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.

Ella Poston, Cello: 2022 Senior Spotlight

Ella Poston, cello
BFA St. Albans

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












Working with Ella as she has progressed through our orchestras exemplifies what we love about working with students over the course of several years, watching them grow musically and personally through their own determination and hard work. All students come in to VYS pretty nervous but with the support of VYO mentor, Madeline Daly, Ella settled in and has left her own mark during her time with the VYOA. Her tenacity and perseverance has been an inspiration to us all.

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

The cello actually wasn’t my first choice. Along with everyone else in my school, some music classes were required. In 4th grade, I got to choose whether I wanted to continue music classes or do something else. I chose to play the violin, mainly because I was a fan of Lindsey Sterling and wanted to become a star like her. It didn’t work out, and I was eventually kicked out of the orchestra because I never participated in concerts and never practiced. It wasn’t my right instrument, and my teacher could see that. In 5th grade, he emailed my parents and asked if I would be willing to play the cello instead, and I was instantly in love. I’m not exactly sure why it clicked for me. Violin never made sense to me, but when I played the cello, everything just fell right into place.

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

Well, my biggest challenge with music is something that I have been asked about before, but it seems like I am the only one who experiences it. I have come a long way in just 4 years, but what I struggle with is depression. It has turned my life upside-down, and I become unmotivated and unwilling to practice my instrument. I am the only one who plays my instrument seriously in my family, so it was a real letdown when my practicing started to decline. I am trying to get better at picking up my cello, but it’s been starting to feel more like a chore than for pleasure. It’s not something I like to admit but it’s a challenge I have yet to overcome.

What is your favorite VYOA memory?

I have both bad and good memories of the VYOA, but I think the one I remember the most was when I first got into the VYS. I was older than most of the kids there, but I was also the most inexperienced with the whole system since it was so new to me. I remember feeling like I didn’t belong, and that I was just letting everyone down, but my favorite part was that I never gave up. It’s been nearly four years now, and though my time in the organization wasn’t glamorous, it was still a part of my journey. And I am grateful for that.

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

I don’t know exactly when it was, but I think it was during the OrchestraPalooza of 2019. I was in the VYP, and we were playing Phantom of the Opera. Near the end of the song, my scream erupted through the Flynn, bouncing off walls and making people jump. A few months prior, there was a very hectic and loud audition that took place during one rehearsal, with people screaming. I knew mine was good, but I didn’t think it was THAT good. I screamed, and I was instantly chosen for the solo. Every rehearsal after that, the other people in my section and sometimes other sections would ask me if I was going to do “the scream” that time. I am introverted, so letting so many people hear me roar that night was pure ecstasy. No one really remembers it was me, and I am fine with that, but it feels good to hear praise even today when people talk about the cello girl who screamed.

Oliver Rousseau, Cello: 2022 Senior Spotlight

Oliver Rousseau, cello

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

Cellist Oliver Rousseau comes from a family VT Youth Orchestra Association alums that includes both his father and his sister. He’s been a wonderful member of the VYOA community, he’s always there when you need him!

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

It’s pretty simple actually. My sister played Violin, so of course I had to play Cello instead, because we all know it’s the superior instrument… Just kidding! I love the Cello because of its versatility, rich tone and expressiveness. Also Yo Yo Ma and The Piano Guys.

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

When I was 13, there was a period where I kinda wanted to quit the Cello. As an early adolescent, I was just starting to find other things I was interested in, and for a while music kind of took a back seat for me. My progress slowed and I didn’t practice as much as I should have. What saved me from this dark and treacherous path? Actually it was VYOA that rekindled my interest in music, and helped me progress to where I am today. When my sister first recommended orchestra to me, I was reluctant to audition at first, but then I saw some friends of mine were in it, so I decided to give it a go. And boy, am I glad that I did! These past few years in VYOA have been amazing, and at times truly special. Okay, I admit I’m being a little bit melodramatic on purpose, but honestly thank you to everyone who helped bring music back into my life.

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

University of Vermont (UVM), though I may later transfer to Dartmouth at some point. While I haven’t officially declared my major yet, I’m currently leaning towards Anthropology. I’ve actually already been taking college classes since I was fifteen, first through Dual-Enrollment, then full time Early College at CCV, so I came to this decision pretty much just by trying stuff until I found what I liked. For a while I even wanted to be a Lawyer, until I finally figured out that Matt Murdock is fictional. My current plan is to go for a PhD in Anthropology, and then become a College Professor. I’ve always been interested in world cultures, particularly when it comes to language and religion, so I think Anthropology is a good fit for me.

