New Jersey Youth Symphony hosts first-ever virtual Playathon

NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ — In light of the coronavirus pandemic, New Jersey Youth Symphony made the difficult decision to cancel its 35th annual Playathon, scheduled for March 29 in Elizabeth.  

As the New Jersey Youth Symphony’s largest fundraising event, the Playathon supports performing arts education and raises money for scholarships and tuition assistance for one of New Jersey’s largest youth orchestra programs. 

As more and more educational activities moved online, the idea to hold a virtual Playathon quickly came to fruition. With less than two weeks to switch gears from producing a day-long concert event to an afternoon of performances on the video conferencing platform Zoom, NJYS rallied its community.

“The overwhelmingly positive response to our virtual Playathon is a testament to the unstoppable yearning we have for a community as human beings in this time of self-isolation,” said Helen H. Cha-Pyo, artistic director and principal conductor. “We have to find creative ways to engage with each other in times of crisis, and music is a perfect conduit through which joy and hope are shared.”

The virtual Playathon, featuring student performers playing music they would have performed together as an orchestra, raffles, trivia contests, interviews with the NJYS conductors, a live auction to win the conductor’s baton and the chance to conduct the New Jersey Youth Symphony next season, and special performances by the NJYS Jazz faculty, proved successful. The virtual Playathon alone brought in more than $11,000 toward the fundraising goal, the highest amount ever raised on the day of the event, and reached more than 2,500 people via livestream on Facebook.