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Celebrating More Than 20 Years With Aviva Segall

Q. What is your favorite memory of/with OAYO in your 20 years? Why?

A. I think it would be impossible to come up with one favorite memory. I’ve been blessed to have my dream job for 20 years, so I think the past 20 years has been one long favorite memory!

Q. What makes you the most excited about OAYO? Why?

A. I love working with talented, intelligent young musicians who are also wonderful people. I always tell anyone who will listen: If you want to have faith in the future of this country, all you need to do is spend about 2 minutes with any one of the young musicians in OAYO!

Q. How has OAYO impacted your life?

A. On a professional level, Omaha has been a wonderful music community to be a part of. Most people and organizations are supportive of each other and try to collaborate and strengthen the community together as a team. On a personal level: when I moved here, many people told us that Omaha is a great place to raise children. That has been very true for both of my daughters.

Q. What is your most memorable concert with OAYO?

A. Once again, no one concert could possibly be the most memorable. However, it was fun this past season for Youth Symphony to perform Stravinsky’s Firebird on the side by side concert with my daughter, Ilana as principal viola. 18 years ago, I was visibly pregnant with her when we performed that same piece on the second side by side concert with Youth Symphony and the Omaha Symphony!

Q. How did you first get started with OAYO?

A. There was a national search and I was lucky enough to get the job! I auditioned for it 2 weeks before my wedding.

Q. Tell me a little about your background prior to OAYO.

A. I received my master’s degree in orchestral conducting from Northwestern University. I had a fellowship to study rehearsal techniques of various conductors and orchestras, so lived in London and then Munich and traveled around Europe from there studying with a number of great orchestras and conductors. While I was on the conducting staff of the Oregon Symphony, I got a call from the music director of the Portland Youth Philharmonic (PYP). He said some of the Oregon Symphony players recommended me to work with one of the orchestras at PYP. He didn’t think I’d be interested because I had a job with a professional orchestra, but since my own youth orchestra experience had been so important to me, I jumped at the opportunity. While working with the Oregon Symphony was very musically satisfying, there is nothing like the experience of watching young musicians grow in their understanding and abilities while playing great music. So I knew then that I wanted to make youth orchestras my career path.

Q. Do you think your involvement with OAYO has inspired your kids to become musicians? Why or why not?

A. By my kids, do you mean my own personal children, or my “kids”…the young musicians of OAYO? If the later: we certainly have had a number of very successful alumni who have become successful professionals! However, I think the main thing OAYO alumni take in to the world is the ability to contribute in a positive way to an important group effort and to ensure that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. The founder of El Sistema in Venezuela, José Abreu talks about the orchestra as the ideal society: everything you want to see in society, you develop in an orchestra. Orchestral musicians know when to lead and when to follow; when their voice is the most important and when it is time to listen to others. How to learn from everyone and how to contribute to everyone else learning. An orchestra is an ideal place to grow up, and I am glad so many of our musicians stay with us for years and years!

For my own personal children: I’ve let it be their choice and tried to stay out of it. One nice thing about working with young musicians is that you get to see lots of examples of great parenting (and some not so great examples). The most successful parents let the students take ownership of their music making. Ilana really fell in love with the viola and is going to Oberlin College and Conservatory of Music in the fall to major in Viola performance and math. Leora enjoyed music, but realized that her true passion was dance. She is a terrific dancer and I am proud of her for making the right choices and priorities for her. She is going through her college search to figure out the right college fit for her.

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