WORDS FROM BYSO MUSICIANS
"For the last six years of my life, I have been one of the many student musicians who commute to Boston University’s College of Fine Arts. Some spend ten minutes on a train; others spend two hours in a car. The morning preparation includes sleeping until the very last minute, brushing up on a few tough practice spots, and lots and lots of coffee.
Most of us only see each other once a week for rehearsal. Not many kids have a chance to see their friends outside our orchestra, simply because we live too far from each other. In that one afternoon, we gather and rehearse some of the most complex, prestigious and exhausting pieces of music. And why? Our goal is simply to make music. We make music for our audience; we make music for ourselves. Music affects the soul in a way that can change us. As a performer, our job is to convey the emotion of the composer in order to allow our listeners to feel the same things. As an orchestra, our goal is to connect with one another in order to move our audience and give them an understanding of the music. With each rehearsal, each performance, I am constantly working to deepen my own sensitivity to the music, so I can convey the clearest sense of feeling to my audience members. This passion, this commitment, and this drive to understand the music represent what the creation of music really is. This is what I have learned because of the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras.
It is also because of the BYSO that I made my decision to pursue music after high school. On our tour of England, the Boston Youth Symphony had our final performance in the old Oxford Town Hall. Due to my small part in this piece, I focused on what was happening around me. As I looked up, I could see that there was excitement on the faces in the audience and eagerness in the air. I saw a young woman, her mouth wide open, smiling, waiting eagerly to hear what could possibly come next.
This was listening. Federico is constantly telling us to listen across the orchestra. It had always seemed like an obvious thing to do: open up your ears! However, it was a much more emotional process: opening up your ears and relaxing to be able to focus on the sound that you were creating.
For the final movement, I closed my eyes and - for the first time - I could feel each note send chills down my spine and goose bumps down my arms. The excitement was no longer only on the faces of the audience members, but on my own. I suddenly realized that this is what music making is. Yes – it includes hours of practice and stressful, long rehearsals every week – but the outcome is so much better than anything I had experienced.
I played, I listened, and I cried – all at once. As the tears streamed down my face and we took our final bows, I knew that I would never be able to give up on my music. If the passion and love for this music were strong enough to bring me to tears, this was what I was meant to do with my life.
If you ask me what my most memorable experience has been with the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras, I could say one hundred different things. I could tell you about my first tour two years ago. I could tell you about each of the dozen times I have performed on Boston’s Symphony Hall stage. I could even tell you about being one of the only youth orchestras in the country to perform a full semi-staged opera. However, what I will remember most about being a member of this organization is not those individual moments, but the hours I spent working with my peers and conductors to challenge myself, to learn, to perform, to listen, and to create music."
Young members of the Intensive Community Program (ICP)
"I like being a member of ICP because it has helped to keep me focused and dedicated to whatever I am doing. It is fun to read music, it is like learning a different language. The program gives me a chance to challenge myself when the pieces become more difficult. ICP is a great program for me because after I have played in a concert, I say to myself that all of my hard work paid off. I love the ICP program mostly because of the support that I get from the teachers, families and other members."
Cello, Intensive Community Program
8 years old
"ICP has been great for me because I have that are supportive and they believe that I can do it. The teachers are dedicated to making sure that I understand the techniques to playing my instrument. In the ICP program I have met really nice people and a new group of really good friends. ICP has helped me to not be afraid to perform in front of a crowd of people. Now that I have earned how to play the viola, I have had the opportunity to play for my school and will be joining my school's orchestra so that I can share what I have learned at ICP. It has been a privilege to be a member of ICP and it has been rewarding and fun."
Viola, Intensive Community Program
9 years old
Youngest Members of the Intensive Community Program - First Recital, May 2010.
Kayla Mathieu, second row, fourth musician in the center - Kenya Mathieu, front row, second from the right.
Young Musicians at Symphony Hall
"Today, we performed in Symphony Hall.
It was amazing and an experience I will never forget, but I am sure there are many more to come.
My favorite part of the entire concert was the last three measures of the Elgar.
We nailed the huge decrescendo and blasted the subito fortissimo in the last three measures.
I can tell it worked because the crowd was roaring when we finished."
