/ Senior Awards 2020

Each year, we award the Robert Hardt Memorial Award and the Philip J. Smith Award to seniors in the graduating class. Read about the awards and this year's recipients below!

The Robert Hardt Memorial Award

The Robert Hardt Memorial Award for outstanding musical achievement is awarded every year to an outstanding BYSO senior who displays talent, character, responsibility, significant contribution to the organization, and who plans to pursue a career in music. The award comes with a cash prize.

Robert J. Hardt was a dedicated member of BYSO for four years. He played timpani under conductor Walter Eisenberg and planned to study music after graduation. He was accepted to the Eastman School of Music, Juilliard, and the New England Conservatory. Robert never made it to college that fall because he was stricken by a heart attack during a hockey game. Robert died the morning of BYSO's 15th anniversary concert. That night, his teacher Tom Gauger performed his part. Robert was committed to music. He participated in his high school band and orchestra, All-State Orchestra, All-Eastern Orchestra, and had been invited for two years to play in the National American Youth performance in Washington, D.C. He performed in the Youth Artist Program at Tanglewood and was a member of the Massachusetts Youth Wind Ensemble. His friends remember him with smiles, recalling his modesty and love of life. In memory of Robert, his family set up an award to recognize a graduating senior who will carry on Robert's passion for life and music. In a friend's yearbook, Robert Hardt wrote, "Don't ever forget BYSO." We continue to remember his dedication to music and his true spirit for BYSO.

The Philip J. Smith Award

The Philip J. Smith Award honors a BYSO senior who fosters the ideals of Mr. Smith. These include musical excellence, leadership, participation in various BYSO orchestras and ensembles, length of membership in BYSO, a significant musical and personal contribution to BYSO, and a devotion to creating a supportive and positive atmosphere within the BYSO community. The recipient of the Smith Award need not pursue a career in music. Philip J. Smith served on the BYSO Board of Directors for 20 years, witnessing the appointment of five music directors and traveling on three international tours. Mr. Smith served as president of the board from 1988-1991 and from 1996-2000.


The Robert Hardt Memorial Award
Mark Larrivee, Percussion ● Jóia Findeis, Viola ● Danilo Thurber, Violin

The Philip J. Smith Award
Ashley McCoy, Cello ● Samantha Gedeon, Viola

Mark Larrivee

Mark Larrivee is a percussionist who is very passionate about music. He graduated this year from Norwood High School.

Mark auditioned into the MMEA Southeast Junior District Band in 2015 and 2016, and into the MMEA Southeast Senior District Band in 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020. He earned a spot in the MMEA All-State Band in 2018, 2019, and 2020. He has also been a member of the Norwood High School Wind Ensemble, Norwood High School Marching Band, Metropolitan Wind Ensemble, Music for All Tournament of Roses Honor Band, Music for All Honor Band of America, MIT Wind Ensemble, NAfME All-East Honor Orchestra, Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, and Tanglewood Young Artist Orchestra. He has been a member of Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras since 2017.

Mark has attended multiple music seminars, including the 2016 and 2017 Bands of America Summer Symposium, the 2018 New York University/Sandbox Percussion Seminar, the 2019 Boston University Tanglewood Institute, the 2020 Ted Atkatz Percussion Seminar Online Summer Intensive, and the 2020 Juilliard Summer Percussion Masterclass Series. His private teacher is Mr. Samuel Z. Solomon, who teaches percussion at The Boston Conservatory at Berklee and at Boston University, is Percussion Director of The Boston University Tanglewood Institute (BUTI), and is Artistic Director of the Juilliard Summer Percussion Seminar. Mark will be attending New England Conservatory in the Fall where he will major in Percussion Performance.

Jóia Findeis

Jóia has listened to classical music since before she was born and was in fact born listening to Classical radio WCRB! She was raised being exposed to music of all forms and from all parts of the world – World Music for Little Ears, Latin Playground, African Playground, as well as Asian and Portuguese music. She began her first rhythm work when she was 18 months old at Powers Music School, moving on to Little Keys for Kids until she had to have a violin before starting 1st grade after visiting the musical petting zoo.

She studied Suzuki Violin for 4 years at Powers Music School while engaging in Belmont Schools in-school strings program. She began taking lessons from Deborah Boykan in 5th grade where she began to flourish. In 8th grade, Jóia was invited to consider trying the viola. She was chosen to join the high school chamber music program, earning honors to attend the Northeast District Orchestra for two years and then the MA All-State Orchestra. On March 4, 2020, Jóia was able to perform her last live concert as the first violist Concerto Competition winner at Belmont High School.

Jóia is grateful for being able to find a new musical family through BYSO BYS. She has thrived not only as a violist, but also as a musician who has been able to find her voice and her passion for bringing joy, equality, and patience to others. This past academic year, she prepared herself to dedicate her future to a career in music and was fortunate to have many amazing auditions and then acceptance offers to join conservatories and schools of music across the US. Jóia will begin her dual degree program at Oberlin Conservatory of Music and College in Peter Slowik’s studio.

