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    Tutor Portland Podcast Episode 7: Playing in the Portland Youth Philharmonic with David Hattner

The Tutor Portland Podcast is a show where we sit down with Portland locals to talk all things education and the arts.

Playing in the Portland Youth Philharmonic with David Hattner

Welcome to another inspiring article from the Tutor Portland Podcast series! Today, we’re thrilled to have David Hatner, the esteemed director and conductor of the Portland Youth Philharmonic (PYP), as our special guest. To make things extra exciting, we also spoke to David during PYP’s 100th concert season. PYP is the oldest youth philharmonic in the country, and it is a landmark of musical excellence and youth development in Portland.

In this companion article, we’ll explore David’s fascinating journey in the world of classical music, from his early beginnings to leading one of the nation’s oldest youth orchestras. We’ll also hear what makes musical education at PYP stand out and become so rewarding to students. Plus, learn how you can get involved with classical music education, appreciation, and career opportunities here in Portland, Oregon.

Celebrate the Portland Youth Philharmonic’s 100th season with an exclusive interview with David Hattner, the music director of the Portland Youth Philharmonic Orchestra!

In this episode, David recounts the events that led to his career as a professional conductor while sharing his insights and observations as an educator and conductor regarding the development of the young musicians playing in the orchestra. Plus, David and I dive into the invaluable lessons that these developing musicians gain through their orchestra experience, and how it instills values that not only shape their musical careers but also their professional and academic pursuits.

David Hatner’s Musical Journey

Welcome to the Portland Youth Philharmonic Podcast, where in this episode we explore the fascinating musical journey of our director and conductor, David Hatner. David’s story in the world of classical music is both inspiring and enlightening, revealing the path that led him to his current role at the PYP.

David’s connection with classical music began in his childhood home. This early exposure laid the foundation for his lifelong passion. He vividly recalls starting the clarinet in fifth grade, where his talent and enthusiasm for the instrument quickly led him to seek private lessons, accelerating his growth as a musician.

The pivotal moment in David’s musical development came when he attended a summer program at the prestigious Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan. This experience, coupled with his subsequent years at the Interlochen Winter Academy, honed his skills and set the stage for his future in music.

He studied at Northwestern University, under the tutelage of Robert Marcellus, renowned clarinetist. After university, David spent about 12 years immersing himself in the musical landscape of New York City. Then, to Aspen, Colorado, where he studied conducting under the mentorship of David Zinman and Murry Sidlin.

David arrived at the Portland Youth Philharmonic in its 85th season, and is successfully leading one of the nation’s most excellent musical programs with his own seasoned approach.

Philosophy and Impact of the Portland Youth Philharmonic

Unlike the intense professional training approach of David’s alma mater, Interlochen, PYP’s mission is distinctly broader. The focus here is not necessarily on crafting professional musicians but on fostering holistic personal and intellectual development through musical excellence. David emphasizes this difference as the core of PYP’s vision, stating, “I’m not necessarily teaching music. I’m teaching young people using music.” This philosophy underpins PYP’s unique approach to nurturing young talents.

David notes that many of PYP’s most talented and disciplined musicians often pursue academic paths outside music, particularly in STEM fields, reflecting the program’s success in preparing students for diverse realms of success. The rigorous musical training at PYP, involving regular practice and performance, seems to enhance the students’ abilities in their academic pursuits. Highlighting this, David remarks on the impressive academic destinations of PYP graduates, including elite institutions like MIT and Stanford.

This distinctive approach of PYP aligns musical training with broader educational objectives, demonstrating music’s power to enhance learning capabilities and discipline. The program’s success is reflected not only in the musical achievements of its students but also in their outstanding academic and personal growth. David’s insights reveal a deep understanding of the transformative role of music education in shaping young minds, illustrating how PYP’s approach goes beyond traditional music education paradigms.

PYP’s Unique Approach to Musical Studies

Throughout our conversation on this episode of the Tutor Portland Podcast, David Hatner breaks down the distinctive training methodologies employed at the Portland Youth Philharmonic (PYP). Here are some of the definition methodologies:

Developmental Process and Motivational Techniques

David outlines the journey students undertake at PYP, starting from mastering basic skills to performing complex symphonies. This progression isn’t just about musical growth; it’s about developing focus, discipline, and the ability to work harmoniously in an ensemble. He describes how playing in a group, such as a 45-minute symphony, requires immense concentration and precision, crucial skills that extend beyond the realm of music. And when young musicians can pull it off, they are very motivated to learn more and do it again.

