August’s From the Podium: A message from our Music Director


As summer nears its end and another school year approaches, our instrumental and vocal ensembles have been busy kicking off the VYOA’s 54th season. The Elley-Long Music Center is once again filled with the energy and talent of our incredible students, and we invite you to join us for what promises to be a uniquely inspiring year.

There are many ways to get involved with the exciting musical discovery happening at the VYOA: follow us on social media @VYOAorg, visit a rehearsal, attend a concert, volunteer at one of our many events, and—if you play an instrument—plan to join us for a special community-wide play-along of the final movement of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony on April 29. Thank you for supporting life-changing music learning opportunities for young Vermonters. Without your partnership our programming would not be possible, and we look forward to celebrating our students’ artistic achievements with you throughout the 2017-2018 season.

Join us for Tchaikovsky in Vermont!
Benjamin Klemme
Music Director


Billy Ray Poli Joins the VYOA!

Billy Ray Poli has been named Conductor of the Vermont Youth Chorale. Billy Ray is currently the Choral/Vocal director at Burlington High School. He conducts the Concert Chorus, Senior Chorus and Vermont Voices, Burlington High School’s select auditioned group. He also teaches Intro level Piano,Theory and AP Music Theory. Billy Ray graduated from the University of Rhode Island as a double major in both vocal performance and music education. During his time in Rhode Island he competed both at the state, and regional level, and performed as a guest performer in many of Opera Providence’s productions. Billy Ray moved to Vermont in summer of 2013 and began his teaching career at Chelsea Public School, where he taught K-12 Music, created and fostered an award winning after school theater program, and also implemented an in school private lesson program under the Steve Ibey Scholarship fund. Since being in Vermont he has been the music director for many different theater companies including; Chandler Music Hall’s Fourth of July Musical, Flynn Teen Summer Musicals, Burlington High School Musicals, South Royalton Players and is looking forward to conducting his first show for the Stowe Theatre Guild in the summer of 2017. He also sits on the board of ACDA as the Chair for Jazz and Show Choirs, and was just named District III Chair. Billy Ray is a frequent adjudicator, clinician, voice teacher and guest conductor at many choral festival in and around the state of Vermont.

Welcome Billy Ray!

Coming this Fall: Prelude!

Click here to read the May e-newsletter, which celebrates the end of this season and looks forward to next season. We’re especially excited to unveil Prelude! a brand new beginner strings program. Also read up on the success of the online auction, our upcoming annual meeting, vocal programs, and Summer Symphony Camp.


VYO Senior Spotlight!

Nate Gunter, bass trombone
BFA St. Albans High School
Joined VYOA in 2012
VYO – 3 years
VT Youth Philharmonia – 1 year
Sinfonia – 1 year

What do you love about playing your instrument? 
I love the way it can take me away from my stresses and problems, if only for an hour or two.

What has been the most memorable piece that you performed/had with VYO?
Dvorak’s New World Symphony was my favorite piece we ever played.

What was your biggest musical breakthrough?
Gaining the ability to play the famous trombone excerpt from the William Tell Overture.

What other sports/groups/activities are you involved in?
I’m on the golf team.

If you could perform with any musician, living or dead, who would it be & why?
I would perform with Trombone Shorty, he seems like a lot of fun.

What are your plans after graduation?
To attend the Crane School of Music and get a degree in Music Education.

VYO Senior Spotlight!

Abba Weimer, clarinet
Champlain Valley Union High School
Joined VYOA in 2016
VYO – 1 year





What do you love about playing your instrument?
Playing clarinet is like an escape from the outside pressures of reality. Whenever a difficult piece or a lovely melodic passage comes along, there is a feeling of pleasure and satisfaction when played as perfectly as possible.

What has been the most memorable experience that you had with VYO?
This was my first year as part of the VYOA family, and Reveille was the highlight. Working hard for hours each day was fun.

What was your biggest musical breakthrough?
This year I was the only clarinetist from Vermont accepted in the All-Eastern Orchestra. Participating in an honours orchestra was an amazing experience where I felt like we were being treated as professionals because everyone acted on their best behaviour and came prepared.

What other sports/groups/activities are you involved in?
I’m involved in soccer year round. I am also working at the Shelburne Museum (gift store and carousel).

What are your plans after graduation?
I will be attending Skidmore College where I will be playing soccer and continuing clarinet while studying physics.

VYO Senior Spotlight!

