RSO Blog: RSYO Side-by-Side Auditions

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By Margo Stedman

Each year Rockford Symphony Youth Orchestra Students have the opportunity to audition to play side-by-side the RSO professional musicians on our Annual Youth concert. This past Saturday, February 13, auditions were held for this year’s Youth Concert that takes place on March 23.

These auditions take place with RSYO conductor Linc Smelser, who they see weekly in rehearsals, and RSO Music Director Steve Larsen. While they have all seen Steve from stage (as most of the students regularly attend RSO concerts), personally he is a stranger to most of them. Being in front on him and playing their instrument can be quite a daunting task. Of course, some are naturally more or less nervous than others, but for each student, the decision to audition is a big deal.

Being the Education and Community Engagement Director for the Symphony, I, Margo Stedman, have the fun job of hanging out with these incredible teen musicians as I keep the audition schedule running on time. As I went to get each student from their warm-up room to go into their audition, I found myself giving them the same pep talk. And each time I said it, the truth of it sunk in deeper for me. It went something like this:

“No matter what happens in your audition today, you have won the day just by showing up. Years from now, when you graduate college and are going out on job interviews, you will be able to confidently walk into a room and introduce yourself to a stranger. You will be able to make a great first impression. You will have done it lots of times by then – today is just one of those times. You will be years ahead of your peers in this skill set. No matter what happens with your instrument, just by coming to this audition today you are building skills that will benefit you for the rest of your life. You can do it!”

And that is so true. When students have access to music education, they are not just learning to play an instrument, or to sing beautifully. All of the hard work that goes into it – practicing (and managing their time to do so), auditioning, performing – all of these things build skills that are transferrable to other aspects of their lives.

Not every student is cut out to be an orchestra rock star, but every student benefits from having access to quality music education. As you go about your week, stop and thank a music educator you know for helping instill great life skills in the students in our community every day.


Christmas&Headshots-5114-AMargo Stedman is the Education and Community Director for the RSO. Ms. Stedman has worked with the Bach Festival Society of Winter Park in the Orlando, FL area as Program and Communication Manager and with Anima-Young Singers of Greater Chicago in Glen Ellyn, IL as Marketing Director, as well as a consultant to small performing arts ensembles and festivals around the country. She has served on the board of Central Florida’s strings education program A Gift for Music and on the Community Advisory Board of WMFE 90.7FM, Orlando’s NPR station. She holds degrees in Vocal Performance and Communications from Rollins College and an M.A. in Arts Management from American University in Washington, DC. Ms. Stedman moved to Rockford in 2012 from her hometown of Orlando with her husband, Kyle, who works as a professor in the English Department at Rockford University.

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