At Reveille! With Rob Paterson

For the next three years, I will be composer in residence with the Vermont Youth Orchestra Association. Although I live in New York City, I have lived all over the U.S. and even in Vermont for a few years a while back. It is wonderful to experience the musical side of Vermont once again, this time through the VYOA. I am having an incredible time.

My first week involves taking part in the Reveille! Music Festival. There are over a hundred and fifty musicians, and I am spending the week hanging out, getting to know everyone, listening to rehearsals, and teaching two classes: one entitled “Meet The Moderns”, where I play pieces I love written by mostly living composers, and anPaterson lecturing arms swideother entitled “Advanced Tonal Theory.”

On the first day of the Meet The Moderns class, I asked everyone what the term “modern music” means. When someone said Schoenberg, I was a little shocked. To help dispel the notion that twelve-tone composers define the word “modern” (keep in mind that Schoenberg died in 1951), I have been playing music by composers such as Luciano Berio, Morten Lauruden and Steve Reich, and I have a few other interesting, living composers planned for the rest of the week. I am putting together an iTunes playlist that contains most of the pieces I am presenting, in case anyone wants to download something they like.

Yesterday I played some of my music so everyone could hear what I compose. I thought this was a good idea, since VYOA is programming one of my orchestral pieces each year for the first two years, and I am being commissioned for a new piece for orchestra and choir for the 2011-12 season.

Today, some of the students brought in pieces they like, and it was an eye-opening experience. My only requirement was that they explain to everyone in the class why they like what they play. We heard everything from Joseph Schwantner‘s Velocities for solo marimba to Summa by Arvo Pärt, as well as music by Eluveitie and Bring Me The Horizon. It was incredibly eclectic. We will listen to more student chosen pieces tomorrow, and I will throw one or two more pieces into the mix as well.

It is not all just about class: yesterday everyone went to Oakledge Park. I think we all appreciated getting away from the campus for a few hours, and Lake Champlain was actually not too cold!

That’s it for now. I will write about Reveille! once more at the end of the festival. Stay tuned…

Rob Paterson, VYOA Music Alive Composer-in-Residence

Robert Paterson is the Music Alive Composer-in-Residence with the VYOA. Music Alive is a national residency program of the American Symphony Orchestra League and Meet The Composer.


From August 2 – 9, the students of Vermont Youth Philharmonia and the Vermont Youth Orchestra are attending the annual week-long music camp known as the Reveille! Music Festival. The week is an intense kickoff to the 2009-10 concert season: rehearsals, sectionals, theory classes and lots of individual practicing in and around the grounds of the music center. The Elley-Long Music Center andRehearsal on lawn 2 our little corner of the Fort are hopping with activity and with the sounds of music. Seriously.

Music Alive Composer-in-Residence Rob Paterson is here, working with the students for the first time during his three year residency.

The Music Alive Composer-in-Residence program was funded by a $65,000 grant recently awarded to the VYOA by Meet The Composer and the League of American Orchestras. Traditionally granted only to a professional orchestra, the VYO is only the second youth orchestra in the country to receive a Meet The Composer residency award. Very exciting.

During Rob’s residency, the students will work with him on playing his compositions, they’ll attend his master classes and lectures, they’ll work on learning to play compositions he’s written…so, they’ll get to know him pretty well. The residency will culminate with a work written by him for the VYO and the VYO Choruses. Even more exciting.

In the coming weeks (and years) of Rob’s residency, both he and several students will blog about the residency and the activities that will unfold as the residency progresses.

But, I’ll let them tell you all about it…

Lisamarie Charlesworth, Director of Marketing

Another Favorite Moment

This entire trip was a truly incredible experience, but if someone asked me about my favorite moment, I would have to say it was performing at L’Eglise de la Madeleine. When I first walked into the church, I was completely speechless- it was by far the most beautiful interior I had ever seen. Everything about the church was amazing. This included the modern art show that happened to be taking place while we were there. The art may have seemed a little out of place at first, but in my opinion it added to the enchantment of the place. I definitely did a double-take at a weeping statue and a flowing, transparent dress hanging from the ceiling.

While we were rehearsing, we all laughed at how the sound lingered five seconds after we had played the last note of the Saint-Saëns Bacchanal. We knew it would be a challenge to perform with such reverberating acoustics, but well worth the extra effort. And it certainly was. Fauré’s Pavane, in particular, was hauntingly beautiful.

A view of Poitiers from above

A view of Poitiers from above

This photo is a view of Poitiers when we first arrived. We were driven to the top of a tall, winding hill and then let out to see the city from above and take pictures. The streets were very quiet and empty – something I noticed right away about Poitiers. Very refreshing after three days in Paris!

