Fintan Letzelter, Violin: 2022 Senior Spotlight

Fintan Letzelter, violin
Lake Region Union

VT Youth Orchestra – 3 years
VT Youth Philharmonia – 2 years
VT Youth Strings – 2 ½ years

Fintan comes from a long line of VYOA alums that include his mom and two older siblings! We are always impressed with the students who travel from a long distance each week, especially once the students start driving themselves. Fintan was one of our senior speakers at our December OrchestraPalooza concert and inspired us with his words of how music can connect all of us.







What role does music play in your life?        

Increasingly, music has become something I do for enjoyment, a contrast to how I used to hate practicing. I see practicing as something to do in free time, a way to relax and not think about outside stress. I’m able to appreciate music more and more as I grow older.

Who is your favorite composer?

I love Debussy’s piano compositions. His pieces are emotional in a way that I haven’t heard from other composers.

What other activities or sports do you participate in?

I run cross-country, indoor and outdoor track, and have played golf since I was a kid. I also am part of my school’s theatre program.

Christopher Bialas, Horn: 2022 Senior Spotlight

Christopher Bialas, horn
South Burlington High School

VT Youth Orchestra – 3 years
VT Youth Philharmonia – 2 years

We have been really fortunate to have had Christopher playing horn with us for that last 5 years! That is about the maximum number of years that we get to have any brass players since they start playing their instruments at a later age than string players. Christopher is a member of a musical family – his siblings and a cousin have all been a part of the VYOA. We have greatly appreciated his musical contributions as well as his easy going nature and dependability!






Why do you like your instrument & how did you choose it?

I like the French horn because it is the most stunning instrument in the orchestra, and I like playing really strong and brassy melodies. I chose it because it looked so cool and complicated with many shiny tubes everywhere. Having learned to play the French horn has really made me see music in a different way.

Who is your favorite composer?

Mahler is my favorite composer because he always writes such powerful melodies for horns and I love playing his music. I got to play the first movement of Mahler’s second symphony with the VYO, and that is my favorite piece I have played.

What is your favorite VYOA memory?

My favorite VYOA memory was finding out that I had made it into VYP, as my VYP audition was one of the first auditions I had ever done. I wasn’t sure that I would even make VYP, but it turns out that I was better than I thought I was!

Vermont Youth Orchestra Quartet performs at a candlelight vigil as Governor Phil Scott Signs Ukrainian Aid Bill

Montpelier, Vt. – At a candlelight vigil Tuesday, Governor Phil Scott signed H.717, An act relating to providing humanitarian assistance to the people of Ukraine and announced more than $640,000 of aid will go to Save the Children, a humanitarian organization dedicated to supporting children around the globe.

“We are here today to send a message to the people of Ukraine and to the tyrant in Russia: We stand united with Ukraine – for its freedom, and with its people,” Governor Scott said in his remarks. “The fact is, Ukraine’s fight to protect their people, their rights and their land – and what that means for democracies across the globe – is too important for us to sit out. We must do our part.”

Governor Scott signed the bipartisan bill, which passed unanimously, joined by Lt. Governor Molly Gray, Treasurer Beth Pearce, Attorney General TJ Donavan, Secretary of State Jim Condos, House Speaker Jill Krowinski, Senate Pro Tem Becca Balint, minority leaders Senator Randy Brock and Representative Pattie McCoy, legislators from all parties and the people of Vermont.

“In moments like this, it is easy to feel helpless and hopeless watching the suffering of innocent civilians several time zones away in Ukraine,” said Lt. Governor Gray. “Putin’s actions not only threaten the very institutions and laws Russia and the international community came together to establish after World War II to prevent human suffering, but also international peace and security as we know it. Tonight’s vigil and the signing of H.717, an appropriation of more than $640,000 in humanitarian aid to support the people of Ukraine is more than just a bipartisan act of kindness, it is an act of unity as Vermonters, Americans, and citizens of the world.”

Vermont Youth Orchestra members Justin Lee (violin 1), Emma Xia (violin 2), Elizabeth Messier (viola) and Jonah Hutchin (cello) performed at the vigil.  You can view video of the vigil and ceremony at and click here for a transcript of Governor Scott’s remarks.

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Emily King, Horn: 2022 Senior Spotlight

Emily King, horn
Missisquoi Valley Union

VT Youth Orchestra – 2 years

In the two years that Emily has been in VYO, her musical contribution has been tremendous! You can hear her playing the beautiful solo horn lines in concerts from both this year and last. We have admired Emily’s consistent preparation and flexibility to play whatever is put in front of her.

