SC Youth Symphony
CLAY/GILBERT  •  Premiered August 1, 2021


DANNY CLAY, Composer

Danny Clay is a composer and teaching artist whose work is deeply rooted in curiosity, collaboration, and the sheer joy of making things with people of all ages and levels of artistic experience. Working closely with artists, students, and community members alike, he builds worlds of inquiry, play, and perpetual discovery that integrate elements of sound, movement, theater, and visual design. Games, speculative systems, cognitive puzzles, invented notation, found objects, imaginary archives, repurposed media, micro-improvisations, and happy accidents all make frequent appearances in his work.

Recent projects include the Bell Ringers, a community music piece for 100-plus musicians and non-musicians in collaboration with Third Coast Percussion and the People’s Music School of Chicago, and Echoes, a spoken-word opera created with Kronos Quartet, the Living Earth Show, and six poet-performers from Youth Speaks. 

Other collaborators include eighth blackbird (in partnership with the Modlin Center for the Arts at the University of Richmond), the San Francisco Girls Chorus, 826 Valencia, Volti, Wu Man, Sarah Cahill, Phyllis Chen, and printmaker Jon Fischer. 

As an educator, Clay recently designed and implemented a seven-week program for 180 third graders in collaboration with Kronos Quartet, and has taught music composition classes at Stanford University and San Francisco State University. As a facilitator specializing in using games for musical education and creativity, he has led workshops for all ages at K-12 schools and university programs throughout the United States.


Elias Gilbert, composer

Elias Gilbert is a composer and clarinetist native to Santa Cruz, California. He is currently a rising sophomore at Yale College majoring in applied mathematics, where he performs with the Yale Symphony Orchestra. Gilbert was a member of the Santa Cruz County Youth Symphony (SCCYS) from 2017 to 2020 and is an alum of Santa Cruz High School. He is grateful to have come up through Santa Cruz public schools’ fantastic band program. Gilbert has been composing and arranging since he could read music, but prior to this project he had primarily worked with wind instruments. A premiere of his piece, Variations on a Cossack Lullaby, had been planned for SCCYS for Spring 2020. Working alongside the Fourtés Violin Quartet and Danny Clay this year has been a new and rewarding challenge. Mentors include John Anderson, Christy Latham, Jeff Gallagher, and Larry Polansky. When not playing or writing music, Gilbert enjoys exploring cities, running, playing disc golf, working on programming projects for fun, and having a good time with both his school and home friends.

NATHANIEL BERMAN, SCCYS Music Director & Conductor

Conductor Nathaniel Berman maintains a diverse range of activities as a performer and educator in the San Francisco Bay Area. A faculty member at University of California Santa Cruz since 2007, he is conductor of the UCSC Concert Choir and Wind Ensemble. Berman has been Music Director of the Santa Cruz County Youth Symphony since 2011 and was Assistant Conductor with Peninsula Symphony from 2012-2016. A strong advocate for new music, he is co-Artistic Director of the San Francisco-based new music ensemble Ninth Planet (formerly Wild Rumpus), with whom he has led premieres of dozens of commissioned works. Berman received his master’s degree in conducting from UC Santa Cruz, where he studied with Nicole Paiement. His first instrument was trumpet, and he grew up playing duets with his dad, and now performs on euphonium with the Inspector Gadje Balkan brass band.


The Fourtés is a violin quartet from the Santa Cruz County Youth Symphony’s Chamber Music Academy.

Xander Lee, Hannah Kuo, Bryony Crawford, Olivia Kang 


The Santa Cruz County Youth Symphony (SCCYS), founded in 1965 as a summer music program, officially became a youth orchestra in 1966. SCCYS serves young musicians ages 10 to 20 throughout Santa Cruz County as the area’s only training orchestra of pre-professional caliber. Under the guidance of Music Director Nathaniel Berman, the Youth Symphony performs a variety of music from the classical symphonic repertoire, as well as modern orchestral music, including pieces commissioned expressly for the orchestra. In addition to its well-attended Fall and Spring concerts, each year the Youth Symphony performs side-by-side with the adult Santa Cruz Symphony in their Family Concert. The Family Concert is repeated during the school week, with attendance by more than 3,000 local school children, many of whom are inspired to take up instruments themselves.

The Santa Cruz County Youth Symphony strives to achieve high standards of musical excellence, while providing an educational and entertaining experience for performers and audiences alike. Its mission further aims to cultivate a love of classical music and a spirit of collaboration among young musicians of Santa Cruz County, and to introduce young people from all socio-economic and cultural backgrounds to the joys of orchestral and chamber music.

Chamber Music Academy

The Chamber Music Academy (CMA) is a program of the Santa Cruz County Youth Symphony, providing students with a range of opportunities to study, rehearse, and perform chamber music under the guidance of Head Teacher Cynthia Baehr-Williams and other professional musicians. CMA presents winter and spring performances each year.

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