Conductor picks challenging holiday selections

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— Teresa Steffen just might be spoiled.

When picking music for the Christmas concert for the Steamboat Springs Youth Orchestra, which she conducts, she has to find work that is difficult enough to keep her 21 young musicians happy.

"If it's too simple, they are bored. If it's familiar, that makes them more interested," she said. "But for the more advanced students, the more difficult it is the more happy they are."

For example, if she can't get to "Entrance of the Queen of Sheba" by Handel during rehearsal, the news is received with a chorus of disapproving moans.

With the musicians ranging in ages from 9 to 16, there are some challenges, though.

"The wide range of ages allow for a wide range of abilities. But we have some very strong leaders who are very fine players," she said.

Those leaders guide the younger students through the music, helping them play at a higher level. Mind you, most of these young musicians are practicing an hour a day.

However, reading through such dense literature isn't a walk in the park for some of the young people, who have just a few years of reading music under their belts.

"It's impressive to me how they come in without strong reading skills and they still succeed," Steffen said.

The result is an ideal environment for Steffen to conduct and a treat for those who will come to the orchestra's show today.

The orchestra will play 10 pieces for the Christmas concert, including five carols from around the world and finale of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" to go with the Christmas theme. Steffen also has mixed in classical Baroque music.

"Baroque music is often the style of music that I associate with this time of the year," Steffen said.

Much of it is considered religious music.

"I think it's real appropriate for the feelings you have around the holiday times," she said.

But not all the music the orchestra will play can be interpreted as holiday music.

"This is not necessarily them covering 'Jingle Bells.' This was an effort to stretch them outside of the things that were familiar. So I picked things that were more tailored to them," Steffen said.

The orchestra's Holiday Recital is at 4 p.m. today at the Art Depot.

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