Meet Sabrina Chiang

SABRINA CHIANG, 17 years old, is a senior at South Burlington High School. She started playing the violin when she was eight years old. She has been part of the Vermont Youth Orchestra Association since 2011 and the Vermont Youth Orchestra since 2014. Her violin teachers are Ira Morris and James Buswell, a former teacher at the New England Conservatory. She attended the Walnut Hill Music Festival in 2014, where she played for notable teachers and performers such as Lynn Chang, Nicholas Kitchen, and Magdelena Richter, among others. Sabrina regularly performs at many senior housing communities and has also performed at the Vermont State House.

As a VYO Senior Soloist Sabrina Chiang performs the fiery finale of Bruch’s first violin concerto at the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday, May 5, 2019 at 3pm. Get tickets.

Standing Ovation: Monique Corcoran

Monique with daughter & VYOA French horn player, class of 2017

After 23 years in Vermont, VYOA Board Chair Monique Corcoran will be moving out of state at the end of this month. In her seven years as a VYOA parent and five as a VYOA Board member Monique has brought such a passion and enthusiasm for the arts. In the midst of planning for this big move, she carved out some time to sit with us and answer these questions:

Q. When and why did you become involved with the VYOA? 

A. I became involved with the VYOA in 2012 when my daughter joined Sinfonia. I was completely impressed by the organization, had just finished tenure with another Board of Directors and was looking for a new organization to volunteer my time and energy with.


Q. What inspired you to serve on the VYOA Board of Directors? 

A. The VYOA offers an amazing experience to students in this region. The quality and caliber of the musical experience as well as the cultural and leadership opportunities is impressive. My parents exposed me to the arts throughout my childhood, and I appreciate how valuable the arts is to our society and our culture. We must preserve them and ensure that they continue. The VYOA plays a critical role in Vermont to help ensure that this happens.


Q. How has the organization changed throughout your tenure on the Board? 

A. The organization has become innovative with the implementation of the Rug Concert series, the Music Inspires program, collaborative projects with other organizations, incorporating other art forms, etc.  This dynamism offers relevant opportunities for the students to think about and experience music in new and different ways.


Q. Why do you think music is an important part of a young person’s development & growth? 

A. Music has been scientifically proven to improve the human brain’s capabilities in math and science. Beyond that, music uses both sides of the brain and fosters emotional and psychological growth. In today’s digital world dominated by constant social media distraction, learning and performing music forces students to be totally present in the moment and fully engaged with their partners in the orchestra. The history they learn about the composers is fantastic! As a society, we don’t want to lose or forget our history. Participation in the VYOA is just one way of many to keep that history alive. 


While we are sad to see Monique go, we wish her all the best in her next adventure. Thank you so much for dedicating your time & talent to our young musicians!


Senior Spotlight 2019!

Paige Greenia, clarinet
Mississquoi Valley Union

VT Youth Orchestra – 2 years
VT Youth Philharmonia – 3 years
VT Youth Chamber Winds – 1 year











What do you enjoy most about playing in an orchestra?

The best part about playing in an orchestra is getting to know the other players and getting to understand and appreciate great music.

What has been your biggest musical breakthrough?

My biggest musical breakthrough was learning how to perform and enjoy a piece of music and not get caught up in the technicalities of it.

What advice would you give to younger music students as they strive to build their skills?

The best advice that I have is don’t forget to enjoy the music for what it is and don’t take the competitive part too seriously.

What kinds of changes would you like to see in the orchestral world?

I would really like to see more women composers as well as contemporary composers represented in orchestra repertoire.

What is your favorite VYOA memory?

Scavenger hunts and bowling during Reveille, our pre-season rehearsal week.


Senior Spotlight 2019!

Sebastiaan West, piano
Mount Mansfield Union

VT Youth Orchestra – 3 years

January 2019 Senior Soloist





How did you choose your instrument over all of the others? 

When I was five, I began playing around on my family’s old upright. I always kind of gravitated towards it, partly because of how logically it’s laid out and partly because of the grandiosity of the sounds it’s capable of. For me it’s the most intuitive way of speaking in a musical idiom, since it’s such a visual, cerebral instrument without losing the capability to create absolutely heart-wrenching textures.

What do you enjoy most about playing in an orchestra?

I absolutely love the way that we get to tell a story together. I remember being in eighth grade and playing piano for Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite–the big chords at the end were like a grand, forgiving, cleansing church bell. I have felt so much catharsis and joy and sadness while onstage or in rehearsal with the VYO.

What has been your biggest musical breakthrough?

I’d say that it was definitely touring Cape Breton Island with the Young Tradition Vermont Touring Group. We were playing mostly Celtic music, and I remember waking up one morning and just feeling absolutely immersed in beauty. Everywhere I turned there were beautiful people making beautiful music. I thought to myself, ‘you know, this music thing is kind of alright.’

What advice would you give to younger music students as they strive to build their skills?

PLAY MUSIC YOU LIKE! I always find that I play and practice best when I’m playing music that I want to be playing. Work hard, but know what you’re working for. Tell a story.

What kinds of changes would you like to see in the orchestral world?

I’d like to see a greater emphasis on the importance of music theory and composition. They’re often hailed as this ‘holy-grail’ process, that only musical elites or specifically talented composers can achieve. In my experience, composition is really the same process as performance, and studying one really reinforces the other. Of course, great composers should be hailed with the same reverence as great musicians, but that doesn’t mean that everyone can’t do both.

What is your favorite VYOA memory?

I’d have to go with every single thing that Dr. Klemme has said in his time as conductor thus far.

Apart from orchestral music, what other kinds of music do you listen to? Do other genres influence what you hear in orchestral music?

I do a lot of jazz, and listen to a bunch of Irish, Scottish, and Québécois traditional music. They really, really help me as a classical musician–as someone starting to develop their own style of appreciation and interpretation, it’s really helpful to have media where the narrative and harmonic complexity is a little bit reduced, like in Celtic trad; it makes it a lot easier to answer the questions of what sounds good in a melody, how a melody and an accompaniment fit together, and where the entire classical genre even came from.

What other activities do you participate in? 

I lead a jazz combo, am part of another jazz combo, and play piano and accordion in the Young Tradition Vermont Touring Group. I honestly spend the better part of everyday playing music, depending on what style I’m doing more of that day. School is definitely winding down but is still taking up a big chunk of my time; besides that I’m also working on my Eagle Scout Project.

What college or university do you plan or hope to attend next year? 

I’m not one hundred percent sure, but I’m pretty set on the University of Chicago, that is, after taking a gap year to play music around Europe.

What do you plan to study in college?

I’ll probably be studying something around the lines of either biology or ethnomusicology, or both, while performing regularly around wherever I end up going.