BYSO on Parade

Next month, on Sunday, March 22nd at 3pm, BYSO will present BYSO on Parade, featuring more than 500 BYSO young musicians. Symphony Hall will be transformed into an explosion of children, music, families, and fun as Vira Slywotsky, host and narrator, will talk you through the afternoon of music. There is an interactive aspect as well, introducing audience members to the instruments of the orchestra and what it means to be a performing musician. The concert will culminate with a performance of Britten’s A Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra from BYSO’s most advanced orchestra, Boston Youth Symphony conducted by Federico Cortese.

Featuring: All BYSO ensembles!

BOSTON YOUTH SYMPHONYFederico Cortese, Conductor – BRITTEN, A Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra

REPERTORY ORCHESTRA – Mark Miller, Conductor – Holst, Jupiter from “The Planets” 

JUNIOR REPERTORY ORCHESTRA – John Holland, Conductor – Beethoven, Overture to Consecration of the House 

PREPARATORY WINDS – Janet Underhill, Conductor – Beethoven, Zapfenstreich March

YOUNG PEOPLE’S STRING ORCHESTRA – Marta Żurad, Conductor – Copland, Ching-A-Ring Chaw from “Old American Songs” and Shostakovich, Spanish Dance

PETIT ENSEMBLE – Marta Żurad, Conductor – Arr. O’Reilly, Saturday at the Symphony and Bartok Hungarian Wedding Dance from “Six Bartok Miniatures” 

Vira Slywotzky, Host and Narrator

Get your tickets here!

Fun Facts!

  • Jupiter, from The Planets, was often played as a finale to concerts to create a happy ending to the evening
  • By seven years old, Beethoven was already playing piano and violin flawlessly and was giving public performances
  • Consecration of the House is actually the second overture to The Ruins of Athens
  • The Zapfenstreich originated in the military as a sign of the end of the day
  • Shostakovich loved soccer and was a certified referee
  • Bartók was very interested in folk music and a lot of his work was inspired by this style of music

Student Spotlight – Matty

Our January Student Spotlight feature is Matty! Matty is a bassoonist and contrabassoonist in JRO. He is currently a sophomore in high school, and he has been in BYSO for 4 years. We asked Matty a few questions:

Q: What is your favorite thing about BYSO?

A: Being able to play in a full orchestra, and being able to be instructed by some of the best instructors around here.

Q: What is one of your best BYSO memories (so far)?

A: One of my best BYSO memories so far is my very first concert, it was with PW, we were playing “O fortuna” and one of the Paer marches…It was unforgettable.

Q: Why did you choose your instrument?

A: Because I thought it was a unique instrument that would lend me a good musical experience.

Q: What is your favorite piece you’ve played during your time in BYSO?

A: Any piece that I’m rockin’ the Contra on is my favorite!

Q: What is one fun fact about you?

A: One fun fact about me is that I love visiting America’s National Parks, I think that they are all profoundly beautiful and awe-inspiring.

Peter and the Wolf Pre-Concert Instrument Playground

Two BYSO students, Alex and Emma, led instrument demonstrations during the pre-concert activity hour before Peter and the Wolf on Saturday, November 9th at Symphony Hall!

Each BSO Family Concert begins with pre-concert activities throughout the hall including an Instrument Playground and thematic activities connected to the musical program.

Symphony Hall, Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019
Photo by Winslow Townson
Symphony Hall, Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019
Photo by Winslow Townson
Symphony Hall, Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019
Photo by Winslow Townson
Symphony Hall, Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019
Photo by Winslow Townson

Student Spotlight – Jóia

Our first Student Spotlight feature is Jóia! Jóia is a violist in BYS. She’s currently a senior in high school, and she’s been in BYSO for 3 years. We asked Jóia a few questions:

Q: What is your favorite thing about BYSO?