The second photo is of the Sacre Coeur. This one is significant to me because upon seeing it for the first time, I suddenly felt as though I had truly arrived in Paris. I had gotten over jet lag at this point and was able to fully appreciate the beauty of the city- and the view from the entrance of the church looking out over Paris was stunning.

Sacre Coeur - Emma Kast

I’m so lucky to have had this opportunity to travel and perform in the most beautiful cities in Québec and France. I hope I’ll have many more chances to return to Europe and play music there!

Emma Kast, violin           (Photos: Emma Kast)

French Reviews

Here are a couple of links to articles/reviews of the VYO in France.

They were also quite favorably reviewed in the Poitiers Centre Press. The full article is only available for purchase on their website  ( but we have a copy of the article (thanks to Drake Mabry) in our office if anyone would like to see it. I should also add here that we’ve tried to purchase the article ourselves, but are unable to do this…for some reason.


Une Coccinelle a Poitiers:

La Nouvelle Republique:


Experience of a Lifetime

Skateboarding half-pipe in La Rochelle

Skateboarding half-pipe in La Rochelle

After a very long day in buses and on the airplane, I finally got home. I have to admit that I was extremely happy to see my warm and cozy bed waiting for me! But, I was also filled with sadness because I could not believe that our trip was already over. I thought to myself, as I was leaving the Elley-Long parking lot, “It seems like we were just here!” Looking through my photos reminded me otherwise. We had actually spent a week away from home in two of the most beautiful cities in the world, having an experience of a lifetime.

I’ve had many experiences in my life that I will never forget, but something about this trip was different, in ways that I did not think possible. The wonderful feeling that I felt when we played the Pavane by Fauré in L’Eglise de Madeleine, or the amazing taste of the morning’s fresh croissant as it dissolved in my mouth with every bite; these were indescribable!

Books for sale along the river in Quebec City

Books for sale along the river in Quebec City

Although we saw beautiful monuments – La Tour Eiffel and L’Arc de Triomphe – nothing could compare to the concert we played in L’Eglise de la Madeleine. This was my favorite performance of all the concerts we played. The church was large and open with a high ceiling and our sound reverberated in the room long after we had stopped playing. I loved the history of the venue – the fact that Fauré and Saint-Saëns both were the organists in this church and that we were playing their music there. While playing the Pavane, I could almost feel Monsieur Fauré in the room with us, listening us play his beautiful composition. The flute would echo through the room and it was like hearing his soul, bouncing off the walls and filling each and every one of us. Our last concert in Poitiers at Le Palace de Justice was as unbelievable. I imagined the King and Queen sitting behind us, flames flickering in the fireplaces, watching us perform. Nearing the end of the program, you could feel collectively that we didn’t want the concert to end.

This was the last concert (in Poitiers) for so many VYO members, including Troy Peters. After 11 years as a member of the VYOA,  not having Mr. Peters with us is like missing a body part. He has been a part of my musical life for so long, I can’t believe he won’t be now. I won’t easily forget playing the high, high A in West Side Story at the very end of the concert and the expression on Mr. Peters’ face as he ended the program  and our year together. This mix of accomplishment and sadness entirely filled me.Without even noticing, my own eyes welled up. Around me, my friends had the same kind of smiling, crying faces. We all played with so much passion and love for the music and each other, the result was astonishing. I think the audience knew something was up; they seemed also as proud of us.

Making music on wine glasses in Quebec City

Making music on wine glasses in Quebec City

When people ask me how the trip was, I don’t know exactly how to respond. My head spins with all we experienced – So many new friends; not wanting to say goodbye to any of them; having the opportunity to play music, my greatest passion, in Québec and in France; knowing I will never forget anyone or any detail about the places we visited… Our music is still stuck in my head. And, I can still taste the wonderful pastries and desserts on my tongue.

I feel so incredibly lucky. I cannot thank everyone enough for this experience. Merci pour un très, très bon voyage!

Daphnée Vandal, violin   (Photos: Troy Peters, Blaise Gervais, viola)

Fans in France

Someone must have secretly videotaped the VYO’s performance in Paris. Caroline discovered them on YouTube…naturalement!

Enjoy these concert excerpts!

