Brian Park ‘23 first played his cello on-stage at Carnegie Hall when he was just 10 years old. And since his freshman year at Regis, Park has been a member of the New York Youth Symphony, a group of around 60 musicians ranging in age from 12 to 22 who regularly perform in the storied venue as a showcase for some of New York City's most gifted young musicians.
But in March of 2020, concert halls shut down, and the NYYS had to cancel all the live performances it had been preparing for. The group had to pivot to alternatives that allowed for social distancing, and music director Michael Repper crafted a plan to instead record the symphony's first studio album. The ambitious project culminated earlier this year, when Park and his fellow performers became the first youth orchestra to win a Grammy Award.
Because the whole orchestra couldn't gather together in one room during the early part of the pandemic, Park and other members were given six weeks of remote instruction over Zoom and then began socially distant in-person rehearsals with different parts of the orchestra practicing at different times.
When it came time to make the album, the studio couldn't accommodate 60 socially distanced musicians and their instruments, so different sections of the group were forced to record their parts separately over the span of four days, with 14-time Grammy winner Judith Sherman handling production duties. The string section was the first to record their parts for the album, so Park could only hear the other strings as he performed.
For the album, the orchestra chose to perform pieces by three Black composers: Florence Price, Jessie Montgomery, and Valerie Coleman. The finished result was released in February 2022, and by May it had reached No. 1 on the Billboard Classical Albums chart. Six months later, it was nominated for the Best Orchestral Performance Grammy alongside the likes of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by legendary composer John Williams. And in February, Park was at home with his family when he learned the group had taken home the award.
Watch a short documentary by the NYYS about the production of the group's album:
Click here to listen to the album on Spotify.
Click here to listen to the album on Apple Music.