A: My favorite thing about BYSO is the tightly-knit community that develops throughout the season and continues far beyond, even when we have to leave to follow our paths, whether it leads to music, or not. No matter what, the love and joy of music that we experience every Sunday will stick with us for the rest of our lives. This, to me, is a prime example of the incredible power of music: we come together in August as strangers and by the time the season finale concert arrives, we become a family.

Q: What is one of your favorite BYSO memories (so far)?

A: One of my greatest BYSO memories was my first time playing with the professional opera singers in Carmen. The beginning of opera season is always incredibly exciting. There were many occasions where I vividly remember being starstruck and having to pinch myself multiple times to make sure that I wasn’t dreaming.

Q: Why did you choose your instrument?

A: I have always been drawn to rich, dark, and soulful sounds so the viola and I seemed like a match made in perfect harmony (pun intended). Furthermore, viola repertoire is pretty fantastic so everyone should go out and listen to some alto clef magic ASAP.

Q: What is your favorite piece you’ve played during your time in BYSO?

A: How could I possibly choose only ONE piece?! Indeed, I could never pick a standalone favorite. This request is comparable to someone asking me to pick only one ice cream flavor to eat for the rest of my life (a completely impossible question to answer)! I think it goes without saying that, in BYSO, I have loved each piece that I’ve had the pleasure to prepare and perform. However, if I could only pick a select few, I would have to give some special shoutouts to Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloë, Schoenberg’s Pelleas and Melisande, Debussy’s Jeux (the first piece I ever played in BYSO), Dvorak’s Symphony No. 7, and all four of the operas!

Q: What is one fun fact about you?

A: A fun fact about me is that I am a complete and utter opera nerd; I could geek out about the Met for hours without a reduction in enthusiasm! Hence, I have a tradition with my mom where we will go to the movie theater and watch the “Metropolitan Opera Live in HD” together.

Chamber Music Master Class Series 2019-2020

Join us for our 2019-2020 season Chamber Music Master Class series! All master classes take place at 10am at Newton South High School on the specified date.

Our first master class was on Sunday, November 3rd. Mike Reynolds, cellist of the Muir String Quartet and Cello Professor at Boston University’s College of Arts and Sciences, shared his expertise with some of the BYSO students. We are all so grateful to him for taking the time to come and teach us!

Our second master class was Sunday, March 8th. Kristopher Tong, member of the chamber music and violin faculties and assistant chair of strings at New England Conservatory. Thank you to Kristopher for another wonderful master class filled with valuable lessons for all!

These events are FREE and open to the public, and all are welcome (and encouraged) to attend and take advantage of these wonderful learning opportunities!

Unfamiliar with classical music master classes? A master class is a class where a few students perform and receive feedback from a professional in the field. However, often many more people are in the audience than just those who are playing in the class, because there is much to be learned from listening as an audience member to the feedback being given to the performers. With an outside view, the audience can hear objectively how the group or individual playing sounds and can listen to the advice of the teacher and apply it to their own practicing and performing.

This is why, regardless of whether your instrument is the same as the teacher’s instrument, master classes can benefit you and you can learn a lot from any of the terrific professional musicians who are part of this season’s Chamber Music Master Class series. Since they are chamber music classes, part of the advice is often aimed towards performing as a whole as opposed to one specific instrument. Regardless, the wisdom shared by these teachers is transferable to any musician and any instrument, and the insight they share is invaluable to all of us. They often give advice on:

•Playing technique and how to avoid common technical errors

•Good practice methods

•Tone, phrasing, and shaping

And other tips that are useful to everybody.

If you have any further questions about master classes, feel free to reach out to any of the BYSO staff and we will be happy to speak with you!

BYSO Opera 2020: Aida by Giuseppe Verdi


BYSO presents Verdi’s Aida on Sunday, January 26th, at 3:00 pm at Sanders Theatre at Harvard University, 45 Quincy St. Cambridge, MA 02138. ONE PERFORMANCE ONLY! See below for performance details, as well as some links to articles and videos about Aida if you would like to learn more about this incredible opera.

