Class of 2020 Senior Spotlight!

Henry Wu, cello
Essex High

VT Youth Orchestra – 5 years
VT Youth Philharmonia – 2 years

 

 

 

 

 

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

I began playing the cello in fourth grade through the orchestra program at Founders Memorial School. My music teacher, Mr. Valyou, showed the class a video of The Piano Guys (a music group featuring a pianist and a cellist) playing a Star Wars medley. I was awestruck by the video, and at that point I had already played the piano for a few years, so I decided that I wanted to play the cello as well!

 

What role does music play in your life?

Music serves me many purposes; it is a stress reliever, a form of communication, and a powerful expressive medium. Music transcends cultural and social barriers because it can generate shared emotions without the need for shared experiences. I perform music to communicate my emotions and other messages to people. I also use it as a self-centering and reflecting tool to understand myself better.

 

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

In my sophomore year of high school, I joined a social justice band called SoundCheck and learned to play rock and pop music on my cello. I was challenged to share messages with explicit social & political meanings through an instrument while supporting the vocals and other instruments in the band. To do this, I needed to “unlearn” some of my classical training and focus on the direct connection between message and emotion, bypassing technique. Through my two years as part of SoundCheck, I became a more versatile musician able to play different genres of music and learned to form a stronger emotional connection to my music.

 

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

I hope that orchestra music (and all forms of classical music) can become more accessible to people of all backgrounds and socioeconomic statuses. Today, classical music is still largely seen as an archaic, formal activity for the wealthy, which means that many people miss out on the joy of shared emotion that comes with classical music. I would like to see classical music become truly available to everyone through informal performances, increased educational opportunities, and diverse ensembles that reflect the general population.

 

What is your favorite VYOA memory?

One of my fondest VYOA memories is the final day of Reveille in 2018, when we participated in a self-portrait workshop at Burlington City Arts and had a concert at City Hall Park where we witnessed Dr. Klemme juggle.

 

What college or university do you plan to attend and what do you plan to study?

I will be attending Harvard University & I plan to study education and/or quantitative social science with a focus on public policy. I was interested in math from a young age, but I have recently become concerned about the societal issues that we face, from climate change to systemic racism. I hope to combine both of these passions and use applied math or data science to analyze how effective governmental policies are at addressing these issues. The other academic interest of mine, education, stems from the fact that education can provide enormous social mobility and empower people to become changemakers in the areas that they are passionate about.

 

Congratulations Henry! Your musicianship, friendship, and leadership have been an inspiration to us all over the last 7 years. We can’t wait to see what amazing things your future holds!

Class of 2020 Senior Spotlight!

Joe Balkan, violin
South Burlington High

 

VT Youth Orchestra – 4 years
VT Youth Philharmonia – 2 years
VT Youth Sinfonia – 1 year
Presto – 1 session

 

 

What role does music play in your life?

Music is more than a source of happiness for me. I channel something I have learned or developed through my violin studies into nearly everything that I experience in my daily life. Whether it be memorization skills for academics; rhythm and coordination for lacrosse and basketball; creative expression for writing and speaking; or intonation for attention to detail, the skills that I have developed as a violinist enrich my entire existence. Through music, I can also reflect and gain new perspectives on situations, people and concepts. Finally, music allows me not only to connect with others through performance, but form lasting friendships. I am so grateful for my numerous friends and mentors in my violin studio, the Vermont Youth Orchestra, the New England Music Festival and more.

 

What do you enjoy most about playing in an orchestra?

I enjoyed the different positions and people I experience each orchestral season. In the many different VYOA orchestras I have participated in, I have been a follower and a leader. The versatility this required provided me with new perspectives and group skills. I most enjoyed rotating stand partners. This system has allowed me to get to know others from around the state personally and musically, a privilege for which I am grateful to the VYOA.

 

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

My most daunting musical challenge has been performing long solo pieces, memorized or not. I have learned to above all stay calm and keep my mind “flowing” through the piece. Particularly with memorization, I have found that forcing my way through a piece is ineffective.

 

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

Fully explore your passion for music. If you stay committed, music will enhance your life in completely unexpected, unique and incredible ways.

 

What is your favorite VYOA memory?

Eating out with friends on concert days, performing entire symphonies at the Flynn and snapping my bow before a concert rehearsal are some of my favorite, or at least memorable, experiences in the VYO. However, my solo with the VYO and CVCMF in the Bach Double Violin Concerto tops this list because it was an exhilarating performance with great meaning. I was able to solo alongside Lucas, a lifelong friend, neighbor and excellent violinist, while accompanied by fantastic people and musicians. Moreover, the intimate audience included my family, grandparents and teacher. The performance was a rewarding culmination of my musical studies as well as a phenomenal beginning to the finale of my participation in the VYO.