For fun, Jóia loves watching and listening to Met Opera with her BYS friends online, follows 2 DaBeat broadcasts by Dacha and Sava Thurber, playing Animal Crossing New Horizons, and hanging out with her big cat, Max, and her puppy, Argo.

Danilo Thurber

Danilo (Dacha) Thurber is from Exeter, NH, where he graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy in 2020.

Dacha has expressed love and enthusiasm for music and the violin his entire life. He started learning violin at the age of three with Ms. Theresa Carr and continued many years of lessons with Ms. Louise Kandle. Since 2013, Dacha has been studying with Ms. Eva Gruesser and, in the past year, has begun studying with Mr. Daniel Chong.

Dacha served as concertmaster of Phillips Exeter Academy’s Symphony Orchestra and concertmaster of the pit orchestra in the Goel Center for Performing Arts. He has been a central member of the Academy’s chamber music program, including leading the Academy in virtual chamber music performance during the spring of 2020.

Dacha has been a member of the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras (BYSO) since 2012. In 2015, Dacha was a co-winner of the Repertory Orchestra concerto competition. In 2018, Dacha and his brother, Sava, were co-winners of the Boston Youth Symphony’s concerto competition. Some of his favorite memories from his eight years with BYSO include invaluable support and mentorship from BYSO’s conductors and violin coaches, weekly gatherings with friends, five operas, and the BYS tour to Bachfest in Leipzig.

Dacha has also won the Lakes Region Symphony Orchestra concerto competition, the Phillips Exeter Academy concerto competition, and the Portsmouth Symphony Orchestra concerto competition.

In 2017, Dacha and his brother, Sava, travelled to Gressier, Haiti, where they started a music program at a local school and orphanage with instruments they donated. They have also used busking proceeds to purchase and donate instruments to Serbian orphans through a charitable event sponsored by Crown Prince Alexander and Crown Princess Katherine of Serbia.

Dacha spends his summers working at Camp Belknap, on Lake Winnipesaukee in NH, where he was honored with the Colin Brown Memorial Award for leadership. After taking a gap year to focus on violin performance and to continue neuroscience research with the Hengen Lab at Washington University in St. Louis, Dacha looks forward to continuing his studies at Harvard University. He also enjoys birding, mountain biking, and cooking.

Ashley McCoy

Ashley McCoy has been a member of the Intensive Community Program since 2010 where she currently studies with Jacques Lee Wood. Throughout her time in the program, she has had many invaluable experiences. Some of her most cherished memories include conducting the Boston Pops at Symphony Hall, performing the Vivaldi Double Cello Concerto with Owen Young, cellist from the BSO and performing Operas with the Boston Youth Symphony. Ashley is an alumni of the SPHINX summer program and in 2019 she was accepted to the Youth Orchestra of the LA Philharmonic’s (YOLA) National Festival Orchestra, where she performed a concert conducted by Maestro Gustavo Dudamel at Walt Disney Concert Hall. While Ashley loves orchestral playing, years of working with her closest friends in an ICP chamber music quartet, has carved a special place in her heart.

Ashley attended Weston High School, where she was very involved in the Student Council. She served as a class representative during her first three years and was elected student body Co-President in her senior year. She loves science and hopes to eventually use a career in STEM to help bring about positive social change. In High School, Ashley was involved with the Science Team and brought the Biobuilder Club to Weston High School. This club allows students who are interested in STEM to apply science learned in the classroom to real-world problems as well as form connections with practicing scientists. Ashley will be attending Brown University in the fall, where she hopes to participate in research and eventually concentrate in Biology.

Samantha Gedeon

Samantha Gedeon has been a member of ICP/BYSO for 11 years. It's seems it was yesterday she was performing for the first time at Symphony Hall at 7 years old. Throughout out the years, music grew to become her passion. She picked up the trumpet in elementary school and played all the way through high school. In addition to the trumpet, she also played the bass guitar in the jazz band. Her enthusiasm and joy to play classical music made it an easy choice to join various music groups. Sam has participated in different events in the Boston and Brockton community as part of marching band, musical pits, ICP, and music competitions with the wind ensemble at her school. Within BYS, she had the opportunity to participate in various opera performances. One of Sam’s biggest highlights was the opportunity to conduct the Boston Pops alongside Keith Lockhart. She brought her talent to the community by volunteering at summer camp to help teach and mentor younger kids. During the holiday seasons with ICP, Sam continued to bring her smile and joy to the outreach concerts. Sam will be attending Drexel University in the fall of 2020. She will bring her determination, focus, and confidence as she embarks on her journey to study Economics and Entertainment & Arts Management.