When Tears = Wipeout. The Final VYO Concert of 2010.

My first two years as a VYOA member were spent in Chamber Winds on Saturday mornings, followed by a year in Philharmonia. The best two years of my life so far were spent as a member of the VYO.

Last year, I would listen to Kelly Herrmann (VYO flute, 2009) as she played. I was able to take a lot away from her vibrato and tone, which helped me to become a better musician. She really taught me how to lead a section. After she left, I thought, “It will only be a year until I have to leave,” although then, I never thought that the time would ever come when I would actually leave.

To be perfectly honest, it hasn’t quite sunken in yet. We played our final concert yesterday.  I emerged without a single tear. Prior to the concert, Lauren Muckstadt described a potential chain reaction that could have happened if one person started crying…that would be Maggie Connors. If Maggie started crying, Lauren Donnelly and I would have too, and if we started crying, Konrad Herath and Lauren Muckstadt would have, and then Sarah Winokur, Evelyn Reed and Allie Homziak. Within thirty seconds, the entire wind section of the orchestra would be wiped out. It would only take another thiry seconds until the strings were wiped out, too. Fortunately for the sake of the mental health of everyone in the orchestra, Maggie held it together! This shows the type of bond we have created with each other as members of the Vermont Youth Orchestra. Thanks to this Association and my friends here, I have created beautiful music with the best people in the world. There is nothing like it.

I will miss everything I did with the orchestra and everyone I met. Dearly. All of my experiences with the VYOA have built the person I am and I know that I’m ready to move on, however bittersweet it may feel when this reality finally hits me. Like the other seniors, I am about to take a huge step (college) and I wouldn’t be able to do it without the foundation of friendships and amazing memories that I’ve collected as a result of my experience with the VYOA.

Huge thanks again to Mr. Massey and to everyone who works behind the scenes of this organization. What a great five years.

Emily Wiggett, VYO flute, 2010


Top: Emily Wiggett – photo by Stina Booth

Middle: VYO Performing at the Flynn Center 5/16/2010 – photo by                       L. Charlesworth

Being Andrew Massey

Riding home from Sunday’s rehearsal with Owen Tatum, we were chatting about it all – the rehearsal, Mr. Massey, and the upcoming concert – our last as VYO members. The conversation began with our memory of the Montgomery Center holiday performance in which Mr. Massey invited a handful of VYO students to participate. Mr. Massey’s wife had graciously brought us water just before the show started. But, we could not figure out how to open these impossible bottles no matter how much we fumbled with the caps! We were tugging, tearing and twisting the caps when Mr. Massey appeared and imparted on us these gentle words of wisdom: “Just imagine a cow and the little teats on her udder, and the bottle will be open in no time at all!” Yes, this was unexpected, yet this story illustrates my point exactly.

If not for Mr. Massey’s oddly hilarious puzzles and commentary, I could never have thought of the violin parts during the Dvorak as moments of virtuostic screaming in the grocery store, or of the harp part in Brigg Fair as a dream involving our most guilty food pleasures. Aside from making us hungry, these vivid scenarios helped us to convert written music into a mental images to further our understanding of the compositions we were exploring. Through this kind of commentary, we became more aware of what the composer actually intended the audience to hear. Also, our ears have learned to listen for subtle nuances and to make adjustments according to this information. It is this working style that is so entirely unexpected in Mr. Massey – so much so that he has become somewhat of a treasure to us all this past season.

Mr. Massey has clear tasks and works relentlessly to achieve them, but in the lightest, most efficient, and decidedly humorous manner. He seemed to know what mistakes we were about to make before they happened –  last fall, during our performance of the Overture to Romeo and Juliet, our rhythm suddenly collapsed, but within one measure and a precise wave of his baton, the problem was righted. Mr. Massey is prepared for anything and everything. (A relief to those of us who sometimes aren’t!)

