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Introducing Olivia McClendon, ICP Coordinator!

This season, BYSO invited Olivia McClendon to join its team of administrative staff. Olivia is integral in support of the Intensive Community Program, BYSO’s rigorous string instrument training program, which serves students from populations underrepresented in BYSO and in the classical music field in general.

“What drew me to ICP immediately was the thought of providing the platform for a student who, without even realizing that music is their passion at 5 years old, could possibly become the next Bach or Beethoven.” 

Olivia McClendon, also known as “Billy Dean Thomas”, is a Vocalist and hip hop teacher from Harlem, NYC. Her musical career began at the age of 8 playing congas in an Afro Caribbean ensemble and being a part of an advanced Poetry/Performance program. She was booked to appear as a spoken word artist twice for The 24 Hour Plays on Broadway and once in The 24 Hour Plays in LA, a production sponsored by Montblanc, HBO and NBC to benefit Urban Arts Partnership.

After graduating from Smith College in 2014, with a degree in Cultural Psychology, Olivia worked on a project titled “Hooks & Books” which is a collaboration with Yale school of music professor Ben Verdery. This project combined Hip hop with live classical performance and historical texts. After being featured on ABC’s The View as a segment of Rosie Perez’s “favorite things”, she committed to teaching through her music and supporting the youth through arts to propel them toward success.

“Without programs like ICP, some children will never have the opportunity to explore a part of themselves that could be what makes them shine. I actually happen to be one of those kids who was given an opportunity through the arts and it happened to be what propelled my confidence and what paid and paved my way through college and now adult life.”

Welcome to BYSO, Olivia!

Spotlight on Lidiya Yankovskaya

You may recognize Lidiya Yankovskaya as Assistant Conductor and Chorus Master of the BYSO Opera Chorus, but Lidiya is known throughout Boston for her superb work in opera and classical music. Currently the Artistic Director of Juventas New Music Ensemble and Music Director of Commonwealth Lyric Theater, Lidiya also works with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra, Beth Morrison Projects, American Lyric Theater, Opera Saratoga, Brookline Symphony, Metro West Opera, and has worked with Harvard’s Lowell House Opera, Center for Contemporary Opera in NYC, and Opera Boston, among others.

We sat down with Lidiya to learn a bit more about what makes her work at BYSO special, and her process in preparing such works as Tchaikovsky’s, Eugene Onegin.

“This is one of my favorite jobs, if not the favorite. I work mostly with professional musicians, and obviously that’s amazing to work with people who perform at a really high level.

But I find that there’s something really magical about working with extremely capable and extremely talented high school students (or middle and high school aged); they’re often, in some ways, capable of achieving more than professional orchestras.”

Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, as a child Lidiya was very fortunate to grow up with opera. The first opera she remembers attending was at age 5, Prokofiev’s The Love for Three Oranges.

“I was lucky that my mother loves opera, and she grew up listening to opera recordings and going to the opera. My grandfather sang in an amateur opera company; so, I’ve been around opera for a long time.”

Lidiya studied piano, violin and voice and later conducting, as well as philosophy, languages and the liberal arts. It wasn’t until later in life that Lidiya realized she wanted to work in opera.

“I didn’t really know that I wanted to work in opera because especially as a kid I wasn’t as lucky as our BYS orchestral players so I didn’t have a chance to perform operas.

There are few opportunities when you are young to really perform opera.

In high school, Lidiya was fortunate to have her first shot at conducting after winning a concerto competition with her high school youth orchestra, and she has not stopped conducting since.

“I was really lucky to have a conductor like Fed who was so dedicated to music making and also to developing and teaching us how to make great music.”

But it was not until college that Lidiya had a chance to combine all of her interests into conducting opera.

“I’ve always had a wide range of interests. In opera I found a way to combine my training as a string player and an orchestral conductor with my love of playing piano and accompanying, my own vocal training, and on top of that my love for languages and text and literature and history. In opera I can combine all that.”

With BYS, Lidiya likes the opportunity to talk to them about the text, the original Pushkin, to discuss the language and the meaning of what is happening at each moment of the story. She hopes that they appreciate the full, cross-disciplinary experience that opera provides.

