Mark Littlefield ’85

This season, BYSO alumni spotlights will feature alumni who are doing essential work during this time of crisis. Mark Littlefield, ’85, Trombone, is a Math Teacher at Newburyport High School, and teaches Advanced Placement (AP) Statistics, AP Calculus AB, and AP Calculus BC. Mark is also an AP Calculus Reader – part of the team that grades AP Calculus exams. He serves as an AP Consultant for the College Board, and has presented regional, national, and international workshops for AP Calculus teachers. 

Like many others, Mark and his students have had to pivot to online learning in recent months. “Currently we are at a 50% hybrid model with online and in-person learning. We have many students, however, that are fully remote. Every day when I am teaching, I have some students in the classroom, and I am also broadcasting live to other students’ homes. We aim to have everything totally synchronous across the board. It’s a lot of juggling!”

He credits BYSO as one of the many experiences to help him adjust to this new setting. “At BYSO, you learn a lot of skills while performing and working with others. Whether working individually on your own instrument, in small groups in your section, or with whole orchestra, you’re learning skills that you’ll use later in your life. Now, I teach students 1-on-1, in the classroom, and I lead workshops in front of large groups of teachers. Those skills will translate in useful ways to you for the rest of your life.”

After working with high school students for so many years, Mark notes that there are some differences between the average high school student and those who participate in BYSO. “In the school environment, students have definitely changed over the last 30 years in terms of how they present themselves in the classroom, and the confidence they come in with. BYSO brings out a certain level of discipline from its students, and I recall being surrounded by hard-working students during my time in the orchestras. I imagine that the typical student involved with a highly reputable orchestra such as BYSO is just as hard-working today!”

Mark has many fond memories of his time at BYSO. “My first year was the 1982-1983 season, which was also the 25th anniversary year. Our major performance that season was performing Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, with a full chorus in Symphony Hall. I was incredibly sick that day, and even had a fever, but I didn’t want to miss the opportunity!”

It is these memories and many more that encourage Mark to continue giving back to support BYSO philanthropically each season. “As a high school student, my family didn’t have a lot of extra expendable income. I was worried about paying my full share of tour tuition, but BYSO was able to give me financial assistance. Now, as an adult, I like to give back to an organization that helped me so much, in the hopes that they will be able to help somebody else. There are only a few places I contribute to every year, and BYSO is always on my list.

“As soon as I was able to give back financially, I definitely wanted to do so. BYSO was an incredibly important part of my life, and very important to my development. I’m happy to give to BYSO every year, because so much was given to me.”

Mark’s advice for current students is to “appreciate the experience! You are involved with a high-performing, highly ranked youth orchestra. When you get a chance to look back on it later in life, you’ll realize just how important that time period was for you. A few years ago, I was traveling on an airplane and sat next to someone else who was also a musician. I told him about BYSO and some of the pieces that we performed, and he was incredibly shocked and surprised to hear the repertoire we were performing at a youth orchestra! It’s a special and unique time in your life, and I hope you will cherish it.”

Are you, or someone you know, a BYSO alumni with a cool or interesting story or life update to share? Contact Jessica Chen, Development & Alumni Relations Associate!