Albuquerque Youth Symphony preparing for world premiere performance

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The Albuquerque Youth Symphony Orchestra is preparing for a one-of-its-kind concert this weekend.

“I’m kind of nervous for it. I’m always nervous for concerts, but I think we’ll do well,” said Dylan Thiel-Hadjilambrinos, a trumpet player in the orchestra.

The ensemble, made of middle school students, is set to debut a brand-new piece of music called “The Naughty Elf on the Shelf.” The short piece showcases several instruments and includes some not-so-common items – like a rubber chicken. While the music itself is not very difficult, orchestra directors say the exposed nature of some sections has been challenging to rehearse.

“The music is very modern,” said George Nicholson, co-conductor of the junior youth symphony. “It’s not the lyrical, classical sound that we’re used to, but it really tells a story through articulations, through the uses of colors of instruments at different times.”

While the piece is unique on its own, the story behind the composition adds an extra layer of magic.

“Hearing all the instruments violin, piano, drums trumpet, I think the song will be really cool,” said 9-year-old Jasmine Muñoz.

Jasmine is one of the masterminds behind the piece. She wrote the short story the piece is based on back in December. Her story chronicles one of Santa’s elves on its journey from naughty to nice.

“I thought a naughty elf on the shelf for would be nice for all like the naughty kids that don’t behave on Christmas,” she said.

Jasmine’s story caught the attention of youth symphony leaders who thought it would be a perfect entry for Sing Me A Story. The national, nonprofit program gives children in need the opportunity to turn their stories into songs.

Picking a story is only the first step. The youth orchestra also needed to find a composer, so they turned to UNM’s music school.

“It is really, really cool to see your music do something really, really nice for somebody else,” said Thomas Ropp, the composer of the piece.

Ropp is studying music theory and composition at UNM. He says he was approached by one of his teachers in December for the project. It was an immediate yes.

“I wrote the very end and wrote the very beginning, and then was like, ‘Well, how do we get from here to there?” he said.

Ropp says he finished composing the piece in about 2 weeks and sent it off to the orchestra. He says Sunday’s performance will mark a special milestone for him as a composer.

“I have never gotten to like hear one of my full symphony performances on stage, so that I am really looking forward to,” he said.

Orchestra members know the piece is more than just a piece of music, and they are eager to do it justice during the performance.

“I think it shows how a bunch of people can come together and create music that is not only just playing, but it’s also representing someone else’s work and it creates a story for people to see,” said Lily Lybarger, a French horn player in the orchestra.

The orchestra is set to premiere “The Naughty Elf on the Shelf” on Sunday at Popejoy Hall. The concert begins at 3 p.m. Click here for more information and to buy tickets.