“One of the reasons that it is rare for young musicians to have a chance to make opera is that it does involve so many elements, and it is very difficult to make all of those elements happen at a very high level. In BYSO we are lucky to have exceptionally talented students, but also Fed has really high expectations for them, and they meet them.”

The unique opportunity to work with singers is one that Lidiya especially highlights with our students.

“Especially for those of [the students] who have done this for several years, when I tell the cellos ‘sing this’, they know what this means; working with the singers allows them to do that. Ultimately, the human voice is the original instrument. All of our music derives from the human voice in some way, in particular, music of the time of Tchaikovsky.”

When preparing an opera, Lidiya reminds us that it is important to put in the proper preparation, in particular understanding what all of the other moving parts are doing, from singers, to musicians, to stage direction. She always begins with learning the story in and out, followed by a study of the score.

“Opera is hard. If you can perform opera, you can perform anything else in music, but that only happens if you really prepare the operas to the level at which they need to be prepared. I always start with the text: that is where the composer started. I am rereading Pushkin’s Onegin right now, and I find new things with it each time. As a musician, it is easy to forget about [the story] because we are focusing so much on the music.”

There are many complexities to a piece such as this, and each player must understand what part they play at any given moment. When they do, they unlock the full understanding and appreciation of this immense work of art.

It is very challenging, but ultimately I think there is nothing more rewarding than creating this story all together and being really fully aware and present in the moment while you are creating it.”

Thank you, Lidiya, for all the work YOU do at BYSO in helping to prepare our kids for this incredible accomplishment! We hope everyone will join us on Sunday, January 29 in Sanders Theatre for what is sure to be a moving performance of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin!


Federico Cortese to Receive Prestigious Thomas M. Menino Award from Friends of the Italian Cultural Center of Boston


Each year, Friends of the Italian Cultural Center of Boston, Inc. (FICCB) awards the Thomas M. Menino Award to members of Boston’s Italian-American community who have made an outstanding contribution toward the preservation and promotion of Italian heritage and culture.

This year, FICCB is pleased to announce that Federico Cortese, Music Director for the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras, and Silvio Micali, MIT distinguished Ford Professor of Engineering, will receive the 2016 Thomas M. Menino Award and will be recognized on Saturday, November 19 at Italianissimo!, FICCB’s annual gala event that celebrates New England’s rich Italian-American culture.

“The individuals that we honor this year with the Menino Award exemplify those who contribute to the mission of FICCB,” said Anthony Pangaro, Chairman of FICCB. “Through their good works, they are contributors to the rich Italian heritage of the City of Boston.”

This year’s Thomas M. Menino Award recipients have significantly enhanced Boston’s artistic and scientific communities.

Please join us in congratulating Federico in receiving this prestigious award and consider joining the celebration “Italianissimo!” at the soon to be open to the public Eataly in the Prudential Center this Saturday, November 19th!

Click here for more information and to read the full release. 

Buy Tickets to Italianissimo on November 19th

59th Season Opening Concert Program Notes


On Mozart’s Symphony No. 41, “Jupiter”
…..“For all of its self-confident vigor and joy, the Jupiter Symphony was created amid dark circumstances.”….

On Beethoven’s Symphony No. 8
.”The third movement is a kind of satirical Anti-Minuet. Rather than the little, dainty steps that the word minuet implies, this Minuet demands big, galumphing strides across the dance floor as trumpets and timpani pound out clumsy, ponderous upbeats and downbeats.” ….

On Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra
…”Bartok died ten months after the concerto was premiered.  He did achieve some gratifying recognition and respect, however belatedly, but he did not live to see the Concerto for Orchestra enter the standard repertoire, or to see his music become widely played in this country.”….

  • Program Notes Copyright ©Matthew Naughtin

Learn more about the history, motivations and influences of some of the great pieces to be performed by BYSO students this Sunday, October 16 at Symphony Hall as part of BYSO’s 59th Season Opening Concert! CLICK HERE TO READ THE PROGRAM NOTES and you may just listen to the performance in a whole new way!







October ENOTES

Click here to read our October edition of ENOTES!

