Dr. Jacob Sustaita, Pacific Symphony Youth Ensembles, Family Musical Mornings, and More!

Fall is my favorite time of the year. Yes, I celebrate my birthday at the end of September, but more than that, fall marks the beginning of a new symphony season, a new school year, and the return of our youth ensembles! There is nothing more exhilarating then hearing the first sounds of a youth ensemble playing together at the start of a new season. There is familiarity among the returning musicians, but there is also a sense of the unknown and wonderment. As the summer ends, and the first rehearsal of the new season grows near, I find myself asking questions like, “what will this year’s orchestra sound like and be like? What goals will I set for the year? What will be our biggest challenge?”

It takes about twenty seconds of playing before all my questions are answered and a million other thoughts and questions enter my mind. There is something very meaningful and joyful when I am with Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra (PSYO). The connection I have with the students go far beyond the incredible music-making and energetic spirit that we share. When I look out from the podium and see so much talent and potential, it almost takes my breath away knowing what an honor it is to serve as their music director. It really is a dream come true.

The more I reflect on being a part of Pacific Symphony Youth Ensembles (PSYE), the more I am thankful and proud of being a part of the Youth Orchestras of San Antonio (YOSA) when I was in high school. I have the most vivid and specific memories of countless moments in the years I spent in YOSA that shaped my life as a man and musician. From the excitement and stress of that first audition to get accepted to the tour we had in Australia, it was my time in youth orchestra that showed me that I wasn’t alone in my passion and obsession with classical music, and those years, concerts, tours, and rehearsals–I can’t imagine my life without every one of those moments.

My experiences in YOSA helped me to realize that my life would always be about music and sharing music with others. Now, there were many other great musical moments in my life as I grew up but being a part of an ensemble that challenged me and taught me about responsibility and ownership as an artist was the greatest gift for me.

I ask myself from time to time – what is it that a youth ensemble can provide? Why would a young musician want to be a part of a youth ensemble? The answers are always the same. A youth ensemble brings young people together from a larger area than any school has the capacity to make happen. A youth ensemble is a platform for a young person to make a commitment to their peers to be the best artist and collaborator possible.

Watching an orchestra or wind ensemble grow and connect with each other over a season is unbelievable. As a music director, I invite each of them to work hard, pay close attention to each other, problem solve as a section, and to always be creating an environment that is safe and fosters greatness. It is more than just teamwork and improving our skill set. Being in a youth ensemble is about coming together to be stronger and more creative as musicians, artists, and people. Through the difficulties of playing ones instrument in a world-class ensemble and being willing to challenge yourself to work toward a common goal, it is clear that youth ensembles builds more resilient leaders for the future.

As Assistant Conductor with Pacific Symphony, I work closely with Pacific Symphony Music Director Carl St. Clair and the symphony’s outstanding musicians, staff, and administrators on designing and presenting our Family Musical Mornings Series sponsored by Farmers and Merchants Bank. This is a five-concert series every season that focuses on our young audience members and families coming to enjoy the symphony in a concert made just for them.

I love our planning session. We have the best time brainstorming and bouncing ideas off each other. I am particularly impressed with the willingness and support of trying innovative ideas and platforms. I said it before, but I am constantly reminded of how blessed I am to be the one to conduct these concerts, and I often get to be a part of the narrative aspect of our concerts.

If you haven’t seen one of our Family Musical Mornings, you are all in luck. Our next performance is one of my all-time favorites! Saturday, December 3, 2022–Nutcracker for Kids! As with all of our Family concerts, we perform twice on Saturday mornings–10 a.m. & 11:30 a.m.

Nutcracker for Kids! 2021. Photo by Stan Sholik.

There is so much that we offer at Pacific Symphony–concerts for young people, concerts built for school music programs, concerts for families, and don’t forget about our events and lobby activities before the 10:00 a.m. concert and after the 11:30 a.m. concert. Our gift to our community is music. We have something for everyone in Orange County, and I hope to meet more and more of you at our concerts. Check out our website for up-to-date information and for tickets. Also, find us on Facebook and Instagram to stay connected with us and see some behind-the-scenes footage.

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