting Music Studio kids involved in this way feeds into how he views music.
"Besides listening, the most fun thing about music is actually playing it. I'm a big believer in experiential learning. If you experience something firsthand you'll learn, appreciate and enjoy it far more than looking from afar," said Miller. "The arts are all about putting art in people's hands, particularly young people because that's how they develop a deep love for it."
Albany Symphony has a full 2010-2011 schedule already planned and is offering special subscription prices to celebrate 80 years. Some of the highlights of its celebratory season are a concert centered around "A Midsummer Night's Dream," a 50th birthday bash for Miller and appearances by world class musicians like Yefim Bronfman, David Krakauer and Dame Evelyn Glennie. The 80th concert season begins Sept. 11 at Troy Savings Bank Music Hall.
Concert and subscription information is on its Web site,