In this edition:

  • New and improved BYSOweb.org thanks to SapientNitro
  • Welcome to our 59th Season, celebrating 10 years of Opera and 20 years of service from Executive Director, Catherine Weiskel
  • Subscribe to BYSO’s 59th Season
  • Upcoming Concerts
  • BYSO Launches Bravo Circle
  • Intensive Community Program: Did you Know?
  • Student Spotlight: Zachary, BYS Cellist
  • Alumni Spotlight: Philip Wolf ’07

Do you want to join our ENOTES mailing list and receive our bi-monthly newsletter? Click here to join our e-mail list!

BYSO Announces 59th Season

Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras (BYSO) announces its 59th season celebrating 10 years of opera and 20 years of service and accomplishments from Executive Director, Catherine Weiskel, Highlights include Bartok, Mozart and BYSO on Parade and much more…

Erin Keegan Ianni, Director of Marketing and PR
617-353-3359, keegan@bu.edu                                                                 



BOSTON – September 16, 2016 – Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras (BYSO), one of the finest youth orchestras in the country, announces programming for the 59th season. In addition to the advanced orchestral repertoire scheduled, BYSO will CELEBRATE 10 YEARS OF OPERA and present its 10th consecutive semi-staged opera, Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, in January 2017.  BYSO continues to be one of the only youth orchestras in the world to present full-length operas. Under the leadership of BYSO Music Director, Federico Cortese, the rehearsal and performance of “Opera at BYSO” has become an integral part of our program and a critically-acclaimed cornerstone of BYSO’s concert season.

The six BYSO ensembles featuring 490 talented students from throughout New England will present more than 20 performances in such prestigious venues as Symphony Hall, Sanders Theatre at Harvard University, Kresge Auditorium at MIT, Tsai Performance Center at Boston University, the Boston Children’s Museum, Faneuil Hall and more.  The premier orchestra, Boston Youth Symphony (BYS) and Repertory Orchestra, will open the season on October 16, 2016, at Symphony Hall, with a performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 8 and Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra led by BYSO Music Director Federico Cortese.  On January 29, 2017, BYS will present Tchaikovsky’s opera Eugene Ongein at Sanders Theatre at Harvard University. The BYSO is acclaimed as the only US youth orchestra to perform complete semi-staged operas and this performance of Eugene Onegin marks the 10th consecutive season of opera.  On March 12, 2017 BYSO will present BYSO on Parade at Symphony Hall, a family afternoon musical experience that showcases all 490 BYSO musicians, ages 5-18.  The season will conclude on June 11, 2017 at Sanders Theatre at Harvard University. Along with the full schedule of traditional subscription season concerts, BYSO collaborates once again with the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) for the BSO Family Concerts. This collaboration between BSO and BYSO was introduced in 2009 and includes Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf performed by BYS on October 29, 2016 and conducted by Adrian Slywotzky and Presto Change-O performed by BYSO’s youngest orchestra, Young People’s String Orchestra and members of the Intensive Community Program with conductor Marta Zurad and magician, Matt Roberts on April 29, 2017. As part of this partnership, BSO Family Concerts are sponsored by Arbella Insurance.

BYSO also celebrates the 20 year commitment and accomplishments of Executive Director, Catherine Weiskel.   Weiskel’s background in Music Education, Musicology and her wealth of experience with professional orchestras prepared her well for her tireless and vast tenure with BYSO. The outstanding developments and enhancements under Weiskel’s administration these past 20 years include and are not limited to:

  • Balancing an annual budget that has increased from $250,000 to more than $3 million and significantly increased endowment
  • Increasing accepted BYSO member students from 250 to nearly 500 students
    Increasing the number of students who audition for the program from 420 to nearly 900 students
  • Establishing BYSO’s reputable opera program, now in its tenth year
  • Creating the Intensive Community Program, BYSO’s successful outreach program
  • Establishing a formal partnership with Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) in 2012 with the Family Concert Series and the bi-annual operas for children and families
  • Forging meaningful partnerships with many organizations including, Roxbury Community College, Boston Children’s Museum, Boston Public Schools, The Museum of African American History, The City of Boston and many more.
  • Leading BYSO on multiple international tours including trips to Italy, Austria, Hungary, Great Britain, Ireland, Czech Republic, Germany, Portugal, Spain, Estonia, Latvia, Russia and Poland.
  • Adding multiple ensembles including 6 chamber orchestras, Preparatory Winds, Petit Ensemble among others.
  • Leading the organization through a successful branding and name change from GBYSO to BYSO in 2007
  • Expanding an administrative staff of 3 to a thriving, sophisticated administrative staff of 13

