Practicing Under Trees

Quartet 4My primary goal during my first week with VYOA was to meet as many students as possible and to get to know faculty, staff and parents. I shouldn’t be surprised, but the students are incredibly interesting, intelligent and polite. They are a diverse bunch, hailing from seemingly all over Vermont.

It has been great to hear how much progress both the advanced and younger players can make in one week. This is no small feat, and is largely due to the incredible faculty, conductors, and the super-friendly and organized administration, but is also due to the support of the parents and their teachers back home. However, most of all, it is the result of all of the hard work by the students themselves. It was so amazing to hear them practicing both inside and outside under the trees.

I also heard some great compositions by Eric Nielsen‘s composition class—it is incredible what they accomplished in less than a week!—as well, I sat in on VYO rehearsals led by conductor Andrew Massey and VYP rehearsals led by Anne Decker.

All week, I had a chance to meet students by hanging out in the hall or at meals, but also via two classes I taught: Advanced Tonal Theory, and Meet The Moderns, a class designed to introduce the students to modern music and the music of living composers.

More VGLFor the Meet The Moderns class, I initially thought I would only play music I chose, but since my main goal was to get to know everyone, I thought it would be great to let the students play what they like. Of course, I had no idea how this would turn out, and I did not screen the music ahead of time, but it turned out to be a lot of fun: everyone has such diverse tastes. Interestingly, many students chose to play classical music but others played everything from instrumental rock, metalcore and folk metal (I have to admit that I wasn’t even aware of these specific genres), and even a orchestral/rock piece entitled One-Winged Angel, inspired by a role-playing video game. I played some of my music, and even created an iTunes playlist that contains most of the pieces we shared. We also heard a really great bassoon solo (with multiphonics!) by VYO student composer Tim Woos entitled Assembly Line.

Finally, I was very impressed by the orchestral concert at the end of the festival. After only one week of rehearsals, both orchestras sounded quite good. The audience, packed with families, friends and musicians, gave a rousing standing ovation after hearing Mary McSweeney’s elegantly performed viola solo in Berlioz’s Harold In Italy, and at the end of the concert. Hats off to both Andrew Massey and Anne Decker for doing such a wonderful job of shaping all of the pieces.

I am really looking forward to working with the students, Andrew, Anne, the wonderful staff, and everyone else again this fall and to hearing my music played by VYO in January. It is going to be a fantastic three years!

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 League of American Orchestras and Meet The Composer.

From the Top…

DaphneeThis being my 5th year at Reveille, I’ve grown accustomed to coming to the Music Center every summer to live in the Saint Michael’s dorms for a week.

This year is different. I’m not part of the younger crowd anymore. I’m a high school junior, so suddenly I’m a member of the older crowd…exactly like the older VYO musicians I used to look up to when I was younger! It’s quite strange being the older student…but I’ll admit that it’s pretty nice being at the top of the chain.

Another difference for me:  This is my first experience  as a VYO member without Mr. Peters being the Music Director. I’m not going to lie; it is weird. BUT… I’m getting used to our new conductor, Andrew Massey. I love his sense of the music. And, he is very funny! We work through all of the pieces very slowly, which can be a pain, but we have come a very long way since Monday, the beginning of camp. I always love playing with the new, younger players as they experience a new orchestra and new conductor. Ross Kelly's violin

For one of my electives, I’m taking a class called “Meet the Moderns” with our Composer-in-Residence, Rob Paterson. I didn’t know what to expect, but as the week has progressed, I am enjoying his different tastes in music and interpreting with us what we think is ‘Modern Music’. On Wednesday, he played some his own compositions and they were amazing! I especially loved the piece he wrote for his own wedding that featured six trumpets. The harmonies were fantastic and you could almost hear the church bells in the music. I am so looking forward to playing his music and to hearing more of his compositions.

Daphnee Vandal, violin

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.