 

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

Tufts University

 

Congratulations Joe! Thank you for sharing your musicianship with us all these years!

Class of 2020 Senior Spotlight!

Lucas Parascando, violin
South Burlington High

 

VT Youth Orchestra – 5 years
VT Youth Philharmonia – 1 year
VT Youth Sinfonia – 3 years
VT Youth Strings – 1 year
Presto – 1 session

 

  

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

I began playing the violin when I was four years old because I liked the sound and wanted to play a string instrument.

 

What role does music play in your life?

Music is huge in my life, as I’ve grown up learning its intricacies through the violin, and later, the clarinet. Playing music allows me to relax and destress, and it’s a lot of fun teaching myself increasingly more complex pieces.

 

What do you enjoy most about playing in an orchestra?

The orchestra is a massive team working toward the same goal, and being a part of the multitude of instruments that make up the machine is a unique experience. In my experience as a violinist, playing the same part as ten or more other people creates a great sense of camaraderie where everybody has each other’s backs.

 

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

I’ve had points (most people have) where I really didn’t want to keep playing and would go a week or two without picking up my violin. In the end, though, I’ve always come back and kept at it, because making music has become a part of my life that I can’t really let go of. Once I pick up my instrument I remember why I enjoy it so much and am reinvigorated to continue practicing.

 

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

Instruments are really difficult technically and there is always someone better out there. Comparing yourself to other musicians is a path to disappointment and an easy trap to fall into. Instead, compare your playing to where you were yesterday, or a month ago. It takes a lifetime to master music, and the perfect recordings we see on the internet or through music apps took years of heavy practice to achieve at that level. Keep striving to do your best, not somebody else’s best.

 

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

I listen to classical, hip-hop, and rap for the most part. I wouldn’t say I hear orchestral music any differently because of the other genres I listen to.

 

What other activities do you participate in?

I run cross country, nordic ski, sail, and play the clarinet. I’m also an Eagle Scout and red belt in Taekwondo.

 

What college or university will you attend next year & what do you plan to study?

United States Military Academy, majoring in Life Science as I’ve been interested in biology and the human body for years.

 

Congratulations Lucas! It has been a privilege to watch you grow up over the past 10 years!

Class of 2020 Senior Spotlight!

Anna Kalfus, percussion
Colchester High

VT Youth Orchestra – 2 years
VT Youth Philharmonia – 4 years

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

I started playing both piano and violin when I was eight years old. However, in fifth grade I joined my school’s band on saxophone and about halfway through the year I switched to percussion. I love getting to play a variety of instruments; it keeps me on my toes. Percussion also requires a precision that I really enjoy and it adds color to the pieces. Imagine the 1812 Overture without percussion!

 

What role does music play in your life?

Music has always been there for me, especially when I am feeling down. There is nothing like listening to Dvorak’s New World Symphony or Elgar’s Enigma Variation: GRS to cheer you up. There will always be a piece of music that speaks to whatever mood you are in or whatever is on your mind. That is the true beauty of music, it is meant for everyone. Music has also taught me discipline through practicing and performing. The skills I’ve learned have helped me persevere in school and sports. Music has also taught me how to make the most of all experiences.

 

What do you enjoy most about playing in an orchestra?

I love how elegant yet powerful orchestral pieces are and how each note has a purpose, especially for percussion. There are pieces that have a single stroke on the timpani that is pianississimo and while it seems like it is barely heard, it feels empty when it is not there.

 

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

I enjoy listening to a variety of music but my favorites would include Broadway tunes and movie soundtracks. The percussion is always so interesting especially when the music is written by John Williams. I also like the band Panic At The Disco. Who isn’t amazed by a lead singer who can rock the drumset and then do a backflip off of them? I feel that my preference in music has allowed me to develop a better appreciation for intricate harmonies and melodies in all styles of music.

 

What other activities do you participate in?

I dance on my school’s Varsity Dance Team as well as play tennis and golf. I play in my school’s Wind Ensemble and I also sing in a treble choir at my school. I have played in the pit for a couple of my school’s musicals and I volunteer with the Lyric Theatre Company. I also work for the Vermont Lake Monsters and I am an intern for the Lake Champlain Chamber Music Festival, a position I got through being involved with the VYOA.