Given these impressive accomplishments BYSO is now an organization that is bursting from its seams. This exceptional success has made for an inevitable lack of sufficient space needed to support such growth, thus compelling BYSO to explore the creation of a new home to serve even more students and the Boston community. The goal is to create The BYSO Youth Center for Music – a space and a “home” where BYSO can impact even more lives through community outreach and participation.


Sunday, October 16, 2016, 3 pm at Symphony Hall
Boston Youth Symphony, BYSO’s premier orchestra

Federico Cortese, Conductor and Music Director
BEETHOVEN                Symphony No. 8
MOZART                       Symphony No. 41, Jupiter
BARTOK                       Concerto for Orchestra
With Repertory Orchestra, Mark Miller, Conductor

Sunday, January 29, 2017, 3 pm at Sanders Theatre at Harvard University
TCHAIKOVSKY            Eugene Onegin
Federico Cortese, Conductor
Edward Berkeley, Stage Director
Semi-staged opera performance

Sunday, March 12, 2017, 3pm at Symphony Hall
BYSO on Parade
Featuring all BYSO Ensembles

59th Season Final Concert
Sunday, June 11, 2017, 3 pm at Sanders Theatre at Harvard University
Boston Youth Symphony, BYSO’s premier orchestra

Federico Cortese, Conductor and Music Director

View the full season schedule and for more information visit www.BYSOweb.org.
Ticket prices range from FREE – $50; season subscribers receive up to a 15% discount
Tickets are available at www.BYSOweb.org or by calling BYSO at (617) 358-6015
Symphony Hall at 617-266-1200
Sanders Theatre at 617-496-2222

Boston Symphony Orchestra’s FAMILY CONCERTS 

Saturday, October 29, 2016 at noon
Symphony Hall
Boston Youth Symphony
Adrian Slywotzky, Conductor 

Saturday, April 18, 2017, 10:00am and noon
Symphony Hall
Boston Symphony Orchestra
Thomas Wilkins, Germeshausen Youth and Family Concerts Conductor

Saturday, April 29, 2017 at noon
Symphony Hall
Young People’s String Orchestra & members of the Intensive Community Program
Marta Zurad, Conductor
Matt Robers, Magician

For tickets and information for BSO’s Family Concert Series visit www.BSO.org  or call (617)266-1200

About Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras (BYSO)           

The mission of BYSO is to encourage musical excellence in a professional and supportive environment by providing the highest quality orchestra training and performance opportunities to qualified musicians, grades K-12, while making its programs accessible to underrepresented communities through financial assistance and outreach. Widely regarded as one of the country’s finest youth orchestras, BYSO places musical excellence at the heart of all its activities. Each year BYSO auditions over 850 students and accepts approximately 500 musicians representing over 140 communities from the New England area. Students are accepted into one of three full symphonic orchestras, two young string training orchestras, six chamber orchestras, a preparatory wind ensemble and a chamber music program. The Intensive Community Program (ICP), a nationally recognized string training outreach program, provides rigorous musical instruction to students from underrepresented communities. BYSO offers more than 20 performances annually at some of Boston’s finest venues including Symphony Hall and Sanders Theatre at Harvard University.

Excellence in music making at BYSO is, uniquely, both a goal and a means. Every year, hundreds of young musicians participate in ensemble and training programs coached by Boston’s finest musicians and educators. They perform repertoire that is above the level of any other youth orchestra in our country, both in difficulty, maturity and scope. Simultaneously, something even more remarkable is happening.  Through BYSO, classical music ignites a passionate pursuit of excellence, perseverance, self-confidence and pride within our young musicians.  The students have a deep and life-changing experience during their time at BYSO, and it helps them develop into outstanding adults whatever their life path.  Kids are transformed by an experience this special and this unique, and it is clear that they take this transformation into all areas of their life—into their communities and subsequently passed on to future generations. In the 59 years since its founding, BYSO has continuously elevated, enhanced and been driven to perfect, change and adapt to meet the dynamic needs of our students and communities.  Today BYSO provides a rich and broad range of programs from chamber music to opera.  The unique and extensive programming is rooted in quality, and delivered in a nurturing environment.