Cellist, Junior Repertory Orchestra,
Symphony Hall, October 2009
(Photo by Michael J.Lutch)
The Music Lesson - Premiere Screening October 2010
In October 2010, Boston held a premiere screening of The Music Lesson, a film by Ginny Galloway. In 2007 BYSO Music Director, Federico Cortese, and 10 BYSO students traveled to Africa to take part in a life-changing cultural exchange and to film this exciting documentary. Hundreds of movie-goers attended this special film screening and to hear from Federico and the cast members (BYSO alumni) about this experience.
"It has been wonderful finally getting to share The Music Lesson with Boston friends and family recently. If nothing else, I’ve really appreciated being asked and reminded to look back and reflect on the experience. Watching the movie takes me back to the moments when I was thinking to myself, “I am going to look back someday on what’s happening right this second. I wonder if I will know what it means then.” Because we knew so little about where we were going, with whom we’d be working, and what exactly we’d be doing, there was a spontaneity, an openness and joy in discovery (which also carried over to our music). I’ve since realized that searching for the specific meaning in the moments wasn’t the point. The spontaneity and openness we achieved were. The experience (and the film) beg the questions, “what does music mean?” and therefore, “why do we do it?” I realized, and am often reminded that the answer doesn’t change much from culture to culture – we celebrate with music, mourn with music, are entertained by music, enjoy music. The essence of the music my friends in Kenya make is the same as the essence of the music we make here – divined from the same reasons. At the time of the trip I was only a few months away from beginning a performance degree at BU. The experience offered me the most important lesson and perspective I could have gained – that music is a vehicle for joy, no matter where one is in the world, in their studies, in their development as a musician or person. Almost four years after our adventure in Kenya, I am still looking back, but instead of searching for meaning like I thought I would be, I am reminded to let go of meaning, let go of perfect technique and sound production, and leave room for discovery and joy. "
Devon Nelson, BYSO Aluma
(Photo: BYSO Alumna, Devon Nelson with students from Laikipia during her trip to Kenya in 2007)
Mark O’Connor, The Improvised Concerto
World Premiere, BYSO Commission, March 2011
"Being a BYSO member for four years, I can say how exceptional an experience it has been to perform with a group of this caliber. Our conductor, Federico Cortese uses his wealth of knowledge about composers, extraordinary musicality and his passionate conducting to fuel the orchestra. As a cellist, I have acquired a highly advanced repertoire of orchestral works, experienced unique performing opportunities such as the annual concerts in Symphony Hall and a tour in England, and refined my technique of orchestral playing.
One of the most unique performances I have experienced was our most recent concert, which featured the world premiere of Mark O'Connor's "The Improvised Violin Concerto". Being a group that is accustomed to classical music which has a strict structure, rehearsing this piece opened a new avenue for a different type of orchestral playing. As an orchestra we had to be more relaxed, and acquire the skill to stay together and keep our tempo by feeling the beat as opposed to strict counting. We also had to explore other genres of playing we were not used to, such as sections of O'Connor's concerto that featured jazz and bluegrass.
In rehearsing with Mark O'Connor, we had the rare opportunity to work with the composer of this concerto. With him there, all questions on interpretations could be answered and he was there to direct us toward his grand vision. You do not have that luxury to do that with composers such as Brahms, Mozart, or Beethoven. Additionally, O'Connor's friendly and approachable presence made it impossible to be intimidated by him. One day during a break in rehearsal I even approached O'Connor and we discussed one of my favorite pieces he wrote entitled "Appalachia Waltz". When he played I could tell he was enjoying himself and really getting into his music by the broad grin on his face. He emitted this energy that fed through all sections of the orchestra and back to him like an electric current that was highly infectious.
I was so honored to be a part of this world premiere at Symphony Hall. As we played, the orchestra was buzzing with energy. O'Connor displayed his techniques of fiddling that made him the icon he is today, and the beauty of his improvising was that his solos were always different whenever we played his piece. He always threw some new and exciting phrases into his solos that amazed the audience so much they could not resist clapping between movements. It was an experience I will never forget. BYSO has provided me with experiences unlike any I have had so far in my musical career. I was so honored to work with a musician as talented as Mark O'Connor and to be part of BYSO, who made this possible." [...]
Cellist, Boston Youth Symphony
(Photos by Michael J.Lutch)