 

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

I will be attending the University of Vermont next year and I am planning on majoring in Business Administration. I’ve always liked being organized (I know, uncommon for a percussionist) and working with others. I am also very excited to continue playing percussion at UVM and beyond.

 

Congratulations Anna! Thank you for your leadership & willingness to schlep instruments around over the past 6 years!

Class of 2020 Senior Spotlight!

Emma Chadwick, violin
Essex High

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

I started the violin because my older sister played it. I have continued to stick with it because of the amount of intricacy and detail that you can put into practicing. It is a great musical outlet.

 

What role does music play in your life?

Music is a large part of my life. Orchestra has allowed me to not only grow as a musician but has let me meet so many new people. Opportunities like the international tour and All-States wouldn’t have happened without music. Music is a large part of my personal life as well: bonding with friends, to be able to create, and just enjoying music.

 

What do you enjoy most about playing in an orchestra?

I mainly like hanging out with the people at orchestra but when I’m not on break, I like hearing about the history and intentions of the composer. Without lyrics, purpose can be hard to distinguish, so background helps me connect with the music and enjoy its emotional depth.

 

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

Find a way to enjoy the music that you are playing. Play songs that you like to listen to, learn about the intent behind the music, or talk about your favorite music with friends. At the end of the day, music is what you make of it. Having a passion for music in any form makes practicing and the long rehearsals worth it.

 

What is your favorite VYOA memory?

One of my favorite moments was playing the Schubert’s Unfinished  Symphony for the last time on the Spain/Portugal tour. That trip was an amazing experience with many fun memories, but playing this beautiful piece with that group and conductor for the last time was very heartwarming and bittersweet.

 

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

I listen to mainly indie and bedroom pop music. While I enjoy a very wide range of music, I love the sound, lyrics, and distinct mood of this genre. Orchestral music has created a strong appreciation in me for the little details that artists put into their works that make something beautiful. Whether it be a harmony line or a special drum beat, it adds so much fun and intention to the song.

 

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

MIT

 

What do you plan to study in college and how did you make your choice?

Aerospace Engineering

 

Congratulations Emma! It has been delightful to watch you grow up over the past 10 years & we can’t wait to see what amazing things your future holds!

Class of 2020 Senior Spotlight!

Adison Granger, cello
Winooski High

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

In the fifth grade, we were given the opportunity to learn how to play an instrument. Most people were choosing the violin, but I personally enjoyed the sound of the cello.

 

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

As a full-time early college student, it is very difficult to find the time to practice. However, I make sure to get my homework done as soon as possible so I am able to get in at least twenty minutes of practice time.

 

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

Enjoy the instrument that you are playing and be sure to get private lessons early on.

 

What is your favorite VYOA memory?

I have always enjoyed participating in the school tours. I love seeing the faces on all the young children when they recognize a song that they enjoy or when they show their enthusiasm for wanting to learn a new instrument.

 

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

I listen to anything and everything, but some of my favorite genres are death metal, funk, hardcore punk, progressive rock, new wave, and synthpop. Being able to appreciate all kinds of music allows you to expand your horizons and better yourself as a musician.

 

What other activities do you participate in?

For the past few years, I have participated in Upward Bound. It is a program for first-generation college students to help provide us with the knowledge and experience we need to prepare for college.

 

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

Saint Michael’s College

 

What do you plan to study in college and how did you make your choice?

I plan on majoring in computer information systems and minoring in music. Through Upward Bound, I was given the opportunity to participate in a class called Teaching Through Technology. This is where I realized that I enjoy working with computers. I am currently taking an intro to computer science class at the Community College of Vermont.

 

Congratulations Adison! You have been a wonderful mentor to our younger string students and we will miss your generous spirit.

Class of 2020 Senior Spotlight!

Aidan Palmer, viola
Homeschool

VT Youth Orchestra – 2 years
VT Youth Philharmonia – 2 years
VT Youth Strings – 1 year
Presto – 2 sessions

 

 

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

I actually began learning violin before switching to Viola four years ago. I first heard a Viola during a studio recital (one of my teachers’ students played the Viola), and I fell in love with the deepness of the C string. I was extremely intrigued, and that was pretty much all it took for me to switch. I love the deep, rich, warm tone of the Viola.

What role does music play in your life?      

I spend quite a bit of time listening to music. I love classical music, as well as folk and traditional music from around the world. I love bringing music to life in the VYO and in my own playing.

What do you enjoy most about playing in an orchestra?  