Why do you like your instrument & how did you choose it?

As soon as I began immersing myself in the world of music, the French horn caught my attention with its unique sound and beauty. It stood out to me as an embodiment of grace and majesty, and I simply could not deny that I wholeheartedly wanted to learn this instrument. In order to ease my way into the challenges that come with horn playing, I began learning trumpet as my first brass instrument in elementary school. As I entered middle school, I was finally able to get my hands on a French horn. Ever since then, I’ve only grown more passionate about this instrument, and the horn never lost its magic in my eyes.

What has been your biggest musical challenge & how did you overcome it?

Auditioning has always been a particularly scary and anxiety-inducing part of being a musician. Even after auditioning for festivals for several years, preparing to perform scales, excerpts, and solos for my VYO audition was nerve-wracking. Being part of the orchestra was a dream of mine, so when the opportunity came to finally audition, I felt the weight of my goals resting heavily on my shoulders. However, as I stood in the hallway at Elley-Long anxiously awaiting my audition time, I had an epiphany. I realized that I was there to share my love of music. I was there to show the work I had put into my instrument over the last 6 years. I was there to play my horn, which had always brought me so much joy. After that, I walked confidently into the audition room and did what I enjoyed most: play the horn.

How has the pandemic effected your practice & performance of music or participation in your other activities?

For me, the VYO has truly been a light that shone through all the darkness brought on by the pandemic. For two long years, young musicians like myself had been denied festivals, band classes, lessons, and the other musical endeavors that we looked forward to. This bleak time without music was depressing and discouraging. It seemed like any glimmer of hope to perform again was diminished. That was until I became involved in the VYO. When in-person rehearsals finally began, I was reminded of the joy that music brought me. Even though I still could not play in school or festivals, the VYO employed lots of precautions that allowed us to safely play music together. While it wasn’t a normal ensemble experience, it was like a breath of fresh air to be with other musicians again and finally create beautiful music.

Jasmin Townsend-Ng, Violin: 2022 Senior Spotlight

Jasmin Townsend-Ng, violin
Champlain Valley Union

VT Youth Orchestra – 1 ½ years
VT Youth Philharmonia –3 years
VT Youth Strings – 2 years
Presto – 4 sessions


It has been a pleasure watching Jasmin share her friendliness and enthusiasm during her time with the VYOA!







Why do you like your instrument & how did you choose it?

I like playing the violin because I like how to it sounds when your pitch is perfect. I would always go to concerts when I was young and the violin was always the one I thought sounded the best.

What role does music play in your life?

Music is very relaxing for me. Whenever I have a stressful day I pick up my violin and play for the fun of it.

What has been your biggest musical challenge & how did you overcome it?

When I was young it was hard to find other people who liked to play instruments like me. That was until I started doing Vermont Suzuki Violins and Presto where I made great friends and participated in concerts.

Noelle Cobb, Clarinet: 2022 Senior Spotlight

Noelle Cobb, clarinet
Colchester High School

VT Youth Orchestra – 2 years
VT Youth Philharmonia – 2 years

Aspiring music educator Noelle Cobb has been a stalwart member of our clarinet section for several years. She is a quiet presence that we have watched grow as a musician and look forward to having her share her musicianship and work ethic with future generations of music students!

Why do you like your instrument & how did you choose it?

I like the clarinet because it produces a warm, sweet tone and it’s just really fun to play. I chose it because I enjoyed playing the recorder in 4th grade and wanted more of a challenge. I thought the clarinet resembled the recorder, and solely made the decision from that reason.

What role does music play in your life?

I find music in itself very moving. It can give me chills, make me happy or sad, and much more. I like sharing music with other people and evoking that kind of emotion. It’s really powerful and wonderful.

What has been your biggest musical challenge & how did you overcome it?

My biggest musical challenge has been trying to play through my mental health struggles. I’m still working on it, but it keeps getting better every time. When I’m determined to do something I do it, and I’ve shown that I can make real and meaningful change as a person.

What was your favorite concert as a performer with the VYOA?

My favorite concert as a performer was playing at the Flynn for the first time. It was my first year in VYP and we played there for the OrchestraPalooza concert. It was an amazing experience and made me very happy. The Flynn is gorgeous and it was really fun to play in such a great space.

If you know, what do you plan to study in college & how did you make your choice?

I plan to study music performance and music education. I chose to do that because music is my passion and I want to dedicate the rest of my life to it. Playing classical music is such a unique experience and I want to share that with as many people as I can.