The little rock stars of the Napa Valley Youth Symphony play the BottleRock 2024 stage

by Gavin Meichelbock

This article is part of BruinLife’s BottleRock music festival coverage happening from May 24-26, 2024.

The Napa Valley Youth Symphony is a critically-acclaimed youth orchestra that has played all around the world. They have performed at Carnegie Hall, the Los Angeles International Music Festival and St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland. This group of gifted youngsters has been bringing their musical caliber to BottleRock for over a decade and are always providing audiences of all ages with delightful performances — and this year was no different.

The ensemble walked onto the Truly Stage and was met by their adoring audience of friends and family. Everyone clapped and cheered as moms tried to embarrass their kids and snap photos of their little rock stars. The group’s conductor came out on stage jumping, pumping his hands in the air before striking up the band.

Although the orchestra’s first two songs went by mostly unknown and they missed the cut-off at the end of their second song, the Youth Symphony began to find their groove after that. The crowd immediately caught on to their third song as the band started to play “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” by Justin Timberlake. Members near the front of the stage were dancing along with the catchy tune when the conductor led the audience to clap along. The momentum carried into their fourth song, “Hips Don’t Lie” by Shakira. The song’s verses and melodies were all carried by the horn section as they wailed over the chart.

Even though the Youth Symphony started to feel the beat, their fifth song of the afternoon counted off to a rough start. Almost as soon as the conductor cued them in, the entire ensemble was immediately out of tempo and they had to restart. After that small hiccup, the group shook themselves off and launched into their fitting fifth song of the set, “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift. Upon recognizing the iconic tune, audience members started a clap that went through the first row of crowd members. The conductor gave the kids a pep talk and started up the next song, “Juice” by Lizzo.

As the upbeat chart continued, the horn melody shined through and the audience collectively grooved along, tapping their feet to the rhythm. Up next was “Treasure” by Bruno Mars, and the crowd could tell the kids were officially locked in. Brass melodies soared, the song ended and the conductor shouted to the audience, “Are you having fun?” The friends and family who came to support all shouted in an enthusiastic response.

“Crazy” by Beyonce was their eighth song and was carried by the powerful trombone section, despite them not having the melody. After the song, the conductor shouted something inaudible to the audience before the Napa Valley Youth Symphony’s final song began. While the piece had interesting musical elements such as the inclusion of an electric keyboard, pizzicato on the violins and cellos, and a string Spanish groove, it ultimately felt directionless and too long. As the song was wrapping up, the percussionist was running from instrument to instrument during the sudden climax. When the song ended, the conductor tried to build excitement for one last song before the stage manager motioned by a double tap on the wrist that they had run out of time for this year’s BottleRock performance.

While this certainly wasn’t the best or flashiest group at BottleRock 2024, the Napa Valley Youth Symphony is a darling group who are worth supporting.

Photographed by Cathryn Kuczynski/BruinLife
Photographed by Cathryn Kuczynski/BruinLife

Featured Image Photographed by Cathryn Kuczynski

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