When I first found out I had been accepted into Youth Symphony in the beginning of my junior year, I was ecstatic, proud, and terrified. I had no idea what to expect and had only been playing my instrument for two years. I didn’t even own my own bassoon. I only auditioned because my teacher knew the program well (she had had several of her students play in Youth Symphony) and thought it would be good for me. I wasn’t sure about the whole thing, considering that my only experience with playing in orchestra and not band had been either with my school’s orchestra (which has about 30 people in it) or at Region festivals, which were admittedly not very high quality. I didn’t exactly enjoy orchestral playing, but I trusted my teacher’s opinion and tried to think positively.

It’s weird looking back now on how I felt about orchestra and PYS because now I can tell you joining Youth Symphony was the best, luckiest decision of my entire musical career thus far. I went in not knowing much about practicing, musicianship, or really anything about the world of classical music, and came out at the end of my senior year, majoring in bassoon performance at Eastman School of Music this fall. PYS was so incredibly musically fulfilling that I know people who go to in-state schools for music and tell me how much they miss Youth Symphony because the orchestras simply aren’t of the same caliber.

Not only was PYS an amazing musical journey, but along the way I met some of my very best friends from my entire high school career there. These young people are so intelligent, kind, witty, loving, and just generally wonderful to be around, and even when you’re a not-so-good bassoon player who suddenly got shunted into the top orchestra, they accept you, love you, and help you grow both as a person and a musician. The PYS community creates unbreakable friendships, and I know that the lessons I learned during my time with the group will be with me for the rest of my life.

For future PYS kids: It may seem weird now, if I tell you that you WILL get texts that just say “IT’S WEDNESDAY!!!!!!!!!” from your PYS friends in the future (because I totally did). Just wait. You are in for the time of your life.