VYOA Senior Spotlight!

Tommy Bergeron, horn

Essex High
VT Youth Orchestra – 5 years
VT Youth Philharmonia – 1 year
VT Youth Sinfonia – 1 year












Grace Bellino, violin

Essex High
VT Youth Orchestra – 3 years
VT Youth Philharmonia – 1 year
VT Youth Sinfonia – 2 years
VT Youth Strings – 1 year
Presto – 2 sessions











What do you love about being in an orchestra and/or chorus?

Bellino: I love that VYO gives me a chance to collaborate with instruments other than strings, which I might not have learned about or worked with had I not been in the VYO. Hearing the power of all the different instruments together is truly inspiring.

What has been your biggest musical breakthrough?

Bergeron: I would say my “Biggest musical breakthrough” was when I first got into music directing theater productions. Until I started participating in this side of musical theatre, I had just been on stage in shows. However, once I started to music direct, I found that it was a really neat way to give back to the community. I get to help others sing onstage and give joy to so many people in the audience. There really is no other feeling.

What role has the VYOA played in your musical career?

Bellino: Going to orchestra every weekend and making music with my friends has been a wonderful constant throughout my musical career. The friendly competition has encouraged me to practice my parts and has subsequently made me a better musician.

What has been your most inspiring or memorable musical experience?

Bergeron: I think the most inspiring and memorable musical experience I’ve had was being part of the National Youth Orchestra 2 this past summer. I got to perform with the best orchestral students across the nation, as well as perform side by side with the Philadelphia Orchestra. But the biggest moment of the whole experience was getting to perform at Carnegie Hall in NYC.

Bellino: My most inspiring musical experience was meeting Itzhak Perlman. He was so humble and eager to share his knowledge and love of music.

What is your favorite VYOA memory?

Bergeron: My favorite VYOA memory has to be performing Beethoven’s full 9th symphony as an 8th grader, or getting to perform as part of the VYO while they toured Iceland

What other activities do you participate in?

Bellino: I am a ballerina with the Vermont Ballet Theater Company. It is always fun to dance to music I have played in VYO.

Bergeron: I do a lot of Musical Theater. I have been on stage in numerous productions, but have also music directed and played the pit for many shows as well. This art form combines my love of acting and music into one.

What do you plan to study in college?

Bellino: Biology

Bergeron: I plan on pursuing a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Musical Theater next fall.




VYO Senior Spotlight!

This week’s Senior Spotlight includes two of our VYO Senior Soloists! Malachi Witt will perform in the upcoming Winter VYO Concert on Jan. 28, while Israel Patterson was our Fall VYO Concerto soloist this past September.

Malachi Witt, tuba
VYOrchestra – 3 years
VYChorus – 3 years
VYPhilharmonia – 1 year
VYSinfonia – 2 years
VYWinds – 1 year









Israel Patterson, flute 
Essex High
VYOrchestra – 3 years
VYO Senior Soloist, Fall 2017








What do you love about being in an orchestra?
Patterson: I like the challenge that I’m brought in receiving difficult music that I can play with my peers. To see so many dedicated musicians my age is a humbling, inspiring, and amazing feeling, and I think the sense of community has been instrumental in my growth as a performer, pun intended.

What role has the VYOA played in your musical career?
Witt: The VYOA has been part of my life for the last seven years. I have enjoyed growing musically with other students in Chamber Winds, Vermont Youth Sinfonia, Vermont Youth Philharmonia, Vermont Youth Orchestra as well as the Vermont Youth Chorus. I am grateful for the excellent conductors and sectional coaches who have introduced me to a variety of composers and musical works.

Patterson: The VYOA has fostered a lot of my growth where school bands and practice on my own could not. It pushed me outside the box in terms of difficulty of the materials I played, and it broadened my range of knowledge about music, specifically regarding orchestral repertoire.

What has been your most inspiring or memorable musical experience?
Witt: Preparing for the senior solo has been a memorable experience. I am excited to have the opportunity to play with the VYO!

What would you like to change in the orchestral/choral world?
Patterson: I think that the representation of music from people of all backgrounds – ethnicity, gender, and age – should be more emphasized and celebrated in the classical music world. There are incredible works that have been created for centuries that have been sorely ignored by our current establishment, due to unfair prejudices that I think underlie much of the classical music world, however subliminally.

What other activities do you participate in?
Witt: I have enjoyed participating in the school musical productions, especially playing Bert in Mary Poppins. Recently, I had the opportunity to present research at the American Geophysical Union in New Orleans. I also volunteer with a group of second and third graders. It was great to see some of the students attend the VYO/ VSO link up concert last year.

Patterson: I’m an avid theater junkie, and I do a lot of singing outside of the VYO – playing at festivals, participating in competitions, and jamming with my friends and family.

What do you plan to study in college?
Witt: I hope to double major in Music Performance and Ecological Agriculture.

Patterson: Music of some sort, of which kind right now I’m undecided. I’m heavily considering flute performance, but I’m also quite drawn to singing. It really depends on what programs I can get into.

VYO Senior Spotlight!

It’s that time of year when we prepare to send our seniors off on their next great adventure! In celebration of the Class of 2018 we begin our Senior Spotlight series, highlighting different students each week. This is a chance to hear, in their own words, what music means to them and what they plan to do next.


