Cleveland Contemporary Youth Orchestra welcomes two Chagrin students


Photo courtesy of Aurora School of Music and Terri Metzger

Two CFHS students were accepted into one of the most prestigious orchestras in the country: The Cleveland Contemporary Youth Orchestra (CYO). CYO focuses on elevating students’ musical talents and it remains the only youth orchestra in the United States that concentrates on music from the last century.

Although it’s freshman Marley Metzger’s first year participating in CYO, she’s been playing violin since fourth grade. After moving from California last year, she’s already making her mark as she represents Chagrin as a violinist in both the school orchestra and in CYO.

“I’ve been listening to music my entire life and so I like playing it if I can,” Metzger explained. 

Along with participating in orchestra during the school year, Metzger explores her musical talent by taking private lessons. She also finds guidance within her family.

“My mom plays the viola and my uncle plays the violin so it kind of runs with the family,” Metzger shared.

During the audition process, she rehearsed a piece she chose from three selections and then performed it on stage in front of a panel of judges. After two months, she was accepted into the program. 

Every Saturday morning, students practice from 8:30 to 12:30 at Cuyahoga Community College to prepare for concerts and develop their skills. Although Metzger only started CYO this year, she’s already found a community within the orchestra.

“They’re really friendly and kind. Whenever we come up the stairs, they’re always like ‘Oh, hey’ with a smile on their face or ‘Good luck’ or ‘I’m glad you got in’,” Metzger said.

Currently, Metzger feels most excited about a piece she’s working on calledRosin Eating Zombies”.

“My entire life I’ve always grown up watching our eighth grade play that, so I always look forward to it. But then I moved once I got in eighth grade so I was like, well now I don’t get to play it,” Metzger shared.

Although she’s enjoyed her experience in CYO so far, Metzger has a busy schedule as she juggles music with sports.

“I don’t really know what I want to do with my life yet because I also play soccer, tennis, and lacrosse,” Metzger explained.

Metzger is excited to continue her CYO journey this year as she plays with fellow violinist, junior Sofia Clark.

Clark is a first violinist in CYO. She has not only been playing violin for the past nine years, but she has also been honing her skills on the piano for eleven years and playing clarinet in the CFHS band for three years. She participates in the school’s select choir and performed in the ensemble for last year’s school production of Mamma Mia.

With all of her extracurricular activities, she thinks marching band has helped her most with CYO because of the complex rhythms. “The more you expose yourself to harder challenges, harder rhythms, the better you get at sight reading and overall becoming a better musician,” Clark explained.

This is Clark’s second year in the CYO. She auditioned as a sophomore last year with a pre-recorded audition. She had to complete multiple scales and a multitude of pieces. The five line excerpt she performed from Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” took her seven months to perfect. 

As she takes the stage now with CYO, she enjoys the experience of playing with her peers. 

“Once I’m in the groove and in the zone, practicing can be really fun… Everyone is synchronous and you just create this huge sound that just fills up the room. I get chills just thinking about it. It’s magical,” Clark described.

In just over a year, Clark has already performed at a tailgate for Machine Gun Kelly at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and recorded a soundtrack for a short film titled The Resistance. At the tailgate, she performed songs like “Emo Girl” by Machine Gun Kelly and Willow Smith along with “Bad Guy” by Billie Eilish.

Senior Olivia Wirbel attended a Machine Gun Kelly concert where a select few students from CYO performed with him on stage. “I loved it,” Wirbel said. “It was so cool to watch. They made the performance so much more emotional.”

Clark keeps herself motivated by setting expectations for herself. “I have lofty goals for myself. I know for piano, I have a piece I’m dying to play,” Clark said.

Next year, she wants to go out for CYO’s concerto competition which features a soloist on an instrument accompanied by the full orchestra. Clark hopes to perform a piano solo from one of her favorite pieces: Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue”. She aims for her performances to connect with the audience.

“If I can share that feeling of happiness and joy with my audience, that would make me really happy,” Clark shared.

Although she feels certain that she’ll continue with CYO next year, she’s undecided about what she’ll pursue in the future. “But if I can bring the joy and sometimes nostalgia that playing music creates,” Clark said, “I’m gonna bring that with me wherever I go.”