Artistic Growth Through Challenging Repertoire

David emphasizes the importance of challenging students with diverse and complex musical pieces. He believes that this exposure not only enhances their technical abilities but also nurtures a deeper appreciation for music. The repertoire includes classic and contemporary works, ensuring a balanced exposure to various musical eras and styles.

Programming Music that Resonates with Young Musicians

An interesting aspect of PYP’s approach is its focus on programming music that resonates with young musicians. This strategy involves selecting pieces that are not only technically challenging but also emotionally engaging, fostering a genuine love for music among the students

Balancing Classics with Contemporary Works

David discusses the critical balance PYP maintains between classic and contemporary works in its programming. This approach ensures that students are exposed to a broad spectrum of high quality musical styles and eras, fostering a well-rounded musical education.

Inclusion and Diversity in Music Choices

A standout feature of PYP’s programming is its commitment to diversity and inclusion. David emphasizes the importance of introducing works by women and non-European composers, providing students with a more inclusive understanding of the global music landscape.

Programming as an Educational Tool

The choice of repertoire at PYP is not just about performance; it’s a crucial educational tool. David explains how selecting diverse and challenging pieces provides students with a comprehensive education in music theory, history, and performance, enriching their overall musical journey.

Engaging Youth in Classical Music

David Hatner emphasizes the importance of engaging young people with classical music. He highlights the need for early exposure to break down stereotypes associated with classical music, making it more accessible and appealing to the younger generation.

David notes the misconceptions that classical music is outdated or irrelevant, stressing the importance of demonstrating its ongoing vitality and relevance.

He suggests innovative ways to connect with youth, including integrating classical music into more contemporary contexts and utilizing platforms where young people are active.

And above all else, David encourages families and children of all ages in the Portland area to come to PYP to check out a concert!

Advice for Young Musicians

It all comes from rhythm!

David emphasizes the critical importance of rhythm in musical performance across all genres. David stresses that having a well-developed sense of basic pulse and rhythm is fundamental to fitting into any ensemble. This skill is paramount and should be the primary focus for musicians, as it forms the backbone of musical expression.

He encourages young musicians to work diligently on playing with a metronome, clapping out rhythms, and striving for precision. David points out that rhythm is not just about keeping time; it’s about being fully present and concentrated in the performance. He compares it to the art of concentration, highlighting how playing in solid rhythm requires being focused and attuned to the moment.

For students struggling with rhythm or other musical challenges, David’s primary advice is to slow down. Learning something slowly and correctly from the start prevents the need to unlearn incorrect patterns later. This approach builds the right neural pathways for correct performance and is more effective than rushing through and making mistakes.

Rewards and Benefits of Studying Music

Towards the end of our conversation, David reflects on the different rewards students derive from studying music. For some, it’s the camaraderie and connections with like-minded, motivated peers, creating a community of talented individuals. For others, it’s the love and knowledge of music itself, which becomes a lifelong passion. Then there are those who benefit from the structured learning and fundamental skills acquired in music, which guide their overall personal and academic growth.

David further emphasizes a few key benefits from musical study that extend beyond the realm of playing, such as increased concentration, discipline, and academic excellence, especially in STEM fields. David observes a strong correlation between high-level musical training and academic success, citing instances of PYP alumni attending prestigious universities and excelling in various fields.

Getting Involved with PYP Today

For those inspired by our discussion and interested in learning more about the Portland Youth Philharmonic, David encourages visiting the PYP website, PortlandYouthPhil.org. This website offers detailed insights into their various programs, upcoming events, and the 100th season celebrations.

David also invites listeners to attend the Schnitzer concert hall for the remaining concerts of the season to support the orchestra and experience the performances of these talented young musicians. There will be a special upcoming performance on December 26th and mentions a 100th-anniversary concert featuring guest Thomas Lauderdale from Pink Martini.

PYP’s YouTube channel is another great way to explore and engage with Portland’s vibrant youth musical community.

To hear the full conversation between David Hatner and host Brian Grant, listen to the episode at the top of this page, or head over to our Spotify.

To learn more about PYP, visit their website at portlandyouthphil.org