Lark Thompson, violin
Lake Champlain Waldorf School
Joined VYOA in 2011
VYOrchestra – 2 years
VYPhilharmonia – 2 years
VYSinfonia – 1 year
VYStrings – 2 years




Camille Gunter, trombone
BFA St. Albans
Joined VYOA in 2014
VYOrchestra – 1 year
VYPhilharmonia – 2 years
VYSinfonia – ½ year









What do you love about being in an orchestra?
Gunter: Being in an orchestra gives me a sense of community and connects me to my peers in a unique way. Working toward a collective musical goal creates bonds between orchestra members, and I feel connected to my fellow VYOA members in a way which I have not experienced with non-musicians. I love being in an orchestra because it expands my perspectives. I realize it is important to listen to my fellow musicians in musical and non-musical contexts, which helps me to collaborate with others in all aspects of my life.

What role has the VYOA played in your musical career?
Thompson: I started playing violin in second grade, and by the time I was in fifth I was a member of the organization. It’s been a huge part of my life since then and has given me the opportunity to explore many different composers and pieces of music.

What is your favorite VYOA memory?
Thompson: One of my favorite VYOA events is always the OrchestraChorusPalooza Concert. For many years, my best friends have come to watch the concert and it has become a tradition that marks the beginning of the holiday season.

Gunter: I first joined the VYOA after a midseason audition in 7th grade, and I went into it nervous and not knowing anyone. Two girls approached me and instantly became my friends. From that moment on, I have felt like a part of the family that is the VYOA. I have had unforgettable experiences growing up with these musicians, and creating friendships that will continue far beyond our time with the VYOA.

If you could collaborate with any musician, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Gunter: I would collaborate with Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys. He revolutionized modern music and his innovations changed the way music studios are used forever. He created Pet Sounds and SMiLE, my two favorite albums.

What other activities do you participate in?
Thompson: I take part in sports at school such as basketball, and recently have been enjoying volunteering with hospice. I also spend a lot of time babysitting and have deep connections with many kids. In the summer, I work at a children’s camp in DC. My work with kids has extended in the last two years to teaching a ten year old girl violin.

What do you plan to study in college?
Gunter: I plan to study Music Education.

Thompson: I have many interests, including architecture and studio arts, two things that have been nurtured by my Waldorf education. I also have always been attracted to the idea of working in the social sciences.

Congratulations students!

On behalf of everyone at the VYOA, I wish to congratulate the talented young musicians of VYO, VYP, VYS, Chorus, and Chorale on their incredible OrchestraChorusPalooza performances. Palooza gives us a unique opportunity to bring our entire organization together, and powerfully demonstrates the musical and personal growth our students experience during their years with the VYOA. If you were in the audience on Sunday, I trust you were moved by the joy and passion with which the musicians performed, and by the inspirational reflections of our senior speakers.

We are deeply grateful for everyone’s attendance at the concert, and for the support of the sponsors, volunteers, donors, and community partners that make these memorable musical experiences possible. Thank you for partnering with us to ensure young Vermonters have access to the high quality musical experiences they need and deserve!

Benjamin Klemme, Music Director

Photo credit: Arielle Thomas

Meet Flat Tchaikovsky!

Click here for a printable paper Tchaikovsky

As part of our “Tchaikovsky in Vermont” project, illustrator and parent of alumni Tim Newcomb created this paper Tchaikovsky. Follow @VYOAorg, cut out your paper Tchaikovsky, and take photos with him over the coming months. Share your adventures with Flat Tchaikovsky on social media using the hashtag #tchaikovskyinvt

Three lucky winners will receive a VYOA gift bag!


Vermont Youth Orchestra Offers Transformational Learning for Children


Vermont State Homes offers resources for every step of the home buying process because they understand what a big purchase and decision a home is. That’s why S. Mathur wrote an article about the invaluable opportunities we, the Vermont Youth Orchestra Association (VYOA), provide young Vermonters right here in Colchester. As people start to think about where they’d like to settle down, it’s nice to know what each community has to offer. Thank you, Vermont State Homes, for recognizing that, “music is a way for children to learn life skills and citizenship.” Click here to read the Vermont State Home article, “Vermont Youth Orchestra Offers Transformational Learning for Children”.

In memoriam: Carolyn Elley Long

Dear Friends,

It is with great sadness that we share with you that Carolyn Long passed away yesterday at the age of 98. It is difficult to put into words our admiration and gratitude for a woman who was the heart and the drive of the VYOA for so many years. Her tireless work had a direct impact on the lives of thousands of young musicians over the years, and on the greater musical community of Vermont due to her role in the creation of the Elley-Long Music Center. She truly believed in the value of music in a young person’s life, and for that we will be forever grateful. The VYOA would not be the amazing organization that it is today without her vision and support.

Please stay tuned as we make plans to honor her life and legacy. If you have memories and photos of Mrs. Long that you would like to share, please send them to martha@vyo.org or mail them to VYOA, 223 Ethan Allen Avenue, Colchester, VT 05446.

Click here to read Carolyn’s obituary

Click here to read the Burlington Free Press article about Carolyn

Elley-Long transforms into Hogwarts!

We take Halloween very seriously here at the Vermont Youth Orchestra Association. Each year we try to wow our students with great costumes and decor. This year, the staff chose a Harry Potter theme and really ran with it! Mia, our Operations Assistant, did a fabulous job on the decorations. Her homemade hanging candles really helped transform the building into Hogwarts. All of our faculty and staff put together great costumes! We had Harry & Hedwig, Dumbledore & Fawkes, Professor McGonagall, two Hagrids, Professor Snape, and Mrs. Weasley. Bravi to all involved in making this year’s Harry Potter Halloween our best yet!