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
Homeschool

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 flynnvt.org

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 flynnvt.org

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.

Class of 2021 Senior Spotlight!

Layla Morris, cello
Champlain Valley Union

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

 

Photo: Keith MacDonald

 

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

I started playing the cello when I was very young, around three years old. I’ve grown up in a musical family; my parents are both professional violinists/violists, but I always wanted to do something different from them, even at that young age. I didn’t like to go along with the crowd, so I decided that I wanted to play the cello. I had been exposed to a lot of instruments, especially strings, and I’d always loved the cello’s depth of sound. So choosing the cello was partially a rebellion and partially a gravitation towards the instrument itself! The famous story in my family is that I kept asking my parents if I could start lessons and they kept saying that I should wait until I was older, so I took matters into my own hands, marched right up to my first teacher (Mrs. Anne Brown), and asked if I could study with her. My family decided that if I was going to be that forthright about it, I could definitely handle the demands of practicing and playing.

 

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

I think one of the things that’s been hardest for me musically is learning to focus on my own growth rather than comparing myself to others. I’m actually still working on that. I am a naturally very competitive person, and while most of the musical environments I have been in have been relatively healthy, there is always going to be that element of competition, especially between young kids. I eventually learned that if I focused on my own progress, it was much easier to feel successful. After experiencing a lot of hard knocks and disappointments, I realized that trying to figure out how somebody else judges me in comparison to others is only going to make me feel worse. So, now when I’m in a stressful audition or other difficult situation, I narrow my focus to myself and tune out my surroundings, and it’s really helped me to be more relaxed.

 

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

Make it about you. Something I notice a lot with younger students is that the reason a lot of them play music is because their parents want them to, or they think it will look good on a resume, or there’s some other type of external pressure. What’s important to remember is that you are the one playing, and it’s your responsibility to decide if it’s something you care about enough to devote a lot of time to it. Something that really helped me with this was practicing on my own and making sure to take some time to play pieces I really liked and knew well in addition to those I was assigned by a teacher or conductor.

 

What other activities or sports do you participate in?

I enjoy recreational skiing, biking, and kayaking. I also do a lot of creative writing, mostly poetry and short stories. I love singing in choir and I’m currently a member of the CVU Madrigal Singers.

 

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

Of course there have been many, many personal losses because of this pandemic. One of the biggest things I have missed is not being able to attend any music festivals. I had a wonderful experience at both All State and New Englands during my early years of high school, and I was so looking forward to doing that again. There are only a few years to participate in these events, and it’s really sad that two of those years had to be missed. Along those lines, hardly being able to play music in person with others has been really difficult. Luckily, VYO has been able to meet with its many restrictions throughout this school year. Before that, it was even harder to stay motivated, especially since I am used to playing with other people nearly every day during normal times.

 

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

I will be getting my bachelor’s in Cello Performance at Oberlin starting this fall. I am so excited! I’ve wanted to study music for as long as I can remember, it’s pretty much impossible for me to imagine doing something else. I feel like music is already my career, but I know that having this music school experience will strengthen my playing in new ways and help me be better prepared for life after school. I chose Oberlin because of its strong liberal arts affiliation, the amazing faculty, and the opportunity to play historic music (baroque style). It’s been at the top of my list for years so I’m absolutely thrilled to be attending!

Class of 2021 Senior Spotlight!

Grant Bever, viola
South Burlington High

VT Youth Orchestra – 3 years
VT Youth Philharmonia – 2 years
VT Youth Strings – 3 years
Presto – 5 sessions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

I started playing the violin when I was about 3 years old since it ran in my family. When I was 15 I went to this camp for string players and I tried a friend’s viola and I immediately preferred it due to the larger tone and the larger size fit me a lot better.

 

What role does music play in your life?

Music has been a huge part of my life, I’ve been playing it for the past 15 years. For as long as I can remember there’s always been a performance or an audition I have to prep for. I have also met many friends and done many things I wouldn’t have been able to if it wasn’t for music, like the [VYOA] Spain tour.

 

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

My switch from violin to viola was tricky since at the time I was still in VYP on violin and the goal was to make it to VYO on the viola so I had to really learn the viola and get better at it than I was on the violin, while still practicing the violin.

 

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

Practice.

 

What is your favorite VYOA memory?

Hands down just walking around towns in Spain with my friends all day. It’s probably my favorite memory in general.

 

 

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

Switching to Zoom lessons has been difficult especially with having to prep for New Englands and All States but they were cancelled anyway. It however has given me more time to practice and I’ve gotten better as a player because of it.

 

 

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

I have been listening to a lot of music, facetiming with friends and family to try and stay connected, and being active.

 

Where do you plan to go to College & what do you want study?

I will be attending Marist College. I will be going to school for Computer science. I really enjoy it and it’s what I’ve wanted to do for a very long time.

 

Class of 2021 Senior Spotlight!

Gianna Stevens, horn
BFA St. Albans
 

VT Youth Philharmonia – 1 year
VT Youth Winds – 1 year

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

I like the french horn because it challenges me every day and I chose it because I loved the sound.

 

What role does music play in your life?

Music is something that I do for fun and because it’s my creative outlet. I also love to be a part of making music with other people.

 

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

My biggest challenge was when I tried taking my playing to a higher level and I got really frustrated. I overcame it because I realized that I wanted to work hard to get better at playing.

 

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

I would tell them to stick with their instrument even when it’s hard and you want to quit because it’s really rewarding to improve!

 

What is your favorite VYOA memory?

I loved playing “Smoke on The Water” at the [Fall VYP] concert!

 

What other activities or sports do you participate in?

I take piano lessons also.

 

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

I started to practice more.

 

What do you want study in college?

I plan to study something music related.