Band members from the June Radiohead collaboration look on as Alyson Alonzo performs. Photo by Scott Ball.

The idea of covering a classic album with bands from across San Antonio felt like a winning formula to Youth Orchestras of San Antonio Music Director Troy Peters. It was a chance to uncover the talent in both YOSA and local bands. The first collaboration in June 2015 took on Radiohead’s “OK Computer” and was such a hit that a few bands performed an encore with the Rivard Report at Brick a few months later.

“I was confident that people would enjoy it, but I was surprised at how the bands reacted to it,” Peters said. “They felt what it meant to be in front of 1,000 people at the Tobin, to say to themselves ‘Hey, people get this.  This is cool.’”

Through the release of their albums on Spotify and the reemergence of the vinyl movement, The Beatles, who were never in danger of losing significance, have remained ever the more relevant to young people today.

“‘Abbey Road‘ is absolutely built for that expansion into a bigger soundscape,” Peters said of the album choice for the next YOSA collaboration, taking place at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts on Monday, March 14 at 8 p.m.

Banner courtesy of YOSA

Monday night’s line up includes (descriptions courtesy of YOSA):

“It’s kind of a weird grab bag but when you put it all together it’s one of the greatest records in the history of rock ‘n’ roll,” he said.

The variety of the collaborations, aptly named “Abbey Road Live!” brings a lot of fun, according to Peters, and an opportunity to feature artists’ voices that are distinctly suited for the tunes. Femina-X is one of many participating bands, and group member violinist Darian Thomas is a 10 year veteran of YOSA (and former Rivard Report intern).

“To have the support of everyone at YOSA is to have the support of one of the most forward thinking musical communities in the city,” Thomas said.  “You know that you’re working towards making the musical world a better place, and the idea that you get to do this along with the next generation of powerhouse musicians is invigorating.”

Thomas attributes some of his recent and greater successes with local groups Femina-X and Sugar Skulls to a conversation with bassist/guitarist and all-around connector Jeff Palacios, who plays in both ensembles.

“Basically had I not had that conversation with Jeff, I wouldn’t be as active in the scene as I am now,” Thomas said of his conversation with Palacios backstage during the “OK Computer” show.  “It sincerely was a life-changing experience. I’m a completely different person and artist now.”

YOSA is on a mission to “change kids lives through music.” Music Director Peters is taking traditions and testing the boundaries, all in the name of creating a greater landscape for musical collaboration, growth, and imagination in San Antonio.

Octahedron performs Let Down. Photo by Scott Ball.
Octahedron performs Radiohead’s “Let Down” with YOSA at the Tobin Center in June 2015. Photo by Scott Ball.

“We’ve been messing around with rock and pop in several formats, and wanted to create a forum where some of the best local band could come together and celebrate,” Peters said. “We’re trying to find opportunities to connect the dots between the tools they (the students) have musically and that which will take them to the next level.”

On stage, Thomas maintains quite the presence. His warm, approachable demeanor off stage is contrasted with the powerful prose he constructs with his violin.

“I want to help the audience to feel – to expand the spectrum of emotion they can feel on both ends,” Thomas said.  “I can only have this kind of a goal because of the rigorous training I’ve gone through.

“There are so many amazingly talented and creative artists here, and every single one of them is hungry for a more intense and creative community,” Thomas added. “It’s exciting that students in YOSA or other student artists just learning their instrument will get to come into a community that’s actively being built now.”

Victoria Acuña, an active YOSA member since fifth grade, is one of those individuals and has emerged on the music scene in her own right.

“Because ‘OK Computer’ was so successful and life-changing in so many ways, not just for myself but for YOSA, I’m really hyped up for ‘Abbey Road,’” Acuña said.  “I’m excited to join together with these musicians, to work again with the local music community and classical music community.”

After the show in June, Acuña joined up with YOSA percussionist Dominic Walsh, who also plays in Sugar Skulls with Thomas, to form their own YOSA power group, 16 Psyche.

“We’re very open with our collaboration, there aren’t any of the cons of musical players being competitive,” Acuña said.  “Especially with YOSA ensemble training we have another way of working together.”

Acuña gives a lot of credit to the YOSA collaboration at the Tobin for opening her eyes up to the possibilities, and getting to know new bands.  “It makes me super proud of San Antonio,” Acuña said. “Before OK Computer I had no idea about the types of bands that are out there, and that show brought those groups to life for me.”

Walsh considers Acuña to be one of his best friends, and is grateful for the opportunity to grow with fellow YOSA members.  “It’s not structured and rigid, I have the freedom to lead rehearsals, book shows, promote,” Walsh said. “These are all things I learned through YOSA.”

Walsh is getting more involved on the scene, playing in three ensembles outside of his dedication to YOSA and school groups.  “With this group I can express myself the most as a musician, we can play off what everyone else knows,” Walsh said.

Walsh, Acuña, and Thomas seem to agree on the professional and theoretical skills that YOSA provides for its young people: practical tools that help individuals grow not just within the ensemble, but to stretch their wings in a greater musical expression.

“It’s the level of musicality, everyone knows music theory, everyone understands and are on the same page,” Walsh said. “Even when we don’t speak we still have a connection.”

YOSA stands as the crowd cheers. Photo by Scott Ball.
Members of YOSA stand as the crowd cheers after their “OK Computer Live” performance at the Tobin in June 2015. Photo by Scott Ball.

Not many would surmise that a guitar god of Jimmy Page’s stature would claim his roots in the orchestrations of Vivaldi or Beethoven, yet his counterculture collision of violin bow on electric guitar dares to unveil the juiciness found by combining the tools of classic rock and classical music.

While sitting at Rosella Coffee, I unplug from Jimmy Page and hear my favorite song “Iris” by the Goo Goo Dolls, a rock ballad three decades past the prime of Led Zeppelin whose climactic experience comes courtesy of orchestral arrangements betwixt guitar, bass, and drums.

Quite simply, the rock world is saturated with cross-cultural connections, pollinations that pierce the perceptions and blossom into brand new understandings of how the foundations of musical expression can still invigorate novelty in our interpretation of what is possible.

The magic of Abbey Road Live commences on Monday, March 14 at 8 p.m.  What you witness will have been orchestrated and rehearsed with twelve unique ensembles, and brought to you in the acoustical masterpiece of the H-E-B Performance Hall at the Tobin Center.  Buy your tickets here.

*Top Photo:  Band members from the June Radiohead collaboration look on as Alyson Alonzo performs. Photo by Scott Ball.

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YOSA to Take on ‘Abbey Road’

Estática Vol. I: YOSA, Local Artists to Perform ‘OK Computer’ Encore

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Adam Tutor

Adam Tutor is a Trinity University graduate, a saxophonist who performs with local bands Soulzzafying, Odie & the Digs, and Volcan, and a freelance music contributor to the Rivard Report.