Boston Youth Symphony
Federico Cortese, MUSIC DIRECTOR AND Conductor
Edward Berkeley, Stage Director

Marjorie Owens – Aida
Diego Cavazzin – Radamès
Olesya Petrova – Amneris
Aleksey Bogdanov – Amonasro
Önay Köse – Ramfis
Tom McNichols – The King
Andy Papas – Messenger
Chelsea Basler – High Priestess

BYSO Opera Chorus
Charles Prestinari, Chorus Master

**This performance of Aida is suitable for children ages 10 and older.

Tickets starting at $45

Verdi’s Aida (1871), an introduction by W.J. Henderson – This is a scholarly article with synopsis, musical context, and cultural context about the opera’s creation.

Leontyne Price sings Aida, “O patria mia” – This is her farewell performance on the MET stage on January 1, 1985. Video includes an introduction by Renee Fleming. 

Leontyne Price Opera Farewell ‘O patria mia’ from Aida by Verdi – This is the ending of this same farewell performance with the applause lasting well over three minutes.  It is also a tradition at the MET that singers do not take bows or acknowledge applause during the middle of a production.

Cello and Chamber Music Master Class with Mike Reynolds

This Sunday, November 3rd, we will have the first class of the season of our Chamber Music Master Class Series: a Cello and Chamber Music Master Class with Mike Reynolds, cellist of the world-renowned Muir String Quartet and Cello Professor at Boston University’s College of Fine Arts.


Sunday, November 3rd, 2019 at 10:00am


Newton South High School

140 Brandeis Rd, Newton Centre, MA 02459

Mr. Reynolds will be working with BYSO cellists and chamber music groups. All BYSO members are encouraged to attend.

This event is free and open to the public, so all are welcome!

Read Mike Reynolds’s full bio below:

Mr. Reynolds has been the cellist of the world-renowned Muir String Quartet since its inception in 1979. As a member of the Muir Quartet and as soloist and chamber musician, Mr. Reynolds has performed over 2,000 concerts throughout North America, Europe and the Far East, and he has performed with such diverse artists as Leon Fleisher, Menachem Pressler, Gil Shaham, Richard Stoltzman, Phyllis Curtin and Benny Goodman. Accolades he has won with the Muir Quartet include first prize at the Evian Competition, the 1981 Naumberg Award, two Grand Prix du Disques, the Gramophone Award, a Grammy nomination and a Grammy on the EcoClassics label he founded, and an internationally acclaimed PBS broadcast, “In Performance at The White House” for President and Mrs. Reagan. A native of Montana, he received his professional training at the Curtis Institute of Music, where he was a student of David Soyer and Martita Casals, continuing with Karen Tuttle and George Neikrug and studies at Yale University. Mr. Reynolds has appeared with orchestras and in recital throughout the U. S., and his recording of the complete Bach Suites for Solo Cello on the EcoClassics label has received much critical acclaim. Recent recordings include the Muir Quartet performing Berg Op. 3, Kreisler Quartet and Schulhoff 5 Pieces on the KidsClassics label, and the Beethoven Clarinet Trio (after the Septet) and Zemlinsky Trio with clarinetist Richard Stoltzman and pianist Judith Stillman on KidsClassics. Upcoming recordings include works from the Klezmer Tradition with clarinetist Alexander Fiterstein and the Muir Quartet. Profits from these recordings support Classics for Kids Foundation’s grant programs, which to date have given thousands of beautiful new stringed instruments to hundreds of string programs around America.

