/ Joan Ellersick ’76 and Sébastien Ridore ’15 on Returning to BYSO

“The kids, no matter their age, always have someone to look up to.” – Sébastien Ridore ‘15

During his final years of BYSO’s Intensive Community Program (ICP), Sébastien Ridore ‘15 knew he wanted to be a professional musician. Playing viola was challenging, exciting, and invigorating all at the same time. To think that he could learn, perform, and teach, was a promising plan.

Joan (right) at Logan Airport on her way to tour Columbia with GBYSO in 1974

Joan Ellersick ’76 was enamored with viola from an early age. Playing in BYSO (then GBYSO) inspired her to see music as more than a hobby, but a professional career. Joan carried this goal throughout high school and college, eventually moving to Michigan to teach and play professionally in both the Grand Rapids and Detroit Symphony Orchestras. Upon returning to Boston, her first call was to BYSO, hopeful to pay it forward to the organization that sparked her passion for music. Before she knew it, she was back in the place where it all started, only this time as the teacher. “I was sitting in the lodge at camp,” she recalls, “listening to the same string quartet piece I had played when I was a student—it was a major flashback”.

Soon after, Joan became Sébastien’s ICP teacher. Often carpooling together after lessons, Joan became a mentor and friend, too. She proved it was possible to turn a passion for music into a full-time job.

After graduating from BYSO in 2015, Sébastien studied music at Gettysburg College. He also spent time studying Latin percussion and Jazz, traveling to the Dominican Republic to become engrossed in the country’s musical traditions. Now, as an ICP teacher himself, Sébastien incorporates a wide array of musical pedagogies into his viola lessons. He has also established a chamber music collective, worked with the Boston Music Project, and is working on establishing a library of literacy. In more ways than one, music is his livelihood. Now, Sébastien and Joan often exchange advice on teaching different age groups and how to teach in ways that resonate with their students. As the student becomes the teacher, the carpools from practice become bike rides home from ICP Camp (the pair now lives within a few miles of each other)!

When asked how BYSO and ICP have affected their careers, their response was immediate: “In every possible way!” They emphasize how the mentorship and camaraderie between students creates a support system beyond orchestra—it’s closer to a family. They have witnessed firsthand how formative it is for students to navigate their musicianship together, whether persevering through long rehearsals or reveling in the standing ovation after a momentous performance. Joan, who experienced BYSO before ICP was established, is fascinated and impressed with the program’s strong sense of community. Similarly, Sébastien acknowledges the unique value of ICP, emphasizing that “the kids, no matter their age, always have someone to look up to”.

This season, the program they hold dear will move into a home of its own, just steps from the iconic Symphony Hall. “I can’t even think about it because I’m so excited. The practicality is overwhelmingly exciting,” beams Joan. “It’s impressive that we have grown so much without a home of our own,” remarks Sébastien, “I think it’s thanks to the dedication of our families and community”.

Joan and Sébastien exemplify a defining facet of BYSO: the creation of lifelong bonds. As BYSO opens its doors at the Youth Center for Music, we will also open our doors to lasting connections that inspire and support one another. In our new home, generations of aspiring musicians will come together not just to create music, but continue to forge lasting connections.

Support Lifelong Connections at BYSO Today

Are you, or someone you know, a BYSO alum with an interesting story or life update to share? Contact Jeanne Bedard, Development Associate, at or (617) 358-6119