"You can't assume anything," Liza said to begin the final rehearsal at Cleveland State University preceding this year's Alternative Press Music Awards. "This is D-day and I'm going to call you out." The orchestra has been able to put in more time preparing for this year's performance as they unveiled APeak, an eight day immersion comprising sectionals, rehearsals, yoga and theatre classes, as well as guest speakers from different sides of the music industry. 

The camp has pushed its students to think differently about the way they approach their instruments. Cellist Ami Scherson said, “Both classes built upon the idea that your body is an instrument that you have to take care of as well. I’ve never thought of my body like that before. My cello and I are almost the same size, but it’s this idea that you have to take care of it—you have to rosin your bow, you have to eat healthy, you have to work out your mind and your body. I think about the movement involved in the way that I play now and ask myself, am I doing this right? Does this sound good?”

Bassist Jack McGuire added, “I had a lot of tension problems. I practice yoga outside of this to help with my playing, but it was good to learn from someone who tailored it for musicians. The theatre class made it easier to have a conversation with somebody without using words and just trusting the other people, using a lot of eye contact and just being free with your body.”

At Monday’s rehearsal, the orchestra hit the music hard, spending three hours nitpicking the tiny details of each score before taking a break for lunch and yoga class and then returning for two and a half more hours "10,000 of your peers are going to be singing this back to you," Liza reminded her violins as they sang and clapped a part. The strings finalized bow patterns, practicing coordination for camera work. The trumpets called down the line to one another, claiming the difficult parts as their own. 

"Let that thing rip like you're mad at your bank statement," Liza called back to her horns. "It should hurt when you're done playing. You should wanna call somebody." 

“People are going to think it’s so odd, but it just works,” says former CYO violist Nikki Greene, who performed at last year’s inaugural show. “Orchestral music gives such an interesting, mature texture to everything. It just adds a little bit something extra that music always seems to need. Adding that to something as grand as a music award show just completes the experience.”

“People here want to take things a little bit farther, said violinist Conrad Paganini. “There’s always motivation to do something more because everyone is always open to doing something another way. Nothing is finite; you don’t have to do it one way. There’s always something different. Liza is always up to something awesome.”

“This music isn’t necessarily what I’d listen to personally, but hearing it orchestrated has made me love it so much more. This experience is really introducing me to new kinds of music,” chimed in clarinetist Kate Serbinowski. “Being a part of CYO is the best choice I’ve ever made. I wish I could stay in it forever. I wish I would have heard of it sooner because I would have done it my entire high school career.”

“A CYO member said to me, hey, come to a rehearsal and see what you think,” said percussionist Aidan Kranz. “I was in COYO and CYO needed an extra percussionist. So, I came and I thought it was awesome, so I stayed for the entire year. It’s indescribable, the feeling you get, but it leaves you wanting more.”

That feeling—of wanting more—is exactly what you’ll be left with after experiencing the tag-team performances between the orchestra and the bands selected by Alternative Press. We can’t give away any details about specific performances, but know this: you won’t believe your ears.  Tonight is going to blow you away.