Elizabeth Messier, Viola: 2022 Senior Spotlight

Photo by Keith MacDonald

Elizabeth Messier, viola
Essex High School

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


We are excited to start off our Class of 2022 Senior Spotlight series with violist Elizabeth Messier! Elizabeth has been with the VYOA since fourth grade when she auditioned into VT Youth Strings after participating in Music Day Camp (now Summer Symphony Camp). Always conscientious and responsible, we could always count on her to come in and mentor our younger string students; she inspired other students to work hard by leading by example. Elizabeth is one of our four Senior Soloists this season and will be performing Bruch’s Romanze for Viola and Orchestra on the VYO Concert, Something Suite, on February 13 at 3pm at the Flynn Center for Performing Arts.

Why do you like your instrument & how did you choose it?
I love the viola because of its dark, rich tone. It’s an extremely versatile instrument, capable of reaching both high and low notes, and is the perfect mix of the violin and cello. Prior to hearing a viola in concert, I was unsure about what other instrument I wanted to play (I already played piano), but after I heard the beautiful sound of the viola, I knew it would be the perfect instrument for me.

What role does music play in your life?
Music has played a huge role in my life. It has opened up so many doors for me and connected with me with an amazing community of people both inside and outside of Vermont. Music can be taken in so many different directions, and one of my favorite things about being a musician is sharing my passion for music with others and watching the impact music has on others. After graduating, I hope to continue exploring new ways to use music to form connections and advocating for the importance of music education.

What was your favorite concert as a performer with the VYOA?
My favorite concert as a performer with the VYOA was the final performance of the 2017-2018 season, where the VYO performed Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 in its entirety. That was the first time I had played a full symphony, and after working on each movement individually throughout the season, it was an extremely gratifying experience to play the complete work. As an eighth grader in my first season in VYO, I was grateful to have the opportunity to develop a deep understanding of a prominent orchestral work, and that season really set the tone for the rest of my time in the VYOA.

Senior Spotlight: Soloist Justin Lee

Dr. Mark Alpízar chats with senior soloist Justin Lee, VYOA Concertmaster, about playing violin and his musical plans for the future. See Justin perform his solo at our February 13 concert at The Flynn, Something Suite. Tickets available at

Senior Spotlight: Soloist Elizabeth Messier

Dr. Mark Alpízar chats with senior soloist Elizabeth Messier, principal violist, about playing viola and her musical plans for the future. See Elizabeth perform her solo at our February 13 concert at The Flynn, Something Suite. Tickets available at

Class of 2021 Senior Spotlight!

Mason Davis, clarinet
St. Johnsbury Academy

VT Youth Orchestra – 2 years














Photo: Keith MacDonald




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

I first chose the clarinet because my dad played in middle school when he was a kid. I quickly improved and enjoyed playing. I love the clarinet because it has a large range with many different timbres. While It can handle quick technical passages, it is also is commanding enough to play solo.


What role does music play in your life?

Playing music is definitely a huge part of my life. I enjoy practicing and playing every day, and participating in ensembles with my friends. Music allows me to focus my attention and improve at a skill.


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

For a very long time (into my junior year) I played on a beginner plastic instrument. I knew that it was holding me back and that I needed to upgrade. I saved up and sought employment over the summer from my violin teacher. After a lot of research and many conversations, I visited a Buffet factory outlet in New York City to buy my new clarinet. The instrument made a huge difference in my playing, and I enjoy playing on it to this day.


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

As you are learning, make sure to listen to professional players and how they play. However, instead of comparing yourself to them and being discouraged, think about what they are doing differently and how you can replicate it. Never forget to look back at your own playing and appreciate how far you have come.


What is your favorite VYOA memory?

I am very lucky to have been given the opportunity to play Debussy’s Premiere Rhapsodie with VYO. It has been an amazing, insightful, and inspiring experience to rehearse the Debussy with the Romantic Orchestra.


What other activities or sports do you participate in?

In addition to the clarinet I also play the drums and the violin. I enjoy staying active and playing ultimate frisbee, alpine skiing, cross country running, and Soccer. I also enjoy doing photography and cinematography.


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

All musicians have been hit hard during the pandemic. Music is a form of communication, and for the past year we have been confined to practicing mostly by ourselves in our homes. While the pandemic has given me a lot of free time, it is hard to keep motivation and inspiration during these times.


What are some of the things that you have done to help cope with the pandemic’s shutdown & quarantine requirements?

I use regular exercise to keep me healthy and motivated. It helps a lot, especially when we are all stuck at home.


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

I will be studying either at Boston Conservatory or Jacobs School of Music. I have known for a long time that I wanted to pursue a clarinet performance degree in college. Music has always been one of my favorite activities, and I would love to make a career out of it.