As the conductor for The High Plains Youth Symphony, Andersson is creating her vision of life in Boulder and sharing her musical talents.
Conductor Amy Andersson's
blond hair is pulled back from her
face as she
shouts above the noise, "Who needs a pencil?
With a fistful of yellow No. 2s, she
wanders among the rows of students and answers questions.
There are new faces in the group tonight because while the students were on summer break, the orchestra doubled in size by adding 55 new members and creating a Simphonetta for younger musicians.
herself only joined the group as music director last November, just two months after its formation.
She has conducted youth programs in Germany and Spain, taught at the University of Berlin and toured with the top world youth orchestra throughout Europe, among other accomplishments.
Luckily for the HPYS
has called Boulder home for nine years and had reached a point in her
career where she
wanted a new challenge.
The opportunity to create a youth program from the ground-up was irresistible.
"I've traveled so much back and forth over the years, and I thought it would be terrific to build something in Boulder," says Andersson
"I wanted to show them where we're going," explains Andersson
Meanwhile, bows are quivering, the somber wail of an oboe rises and Andersson
oversees it all with a controlled fervor.
To some, the musical patterns flowing through the different parts of the orchestra would be confusing, but to Andersson
, it is second nature.
appreciated music from the crib - literally.
"When I was a tiny baby, my crib was next to the piano in the music room," says Andersson
"My mom [had] private voice lessons and I used to be in my crib taking a nap.
mother loved classical music and would take Andersson
to the local orchestra in Michigan.
began studying piano on a Yamaha upright and was composing pieces by 10.
In high school, a composition she
wrote for her
choir toured Europe and soon she
added conducting to her
"It's sort of natural that a composer conducts their own pieces," says Andersson
"That's when I really sort of decided that was my instrument, that an orchestra could be my instrument."
Wanting to be a part of all aspects of music making, Andersson intensively studied conducting, composing and piano at the University of Michigan.
She continued her musical education at Indiana University, Mannes College and as a fellow at the Aspen Music School.
Germany was the next stop for her
and the start of an extensive conducting career.
Back in Boulder, she
crouches behind her
stand before springing up and counting, , 2, 1, 2," and shouting "Yes!
students keep up the frantic pace.
hand movements are precise, almost chopping at times, but gracefully fluid at others.
No matter what, they are always perfectly timed with the upbeat.
An effective conductor uses their body to communicate with their musicians.
Over the years, Andersson
has studied scores of conductors to develop her
own style and technique.
"Your body is really your communicating medium," she
"It's not just the arm or baton, but your breath from your toes to your head.
"That was a spectacular sight-read," praises Andersson
clapping is joined by the group of parents.
For a few moments, she
is all smiles, but then gets back to work, pointing out trouble spots for each group to practice.
calls out a pianissimo and an important section for the second violins where they act like a motor for the rest of the group.
using snowboard or surfing analogies to explain rhythms.
"Just like a snowboard.
You go over the bump and you're almost losing it and then you don't," she
says while pantomiming an unsteady boarder.
explaining how Mozart is overlapping the music into layers of sound.
admits that her
students have a heavy load between weekly rehearsal, practice, private lessons, schoolwork and family.
Still, the orchestra is a place where they can come, relax and lose themselves in music each week.
The pressure is on, but Andersson tries to keep them focused on excellence, rather than competiveness.
Most importantly, she
wants them to love the music and experience it in new ways.
"We set the bar very high and I just assume that they're hungry for that sort of experience," she
It's the same intrinsic qualities," says Andersson
"It's unifying elements.