Mr. Reynolds has taught at Boston University’s College of Fine Arts since 1983. His students continue to develop successful careers in music, including members of the Boston Symphony and other orchestras, teachers at universities and other institutions internationally, four Boston Symphony Competition and numerous other competition winners. He is co-founder and Executive/Artistic Director of Classics for Kids Foundation, which has given matching grants for excellent student instruments to hundreds of string programs serving disadvantaged children around America. He is also Artistic Director of ArtsLIVE! in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and the Montana Chamber Music Society, the first statewide chamber music society in America. Mr. Reynolds has served on the faculties of New England Conservatory, Rutgers University, the University of Utah, and UC Santa Cruz. He received an honorary doctorate from Rhode Island College in 1995. In his spare time he is an avid flyfisherman and outdoorsman.

#ArtsMatter Day 2019

Friday, October 25th is  Arts Matter Day, an annual celebration of arts & culture organized by MassCreative. This online day of action gives the creative community a chance to broadcast stories of impact and make the case that arts and creativity should be an expected, well-funded, and valued part of everyday life.  Join in the fun by sharing why the arts are important to you using the hashtag #ArtsMatter. Tag BYSO and we will repost, retweet and share your stories!

Facebook: @BostonYouthSymphonyOrchestras 

Instagram: @BostonYouthSymphonyOrchestras

Learn more about how you can participate in Arts Matter Day here!

Members of the BYSO staff share some of their “Arts matter because…” statements below!

Jessica Chen, Development and Alumni Relations Associate
“Arts matter because…playing music inspires joy and confidence in our students!”
Matthew Stansfield, Executive Assistant
“Arts matter because…it has the power to instigate change, enrich appreciation, and allow personal growth!”
Colin Keane, Development Associate
“Arts matter because…they bring people from all walks of life together”
Lisa Berk, Development Assistant
“Arts matter because…art is inspiring!”
Kara York, Marketing Manager
“Arts matter because…they are a universal language”
Erin Keegan Ianni, Director of Marketing and Public Relations
“Arts matter because…it opens our mind and nourishes our soul!”
Kathryn Rudolph, Director of Operations and Community Programs
“Arts matter because…they connect us and build community”

Federico Cortese – Celebrating 20 Years with BYSO!

Federico Cortese, Music Director of BYSO
Photo Credit: Michael J. Lutch

This season we celebrate Federico Cortese and his 20th anniversary as Music Director of the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras. Fed’s visionary leadership and his sincere care for our young musicians and the future of BYSO has led our organization to a new level of excellence that was unimaginable 20 years ago.

We asked current students in BYSO’s most advanced orchestra, Boston Youth Symphony: “How has Fed made an impact on you and what role does he play in your life? What is it about Fed that makes you continue to be a part of BYS?” Here are a few of the answers we received:

“Throughout the past two years and going into my third and final year in BYSO and in BYS, my favorite/most memorable moment had to have been after my first BYSO “last concert” of the 60th season. I was crying and being an emotional wreck because so many of my friends (aka the majority of the viola section) we’re leaving. As Fed walked past me he said: ‘Why are you crying? I can’t/won’t accept your crying until it is your final year.’ (All in a very kind voice) This moment made a deep impression on me and I can understand that living in the moment and enjoying the music that the entire orchestra made with Fed was the most influential part of my life. I strive to bring music in the world and even though it is my third and final year in BYS(O) I will forever be indebted to Fed for helping me discover the true meaning of music and the way I want to spend the rest of my life: being a part of an orchestra family and touching others as music has touched me.”

“My first interactions with him were in 2016, I just said hi to him a few times when I saw him at camp. He seemed like a pretty chill guy, which he is. He’s such a force and has this aura about him. I’ve never seen anyone who was as sensitive to the slightest phrasing issues, or who would literally scream and go crazy from hearing us play music incorrectly. The one thing that I really appreciate about him isn’t that he’s a great musician (although I do appreciate that) — it’s that he cares a lot and pushes himself — probably too hard — to make our performances great — and he acknowledges his mistakes/flaws and apologizes. I just feel the need to thank him.”

“Playing with BYS is one of the things I look forward to every week. Thank you to everyone for the great experiences, can’t wait to make more memories!”

