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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Many professional orchestras nurture young talent with their own youth orchestras. Cleveland has one of the country's most prominent orchestras, and the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra - or COYO - is in the midst of a new experience: its first-ever European tour.

Vivian Goodman, of member station WKSU, talked with some of the members recently as they prepared for the trip.

JAMES FEDDECK: Three before C.

(SOUNDBITE OF ORCHESTRA MUSIC)

VIVIAN GOODMAN, BYLINE: They've been at it for two hours.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FEDDECK: OK. Brahms after the break.

GOODMAN: After a 10-minute break, Cleveland Orchestra assistant conductor James Feddeck will rehearse the young players for another two hours. They do this every weekend, nine months out of the year.

CHAD HOOPES: You get kind of jittery in your chair after a couple hours.

GOODMAN: Despite the fact that violinist Chad Hoopes had been taking lessons since he was 3.

HOOPES: To keep focused for more than three or four hours and, when you have those four-and-a-half-hour rehearsals - or however long they are - it can get a little bit - um - crazy.

GOODMAN: Hoopes just turned 18. He's still in high school, and still studying with former Juilliard Quartet violinist Joel Smirnoff at the Cleveland Institute of Music. But he also has a professional career. He's performed with the San Diego, San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Houston Symphonies, among others. He attributes all of this to COYO.

HOOPES: Being able to be in the youth orchestra sets you up to not only just play in the orchestra, but it sets you up as an artist - overall artist, and a musician that knows how to work well with other people and collaborate; and be able to experiment, and give and take. And those are some of the lessons I learned, and the growth experiences that I had, when I participated in the youth orchestra.

GOODMAN: Another benefit is that the young musicians get to play in Severance Hall.

(SOUNDBITE OF ORCHESTRA MUSIC)

KEVIN RITENOUR: It's truly an honor to be able to play in one of the greatest halls in the world every weekend.

GOODMAN: Eighteen-year-old Kevin Ritenour has studied percussion since fifth grade. This is his third year with COYO.

RITENOUR: And to be surrounded by such young talent - there are so many talented musicians, and it's very humbling.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FEDDECK: OK. Beginning of the movement, the second movement.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

HENRY SHEPHERD: I'm Henry Shepherd, and I'm a cellist.

SERENA SHEPHERD: And I'm Serena Shepherd, and I play violin.

(LAUGHTER)

HENRY AND SERENA SHEPHERD: (In unison) We're twins.

GOODMAN: They're 13, and remarkably sophisticated about going to Europe on the ensemble's first international tour in its 26-year history.

HENRY SHEPHERD: I'm looking forward to experiencing new halls, new concert halls because we're really spoiled here with Severance Hall. But I'd be interested to see - sort of the European standard of concert hall, and how our orchestra is going to adapt to that, and how we're going to play.

GOODMAN: COYO alumni have gone on to play with the Chicago Symphony, the L.A. Philharmonic, and 17 other professional orchestras. Serena Shepherd hopes to do the same, with the help of the coaching she gets from members of the Cleveland Orchestra.

SERENA SHEPHERD: And they've played all the pieces that we've played. So they sort of know - like, the behind-the-scenes information, which is really great to get a sense of. And it really helps when it comes to our concerts.

GOODMAN: The members of the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra are getting a chance to show Europe what they can do. They finish their tour Wednesday night in the grand hall of the Mozarteum in Salzburg, where they'll also visit Mozart's grave. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: Mozart was buried in Vienna, not Salzburg.]

For NPR News, I'm Vivian Goodman in Cleveland.

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