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!