Vermont Youth Orchestra – Drake Mabry – Prelude And Tango:

Vermont Youth Orchestra – Troy Peters – Champlain’s Voyage:

Vermont Youth Orchestra – Leonard Bernstein – West Side Story

Vermont Youth Orchestra – Camille Saint-Saëns – Bacchanal from Sampson & Delilah, Op. 47

Le Retour

Palais de Justice, Poitiers

Palais de Justice, Poitiers


The VYO played their final concert in Poitiers yesterday. From all accounts I’ve been able to glean, it went remarkably well. Troy has also noted on his Facebook page that he was “incredibly proud” of the VYO.

Currently, the tour group is en route home to Vermont. We anticipate their arrival in Burlington later this evening, no doubt an exhausted but happy bunch, with many more tales to tell  about their voyage.


Out & About in Poitiers

The VYO is currently in Poitiers, their final stop on the tour.  Most likely, they are performing their final concert right about now at the Palais de Justice. This concert also marks Troy’s final concert with the VYO.

Here are some recent photos, courtesy of Maestro Peters.

Beaucoup de Soleil (Lots of Sun) in Fouras

Today we woke up bright and early to a gorgeous day in Rochefort. There were bright blue skies and beaucoup de soleil (a lot of sun)! After eating a wonderful breakfast in the hotel, we all piled onto the buses to spend a day in Fouras.

At Saint-Sauveur in La Rochelle

At Saint-Sauveur in La Rochelle

After being in Paris for a couple days, I actually enjoyed getting out of the huge city. Don’t get me wrong – Paris is unbelievable and I didn’t really want to leave. But, a break from the taxi horns and bustling crowds is also refreshing. Spending time by the water in a less populated town made for a very quiet and relaxing arrival and we had great fun walking up and down the streets.

First we took a guided tour of the city and then we had free time to shop. Finally, we played our concert later that night. The guided tour was fun and I learned a lot about the old city. I think it’s funny that Paris is the first city that pops into everyone’s mind whenever someone mentions France. With perhaps fewer famous monuments, Fouras was just as old and as beautiful as Paris.

Sitting by the river in Rochefort

Sitting by the river in Rochefort

After shopping in the old village in Fouras, we went to the beach to relax and play in the sun before the concert. A little awkward at first… because there were a lot of topless women… But hey, C’est bien la France! There was a very low tide, so the beach was more like a mud pit. Everyone had so much fun squishing their feet in the mud, some going all the way up to their knees. I smiled as I watched the little French kids rolling around and making mud castles, their bodies caked in the gooey stuff. I can’t even describe how wonderful it felt to lie in the hot sand and sun. Especially after being on the bus for an entire day yesterday, a bit of sun bathing was well-deserved and much needed!

Dodging raindrops

Dodging raindrops

Our concert was wonderful. We all played well and the audience seemed pleased with our performance. I have never performed in a concert so late –  9:00pm. It was exhausting, but still very fun. I cannot even believe that we only have one concert left before returning home. This trip has gone by so quickly. I’ve had so much fun and everything has been très magnifique!

I don’t ever want to go home.

Daphnée Vandal, violin    (Photos: Troy Peters & Caroline Whiddon)

A Few Things I Didn’t Expect…

Three out of four waiters in Paris cafes do NOT want Americans to attempt to speak French with them. They simply don’t have the time or patience to listen to us stumble to find the right words. They just say “English, please!” and that’s clearly the end of it. It’s a bit like New York city in that most of the waiters are in a hurry and don’t feel obliged to be overly polite to us. But, ohhh…… the food!  It’s so good that we don’t mind the occasional rude waiter.

Unless you are an avid runner or biker, it’s simply not a good idea to walk down the steps from the second tier of the Eiffel Tower to the ground. Sure, it seems like a great idea at the time, but your calves will hate you for it. It doesn’t matter if you’re 16 or 39 years old, you’ll feel pain every time you walk down steps for the next three days. Also, the avid runners and bikers in the tour group will mock you for not having stronger leg muscles.

Sunflowers! sunflowers1On our drive from Paris to the coastal town of Fouras, we were amazed to see fields of sunflowers on both sides of the highway. I’ve never seen more than a few large sunflower plants growing together in one place, so seeing a field of them with their gorgeous yellow blooms is breathtaking. Our courier, Marianne, explained that they are grown for the seeds to make sunflower oil. For nearly 3 hours, we kept coming across these beautiful fields of flowers.

La Rochelle reminds me of Charleston, SC.  My sister lives in Charleston so I visit there often, and I thought of Charleston as we drove over the wetlands into La Rochelle. Apparently it’s a popular place for bird-watching, and as a beach town with centuries of history it has some similar qualities to downtown Charleston (even though Charleston’s history is a blink in time in comparison).

Caroline Whiddon, VYOA Executive Director     (Photo: Caroline Whiddon)