I joined PYS’s Symphonic Winds in December of 2009 as a clarinetist, and to my own shock and delight at the time, made it into the Youth Symphony for the following season. Word was out about Kei, the new conductor in town, so I practiced the seating excerpts extra to make sure they’d be perfect…except that seating audition was disastrous. Miraculously, even though I’d never played in an orchestra before, Kei kept me in the ensemble and handed me parts, including bass clarinet for West Side Story and principal on Dvorak’s New World Symphony.

I fell flat on my face in the first several rehearsals. I’d never touched a bass clarinet before PYS and it showed. I’d look up from the stand during the solo in Dvorak, and see Kei frantically waving for me to play louder. I saw and felt how much the music meant to us all in the ensemble, and I knew I had to improve.

Over that year, PYS brought me out of a shell both musically and personally. Kei and the more experienced players offered advice and faith, encouraging me to set higher standards and reach for goals I’d never dreamed of before. Without the support of the PYS organization and members, I could never have imagined soloing with the Phoenix Symphony last year, travelling to Atlanta for ASTA’s National High School Honors Orchestra, or performing on NPR’s From the Top this past spring. Cheesy as it may sound, PYS and the doors it has opened for me have truly changed my life not just as a musician, but as a person. And of course, I will never forget the memories made with friends in PYS, from impromptu tunes for the students at Music Memory, to the Denver trip and annual retreats.

I’m truly grateful for the opportunities to make all of this amazing music and work with such talented people. Best of luck to all the future members and enjoy PYS while you can! 🙂