I love that in an orchestra, many parts together become beautiful. I love getting new music and listening to how all the parts fit together- how different the melody sounds when you add harmony and rhythmic background, and how much more rich the music is with many layers. It is always so amazing to hear how different one part sounds with the entire ensemble. I also just love playing with a group of people who are also passionate about music.

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

The biggest piece of advice I would give for younger musicians is to make a goal and believe in yourself. Find a goal that you want to achieve, whether it’s a piece of music or an ensemble you want to play in (or another goal), and as you practice and work hard to reach it, remember that you can do it! Believe that you absolutely can get there, no matter how long it takes you.

What is your favorite VYOA memory?

My favorite VYOA memory is definitely when we toured Spain and Portugal last summer. The entire experience- visiting completely different countries, trying to communicate with the locals (even though I didn’t know much Spanish and no Portuguese) which was often laughable, among many other things- was amazing. I got to know so many VYO musicians that I hadn’t talked to before and formed new friendships. We had a lot of fun singing on the bus after our concerts.

Playing concerts in front of people who didn’t even know where Vermont is was also pretty surreal. I loved bringing our passion for playing music to other countries!

What other activities do you participate in?          

I participate in Nordic Skiing in the winter and rowing in the fall and spring. Beyond that, I love spending time outside- going for hikes with my dog, walking in the woods, biking, and tracking wildlife. I also enjoy art and learning about wildlife.

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

Allegheny College

What do you plan to study in college and how did you make your choice?         

I plan to study mainly Biology and do a minor in Music. I love wildlife, plants, and human anatomy and am planning to pursue these interests through biology. I’ve really enjoyed playing the Viola for many years and want to continue my love of music in college as well.

 

Congratulations Aidan! Your ever-present smile and calming influence will be greatly missed!

Class of 2020 Senior Spotlight!

Rowan Bauman Swain, viola
Champlain Valley Union

VT Youth Orchestra – 4 years
VT Youth Philharmonia – 2 years
VT Youth Sinfonia -1 year
VT Youth Strings – 1 year

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How did you choose your instrument over all of the others?
I had been playing violin for a few years already when I had the chance to pick a new instrument to play in my elementary school’s orchestra. I asked my sister’s cello teacher if she would be willing to get me started with a few lessons, and she balked–“No no no! You should play viola.” All right then, I thought; I’m pretty sure I know what that is. And that was that. I played both violin and viola for many years and then switched all the way over to alto clef in high school, mostly because of my love for the role of viola in chamber music.

 

What role does music play in your life?
Music is an area of my education for sure, and some days, practicing feels like just another homework assignment. But more often, classes, concerts, rehearsals are social and emotional highlights for me, excuses to enjoy the company of my closest friends. On a personal, spiritual level, the music I get to study is a real source of inspiration and relief. All the nuance of emotion and human experience which is contained in great pieces helps me to understand myself and feel less alone.

 

What do you enjoy most about playing in an orchestra?
The feeling of being in the middle of a wash of sound!

 

What was your biggest musical challenge & how did you overcome it?
Like any skill-building activity, playing an instrument is a never-ending progression of frustration, persistence, and “OMG I got it!” I can still remember how I almost rage-quit in kindergarten when I could never remember the bowings in “Lightly Row.” But I guess I got through (or around) it, probably by taking a nap, and this pattern has more or less been repeating ever since.

 

What advice would you give to younger music students as they strive to build their skills?
I would say that inspiration and habit are equally important to maintain. If you know that music feeds your soul, that’s fantastic, but sheer excitement isn’t going to get you out of bed when it’s dark and chilly to practice Kreutzer at 6 am. Don’t beat yourself up if it’s not always fun–it’s okay to struggle, puzzle through, and “fill up the tank” for later.

 

What kinds of changes would you like to see in the orchestral world?
If we can’t get a woman president, can we at least have a few more women conductors?

 

What is your favorite VYOA memory?
I always loved the feeling of team spirit that would build up over the course of concert days at the Flynn. Everyone is extra focused during the dress rehearsals, because the finish line is in sight; there’s usually a pep talk from the conductor; and then, you get to stroll Church Street with your friends dressed in full funeral attire.

 

Apart from orchestral music, what other kinds of music do you listen to? Do other genres influence what you hear in orchestral music?
I really enjoy listening to opera. Right now I’m obsessed with Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro; my ride-or-die favorite is Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin.

 

What other activities do you participate in?
I enjoy crossword puzzles, reading just about anything except my actual English homework, and rewatching Parks and Recreation.

