NEW FREEPORT – When 16-year-old Amanda Frampton received an email from the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra, she was in the car with her parents, Debbie and Steven, on her way to a violin lesson. A week before, Amanda auditioned for the orchestra after a year of practice. To make it would place her right where she planned to be at this stage in her life.
Debbie said the tension was thick in the car when they realized from where the email had originated. What was inside had the power to shatter a dream, if only temporarily. She could always audition again, next year, but there are only a few openings.
“We were so nervous. None of us wanted to open it. Then we did and the first word said, ‘congratulations,’ and we went crazy,” Debbie said. Even Steve, who is typically calm and reserved, yelled.
Amanda recalled the audition process held at Heinz Hall.
Going in she had been told the competition this year was “particularly competitive.”
“For me, it is hard to warm up when you have five other musicians playing at the same time. It’s nerve-racking,” Amanda said. “I could hear them and I thought they sounded so good. The whole time, you know you can go into the audition room any second.”
When it was Amanda’s turn, it was her, three judges, the conductor and two coaches from the violin section for the orchestra.
“The conductor directed me as he would in the orchestra. He told me to use a shorter amount of bow. I was very nervous about that,” Amanda said. “I couldn’t read their expressions. They were very serious. Then we had to wait a week until all of the auditions were completed to find out.”
Amanda was required to perform excerpts from three of the pieces the orchestra plays, 14 scales and a solo piece. Her instructor, Rufina Yefimova, selected one of Bach’s Partitas for the solo.
“It is a very fast piece. It is all 16th notes. It’s powerful but pretty, not dark,” Amanda said. “It is eight pages long and they could have asked for the whole thing to be played so I had to really learn it all.”
This was a particularly hard piece to learn, she said. Between the speed of the piece and its length, Amanda said her biceps would ache each time she practiced it. It was apparently a good choice.
Debbie said they have full faith in what Yefimova tells them.
“She knows exactly where Amanda needs to be at what time,” she said. “She (Yefimova) was first violin with the Russsian Orchestra for 29 years.”
She instructs violin at Duquesne University’s City Music Center at the Mary Pappert School of Music.
Next up for Amanda will be an audition for her chair within the violin section. Just two years ago, she advanced from the Three Rivers and People’s Orchestra in Pittsburgh to the Young Peoples Orchestra at Duquesne University, where she has held first chair for violin, fifth music stand.
Debbie said it is hard for her to believe where the journey has taken them from a 5-year old Amanda pointing at Sesame Street character Elmo playing the violin on television and saying, “I want to do that,” to one step away from her ultimate dream, playing for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.
Practicing 365 days a year for at least two hours per day, Amanda has the drive and determination to get there. With straight A’s in her classes at West Greene High School, she will have her choice of schools. Duquesne and Carnegie Mellon universities are on the short list, but she still has time. Frampton is just completing her sophomore year of high school.
This will be the year other extracurricular activities are set aside.
“This is one of the toughest orchestras. I’m going to commit everything this year to it. Music has always been my passion, something I love to do,” Amanda said. “Making the orchestra, it is such a great feeling. I’m doing something I love and enjoy, and I get to play with amazing musicians.”