Maestro Cortese’s dedication to the musical excellence and personal growth of our students has been the impetus for many new initiatives including:
-Increased the number of students in the program by 100%
-Created BYSO’s exceptional opera program
-Established a formal partnership with the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) in 2012 – “BYSO/BSO Partnering for the Future,” featuring the BSO Family Concert Series and the bi-annual opera productions for children and families that has brought classical music to 65,000 new audience members
-Created BYSO On Parade, a bi-annual concert featuring all BYSO ensembles and students
-Led 8 successful international tours
-Created unprecedented growth in BYSO’s Intensive Community Program and its presence in the Boston Public Schools
-Developed several new ensembles, including six chamber orchestras, the Preparatory Winds (PW) and the Petit Ensemble (PE)

The students had a great time celebrating Fed and his 20th anniversary as Music Director of BYSO at a rehearsal at the beginning of the season! We are tremendously grateful to Fed for bringing beauty into the lives of our children and for everything he’s done and continues to do for BYSO, and we look forward to continuing to celebrate him throughout the season. Here are some photos from the festivities!

Photo credit: Simonida Thurber and Erin Keegan Ianni

Alumni Feature: Emi Ferguson, BYSO ’05

Over the summer, Emi Ferguson, BYSO ‘05, Flute, released her second solo album, Fly The Coop: Bach Sonatas and Preludes, which debuted at #1 on iTunes Classical. She has performed at several high-profile events, such as the Tenth Anniversary Memorial Ceremony of 9/11, featured alongside Yo-Yo Ma, Paul Simon, and James Taylor. She has spoken and performed at several TEDx events and has been featured as an ambassador for classical music on media outlets including The Discovery Channel, Vox’s “Netflix: Explained” series, Amazon’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” and various TouchPress apps. Emi was recently appointed Principal Flute of the Handel and Haydn Society.

Emi credits so much of her professional success to her time at BYSO. “(G)BYSO was so much more than just music. I learned about teamwork, how to handle constructive criticism, how to effectively communicate with my colleagues, and how to be both an individual and a team member at the same time. It was so rewarding to spend time with other people who were like-minded, and to learn from them.”

People who are in BYSO already have such a leg up – they have not only the skill and the talent, but the support system. I went to Juilliard knowing proper etiquette, how to behave in an orchestra, how to conduct myself in a professional setting, how to prepare for an audition, and much more. BYSO is not just music education, but general education as well.”

Emi’s album Fly The Coop features another BYSO alum – Doug Balliett, ’01, Bass. “I met Doug and his brother [Brad] when we were all much younger. We didn’t know each other super well at the time, but I am so happy that we play together now, so many years later! BYSO encouraged a curiosity and excitement for exploring different corners of the musical world in all of us – something that all alumni of BYSO can still continue to relate to, to this day.”

Despite being a very active performer, Emi is also currently on the faculty of the Juilliard School, and previously has taught at the University of Buffalo. “I’ve always enjoyed sharing what I love about music with other people. In particular, I love to work with people who are very new to classical music. Classical music has been lumped into one giant category, and you might hear someone say ‘I don’t like classical music’ but there’s so much variation within the genre, so I love exposing newcomers to lots of different classical styles.”

“I also want people to realize that music is for everybody. It’s not an elite, academic field where you can only have an opinion if you’ve trained in the field for a long time. Music is innate within all of us, and we have a guttural response when we listen to it. I want to encourage people to trust that internal instinct.”

Her biggest piece of advice for our current students – particularly for those who want to pursue careers in music – is to follow their passion, and to be true to oneself. “You’ve been playing this instrument since you were young. Some people continue on this path just because they’re good at it. But think about what YOU want – how do you see music being a part of your future?

“There’s no one right way to have a career in music, no single pathway – there are so many different ways to achieve success. Luck is a huge part, too, but you can’t get there without pursuing your passion.”

To find out more about Emi, you can check out her website at

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