 

What college or university do you hope to attend next year?
Either Rice University Shepherd School of Music or Indiana University Jacobs School of Music.

 

What do you plan to study in college and how did you make your choice?
I plan to major in viola performance, because it seems extremely lucrative.

 

Congratulations Rowan! It has been a treat to watch you grow & mature over the years!

Class of 2020 Senior Spotlight!

Kai Williams, violin
Vergennes Union High

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

 

 

Photo credit: Keith MacDonald

 

What role does music play in your life?

I think that music is my primary mode of emotional expression, both in composition and playing. A lot of what I do day to day is very intellectual, so the opportunity to make music balances that cerebral dominance. I can really let go for a few hours at a time and just release my tension and stresses.

 

What do you enjoy most about playing in an orchestra?

I love the broad variety of emotions that an orchestra can express. It’s an amazing feeling to be able to help express tenderness and love (the 2nd movement of the New World Symphony comes to mind) and fiery energy (the 4th movement, for instance) fifteen minutes apart from each other.

 

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

I think that the best advice I can give is to never be satisfied with any one extreme. Don’t let music consume your life, but don’t shut it out either. Don’t focus solely on technical skills, but don’t ignore it either. Music is constantly a compromise, and the more you realize it, the more versatile you can become.

 

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

For one, I’d like to see clapping between movements become acceptable again. It’s such a natural thing to do, especially for those not deeply familiar with classical music already, that it plays into the reputation of classical music being snobby. I think that even just the end of that one taboo would make a good start towards making classical music more relevant to broader culture.

 

What is your favorite VYOA memory?

It has to be rehearsing and playing the first 30 bars of the second movement of the New World Symphony. The beauty of the English Horn solo never ceases to move me, and the chance to play in it person was one of the most powerful experiences I have ever had.

 

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

I listen to a lot of French rock, as well as other types of rock. I think that the pared down simplicity of the genre (and other popular music, in general) helps me appreciate the complexity of orchestral music more clearly. It also serves as a welcome contrast.

 

What do you plan to study in college and how did you make your choice?

I am planning to be a math major in college (with a potential minor in composition). I don’t think I have ever really had to consciously make a choice; I have always loved math and been interested in it, and so it just feels like a natural decision. I am still up in the air about composition.

 

Congratulations Kai! Thanks for sharing your sense of humor with us all these years & we wish you the best of luck!

Words of Wisdom for the Class of 2020!

Words of wisdom and encouragement from past VYOA alums to the Class of 2020!

 

Becca DeCamp, Class of 2016 clarinet, was with the VYOA for 4 years and was a part of our Iceland Tour in 2015. She is in her final semester at Boston University studying biological anthropology and minoring in Music, having continued to study clarinet privately and perform with the BU All-Campus Orchestra during her four years of college. This Fall, Becca will be starting her PhD in evolutionary anthropology at Rutgers! Becca’s words of wisdom for the Class of 2020: “I wish I knew that finding an outlet to play music in college as a non-major is much easier than I thought it would be. If you want to play, don’t be afraid to contact the music department about ways you can get involved in ensembles!”

 

 

 

 

Sebastiaan West, Class of 2019 piano and Senior Soloist, has been enjoying a gap year back in his native Netherlands making a living as a street performer and tackling the challenges and responsibilities of living away from home. Following this gap year he is looking forward to attending university in Rotterdam! Sebastiaan’s words of wisdom for the Class of 2020: “Be sure to check out universities outside of the US, and just have fun! You’re in your last months of high school—and that’s incredibly special. Take time to bid farewell to this stage of your life, and appreciate the fact that all of your friends are still in one place. Good luck everyone, I know you’ll all do incredibly no matter what you choose to do. I hope to see you all soon.”

 

 

 

Sam Handy, Class of 2019 trombone, was with the VYOA for three years holding down the fort in our loss brass section. He is finishing up his first year at George Washington University studying International Affairs, but continues to stay active musically by playing with the school orchestra and other ensembles. Sam’s words of wisdom for the Class of 2020: “It’s important to finish high school strong and leave a good impression on the programs you have participated in all this time. Music and orchestra especially are great ways to take your mind off applications and make your last semester your best. College is what you make of it. Wherever you are accepted, if you work hard, stay focused, and, of course, keep playing music, you will do well and succeed!”

 

 

Class of 2020, you have a handful of exciting decisions to make, but only 3 more months of high school, 7 more Sunday VYO rehearsals, and ONE final VYO Flynn Concert left!