Nowhere else in the world can a child experience classical music in the unique way they can at BYSO. Programs and opportunities like the opera program exemplify the rare opportunity for a young musician to truly understand an area of repertoire that will enhance their artistic understanding on a larger scale. Participating in the Intensive Community Program, a kindergartner achieves artistic and personal success while progressively mastering a string instrument as part of a community based peer learning model. Through the family concerts in partnership with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, a shared understanding is achieved when our children perform classical music for other children. With more than a half century of history in the city of Boston, and thousands of children now grown into successful adults, the impact of BYSO can be seen in so many ways.

Federico Cortese, Music Director 

Federico Cortese assumed the post of Music Director of the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras in 1999. He has conducted throughout the United States, Australia, China, and Europe. He is also the Music Director of the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra at Harvard University. From 1998–2002, he served as Assistant Conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Seiji Ozawa. In addition to his annual scheduled concerts, Mr. Cortese led the Boston Symphony several times in Symphony Hall and at Tanglewood, most notably performing Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 9” and Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly”. Mr. Cortese has conducted several prominent symphony orchestras, including Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, BBC Scottish Symphony, Sydney Symphony, and Oslo Philharmonic. Opera engagements have included Maggio Musicale in Florence, the Spoleto Festival in Italy and the United States, the Boston Lyric Opera, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, the Finnish National Opera, Opera Australia, and the Washington National Opera. Mr. Cortese has been Music Coordinator and Associate Conductor of the Spoleto Festival in Italy. He also served as Assistant Conductor to Robert Spano and to Daniele Gatti. Mr. Cortese, who was born in Rome, studied composition and conducting at the Conservatorio di Santa Cecilia in Rome and subsequently studied at the Hochschule für Musik in Vienna. He also studied literature and humanities and holds a law degree from La Sapienza University in Rome.

BYSO Board President Joe Grimaldi Receives 2016 Distinguished Bostonian Award

We are proud to share that BYSO Board President Joe Grimaldi was chosen for this prestigious award for his contributions to some of the most important issues impacting our city, state and world.

BYSO’s Board President, Joe Grimaldi was inducted into the Academy of Distinguished Bostonians at the Greater Boston Chamber’s Annual Meeting on Tuesday, May 10th. The distinguished leaders are chosen for their “contributions to some of the most important issues impacting our city, state and world. Each honoree has come to Boston, shared their talents and left an indelible impact on the region, using their positions to empower others in significant ways.” Mr. Grimaldi was one of three honorees for 2016 and joins Gururaj “Desh” Deshpande, of Sparta Group LLC, and Margaret H. Marshall, Former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Massachusetts and Senior Counsel, Choate Hall & Stewart LLP.

At the end of his remarks, before the 1800 assembled business leaders, Joe said, ” I am deeply honored by tonight’s induction. More than a symbol of accomplishment, I see it as an invitation to do more.”

We were delighted to have some of our young musicians performing at this event and helping to represent BYSO and celebrate Mr. Grimaldi’s great achievement.

Congratulations to Joe on this outstanding accomplishment!

Watch a video tribute highlighting Joe Grimaldi’s extraordinary accomplishments.

BYSO Toasts to Opera

A Toast to Opera

On Tuesday, May 3, 2016 we were delighted to welcome almost 300 guests to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston for our 6th annual Spring Gala! At this year’s event, we celebrated the artistry and excellence of BYSO’s acclaimed opera program. We were thrilled to welcome so many key business and community leaders to the event, and were particularly honored to host Boston’s Chief of Arts and Culture, Julie Burros, who spoke about BYSO’s integral place in cultural landscape of Boston.   We are pleased to report that this year’s gala raised over $275,000 for the organization! Thank you to everyone who attended and generously contributed to this effort. And of course, no gala would be complete without a performance from our talented young musicians. Congratulations to our PE and BYS students who performed, as well as our five student emcees who kept the night flowing beautifully. We hope to see you all at next year’s event!