As for those water bottles referenced in the beginning of my post, we got them open. I remember the look on Owen’s face when Mr. Massey told him to think of a cow’s teats. At first his eyes got really big and then he smiled a huge grin. This comparison was actually puzzling to me, but that’s probably because I grew up on a dairy farm and that more than likely I have a different mental image of  cow teats than the others. This is kind of cool because it demonstrates how different people interpret the same message. Mr. Massey gave us the ideas and left us the liberty to run with them in any direction we pleased…which is exactly how he has conducted our weekly rehearsals. Every week, his instructions have been translated stylistically and expressively –  our reading of the music in this way is what has made the Vermont Youth Orchestra so unique this year.

Mr. Massey has connected with each of us in some way or another during this past season. And, he leaves us with fond musical memories. I will never forget making music with him. He gives us energy and a purpose to play. He has encouraged all of us to push our limits and become better musicians. For me, he inspired my decision to major in music when I go to college next fall. Mostly, though, I thank him for every one of his philosophical comparisons, and for a great final year with the Vermont Youth Orchestra!

Emily Wiggett, flute


Top: Andrew Massey conducts the VYO in a live “From The Top” taping at the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts, February 2010 – photo by John Servies

Middle: Taking bows with the VYO and soloist Tim Woos at Winter Concert, January 2010 – photo by L. Charlesworth

Air – Thirteen Bars Worth

There are only two weeks left until the VYO spring concert!

When we first opened up our folders to learn the spring program, we couldn’t wait to get started on Capriccio Espagnol. As soon as Mr. Massey had us play Rimsky-Korsakov, the wind and brass section perked up and the strings played more energetically than ever. This may not be serious and thick like anything Wagner wrote, but it sure is fun.  Alison Gagne’s clarinet solos soar over the bouncing cellos while the violins sing a sweet countermelody. Music like this is so refreshing for all of us, as we are swamped with school and life stresses and are desperate to simply play music. However, this piece merely holds a perceived lightness. It sounds light and happy, but each section struggles with difficulties that may not appear within the printed score. It’s upsetting not to play it perfectly! And so, we work.

Within the various movements, a variety of elements must happen. In the Alborada, dynamic contrast is crucial, especially in the solo sections. The Variazioni features English Horn, which Jon Lee plays stunningly. When I hear Jon’s solos, I think of a warm family moment. The flute has a solo as well. When I play it, I think of how much air I wish my lungs would hold. (Thankfully, thirteen long and painful bars of chromatic scales have become much simpler, thanks to Julianna Matthews and our trade-off technique.) In the movements that follow, there are numerous violin solos which are executed with light alertness. Capriccio Espagnol ends with a meaty A major chord which I know the audience will love.

The two Wagner pieces and the Delius are quite different that the Capriccio. The beauty of Prelude and Love Death could not possibly be described with words (at least not with mine), but each of us seems to have an individual emotional reaction to playing it. During sectionals a couple of weeks ago, Tim Woos stated that Wagner is the best composer that ever lived. I was unsure that I agreed at the time, but the more I play this piece the more I start to feel the same way as Tim does. Brigg Fair has also grown on me. This piece is right down Mr. Massey’s alley, especially since he shares cultural similarities with the composer – I find this inspiring! Evelyn Reed and Bronwen Hudson begin this piece with pastoral dreaminess and as the orchestration begins to build, Owen Tatum plays the main theme with perfect tone. We have spent hours, since February, assembling this piece. It poses an interesting challenge in that it contains so many musical changes, both huge and subtle; we need to stay keenly aware absolutely all of the time. And, since February, we’ve come a long way with it.

I am so proud of the members of the Vermont Youth Orchestra. We have all improved exponentially as soloists and as ensemble players. The personal preparation that we take on in preparing for our performances is immensely impressive, and it makes rehearsals that much more rewarding. This feeling of
satisfaction has made my senior year enjoyable, which is something that many of my school friends are unable to say. We still have room for much improvement, but I know that we will not disappoint. The orchestra sounds great—I cannot wait to perform. May 16, here we come!

Emily Wiggett, flute

Emily is a senior at Lakes Region Union High School in Barton, VT. She is currently the principal flutist for the VYO. Next fall, Emily will attend the Crane School of Music in Potsdam, NY, where she will pursue a double major in flute performance and music education.  (Photo: Stina Booth)