Neil Hutcheon, trombone
Essex High School
Joined VYOA in 2013
VYO – 2 years
Vermont Youth Philharmonia – 2 years




What do you love about playing your instrument? 
Trombone is a great instrument for me since I love really brassy, awesome music (or maybe I like that music because I play trombone) and trombone always gets the most powerful fanfares in that sort of music. Also, it is a very versatile instrument and can be played in a large array of music genres.

What has been the most memorable experience that you have had with VYO?
My most memorable piece was probably the Bacchanal from Samson and Delilah. I was playing the bass trombone part and at the end of that piece I pretty much just got to play as loud as I could and it was an absolute blast. Also, the tour to Iceland [in 2015] was amazing and I wouldn’t have made some of the great friends that I still have today.

What would you like to change about the classical music world?
If I could change classical music I would change people’s mind set about it. I think people need to realize that it’s so much more than just a fancy night out for rich retirees. It’s such an expansive genre that once you explore deeper into it anybody can find a composer or piece that they like and can relate to.

What was your biggest musical breakthrough?
My biggest breakthrough was last summer when I was playing the Debussy Nocturnes and the brass section was told that we were playing together but separate. We were asked to listen to the other sections in the orchestra rather than just our own. This realization not only made me listen to the other sections more but also to myself. It really improved my playing stylistically and my intonation.

What other sports/groups/activities are you involved in?
In the winter I am captain of our Varsity Nordic Skiing team but in the other seasons I play as much music as I can, including pit orchestras, jazz band (both in school and outside) and I also play with a fusion combo called the Nomads.

If you could perform with any musician, living or dead, who would it be & why?
This is a hard question because it probably changes every week for me but as of now I would love to play with Vic Wooten. Vic’s playing inspires me to get better even though he doesn’t play trombone, I would just love to get as good at extended techniques as he has. I think his mastery of the bass is what many musicians should strive for. I also think he would be great to jam with because he’s a super nice guy.

What are your plans after graduation?
Next year I’m planning on attending St Olaf college in Minnesota to double major in both music and computer science.


VYO Senior Spotlight!

Connor Zwonik, percussion
Colchester High School
Joined VYOA in 2011
VYO – 3 years
Vermont Youth Philharmonia – 1 year
Vermont Youth Sinfonia – 1 year
Vermont Youth Winds – 1 year





What do you love about playing your instrument? 
I like how every time I play my instrument it can be heard.  Being able to be a powerful and driving force is fun when playing in the orchestra or band and I enjoy being able to lead the ensemble in many occasions.  I like how versatile percussion is and how there are many different instruments to play, from snare drum and timpani to drum set and marimba.  There is something for everyone in the percussion section.

What has been the most inspiring or memorable experience that you have had with VYO?
My most memorable experience with the VYO would definitely be my senior solo last December.  Being able to play at the OrchestraChorusPalooza Concert was very rewarding and it gave me an opportunity to play a not so well known piece.  It also gave the audience the chance to listen to a percussion solo which is not something that you hear every day.

What has been your most memorable experience throughout your high school music career?
My most memorable experience was participating in the New England Music Festival for all four years of high school.  I greatly enjoyed being a part of the festival because it gave me the opportunity to meet fellow students from around New England and it also gave me the chance to explore new music in both orchestral and band repertoire.

What other sports/groups/activities are you involved in?
I have been a part of my school’s band for all four years of high school and a part of jazz band for two years as well.  I have been a member of the Colchester High School Math Team for all four years and have been a member of the Speech Team for two years now.  I am also the secretary of the National Honor Society, I have played in the pit band for school musicals, became an Eagle Scout as part of the Boy Scouts of America, and have mentored fellow students in the district in math.

If you could perform with any musician, living or dead, who would it be & why?
I would want to perform with Gustav Holst because he wrote many great pieces that utilized brass and percussion such as the Planets Suite.  I would like to learn from him and see how he crafted all those masterful works.

What are your plans after graduation?
I plan to attend a four-year college to study mathematics.

Online Auction Preview!

Help us raise $10,000 for student financial aid …and have fun doing it!

The Online Auction opens one week from today. Click here for a sneak peek! Register to bid today and you’ll be ready when the auction opens.

Want to help us get a head-start on our goal? You can make a donation right now toward financial aid!

The VYOA would like to extend its heartfelt thanks to all of the businesses and individuals who donated items for this fundraiser. Please patronize these businesses and tell them we sent you!