PYSO Alumni Association is a place previous members can connect and stay in touch with the organization.


Many great years and some enduring friendships can be directly credited to the Phoenix Symphony Guild Youth Orchestra!

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Paul LaRoux, cello 1969-1973


Jim Benitez, trumpet 1972-1976 and Priscilla Phillips Benitez, violin 1974-1977

Tim Black, trombone 1974-1975

Now my daughter is a violist also playing in string orchestra, I’m very proud.

Chris Biggs, viola 1979-1983

My daughter, Julia, is currently a violinist in Symphonette.  Someday we hope to play in an orchestra together!

Janet Richards, violin 1979-1983


Many great years and some enduring friendships can be directly credited to the Phoenix Symphony Guild Youth Orchestra!

Cassandra Bendickson, bassoon 1990-1993

Benedict Moran, violin 1993-1998

I am sure that I would have dropped music and focused on sports instead were it not for my involvement in the Youth Orchestra.

Rebecca Grace, oboe 1995-1998

I still tear up to this day thinking about that experience. Communication without speaking. Becoming part of a unified consciousness by playing together in a cohesive unit. I do miss those days!

Heather Guerra, cello 1995-2000

Jacob Boyd, cello 1997-1998

I fully believe that PSG (or PYS, as it is now called) is one of the gems of the Phoenix music and arts scenes. It was definitely one of the highlights of my life.

Jayme Kurland, viola 1999-2004

I made life long friends in PSG and am hoping to reconnect with those I lost touch with!

Mavis Enders, cello 1994-2000

If I could change one thing, I’d try to talk 19-year-old me into finding the time to keep up with it through college and beyond. To the current group, I hope you’ll take this to heart! Sure, most of you will end up in the “real world,” whatever that is, but please don’t ever lose that connection to your music! It’s worth fighting for.

Justin Ienuso, cello 1999-2005


PSG was my first exposure to positive attributes such as dedication, discipline, and most importantly passion for ones trade or hobby.

Sky Humes, double bass 2001-2008

PSG provided me with invaluable training in orchestral playing and etiquette, and allowed me to cultivate personal and professional relationships that I still have today. Now I work as a professional flutist, and am thankful for the experiences I had in those years.

Rachel Mellis, flute 2002-2005

Two orchestras playing Mars (The Planets) was an experience I thought would never repeat itself. At least until the next side-by-side came around, where we played Shostakovich’s 5th symphony. Incredible.

Ellen Rutter, violin 2002-2011

Two orchestras playing Mars was an experience I thought would never repeat itself. At least until the next side-by-side came around, where we played Shostakovich’s 5th symphony. Incredible.

Grace Ma, violin 2004-2011

A moment in Symphonette I think I will always remember, is when we played themes from the Indiana Jones movie, and Dr. Temme repelled from the ceiling.

Alyssa Mahar, cello 2004-2012

I am still apart of PYS I now chaperone for the String orchestra retreat ad serve as a boys cabin counselor and ensemble coach.

Brian Maurer, violin 2004-2009

I was with Symphonette when we went to Vienna for Mozart’s 250th birthday and traveled around in Germany and the Czech Republic. It was so great to play in an orchestra when the only chance I normally got was Regionals!

Heather Mellan, oboe 2004-2006

I joined PSG because I wanted a place that would challenge and grow my musical abilities.

Trevor Ratliff, clarinet 2004-2007

I was always impressed by the academic prowess of PYS students–most of them were at the top of their high school classes. But most important, they were all just such “good kids.” I remember that I would see so much “bad”, either on the news or walking down the street. But on Wednesday nights, I was comforted by the fact that in that room, at least, there was still “good” in the world.

Lawrence Golan, conductor 2006-2009

I don’t think I would have chosen Music Education as my Major if I hadn’t joined PSG.

Danny Barsetti-Nerland, percussion 2007-2012

There aren’t words enough describe what an inspiring experience it all was, and I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be who I am today without PYS.

Sonia Fan, violin 2007-2013

I’ve developed self confidence, and I’ve established goals for my life that I may never have had, had I not been a part of PYS. I can’t even begin to thank the organization in it’s fullest or those who brought me to where I am today.

Lucas Hooten, trumpet 2007-2013

I wouldn’t trade the time I had in PYS for anything, for it was a big influence for my career in music that shall make me happy for years to come.

Amanda Romani, violin 2007-2013

Under the tutelage of Walter Temme, I understood not only musicianship, but also leadership and compassion.

Jeffrey Abidor, oboe/English horn 2008-2011

I will forever treasure the memories and the experiences I’ve had with PYS. This organization has greatly influenced me and ultimately made me a better musician.

Arthur Chow, violin 2009-2013

Conducting Phoenix Youth Symphony was one of the best things I have ever done, and a highlight of my musical career.

Benjamin Rous, conductor 2009-2010

Mr. Johnston, my conductor in Symphonic Winds, saw something in me and provided me with the opportunity to flourish in this incredible organization. I could not thank him enough for his support and guidance in my first 2 years of PYS.

Koby Song-Nichols, bassoon 2009-2013

The Phoenix Youth Symphony is my family. It is where I feel like I belong the most; I can be who I am, among others who similarly hold music close to their hearts. Many people have been to symphony concerts before, but being a part of the music-making is an entirely different story. The unparalleled feeling of sitting among dozens of other extremely talented musicians is something few are lucky enough to experience. I feel the vibrations of the drums and the brass players rippling through the stage floor. To the left and the right, I hear the sound of bow hairs on strings. I anticipate each cue, each entrance. I know exactly when the second flautist enters and how long each grand pause must be before the baton strikes downward once more. Being a part of the Phoenix Youth Symphony shaped who I am today, and I wouldn’t have dedicated my high school experience to anything else.

Joyce Yang, violin 2009-2014

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

Austen Yueh, clarinet 2009-2013


I gained such a love of performing that it became a passion of mine. This is a passion I hope to continue pursuing for the rest of my life.

Devan Clyde, trombone 2010-2012

Throughout the years, I got to play the famous horn solo from Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5, as well as The Rite of Spring, Strauss’s Also Sprach Zarathustra, Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2, and many other unforgettable pieces.

Clara Duman, French Horn 2010-2014

It was in that season with the PYS that I pulled my boots up and decided that there was nothing else I wanted more in life then to be a music educator.

Justin Tropio, trombone 2010-2011

Wednesdays became the highlight of my week because I got to play amazing music with amazing people, making lifelong friends and developing a lifelong commitment to music.

Jori Barash, horn 2011-2013

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.

Dana Brink, bassoon 2011-2013

I gained orchestral experience that has helped in my college career thus far.

Connor Kolacki, trombone 2011

Mr. Temme was one of the reasons I loved being in Symphonette.

Alison Llave, violin 2011-2013

Kei’s seating arrangements have given me experience playing in so many different parts of the orchestra (including a bit in the wind and percussion sections during experimental rehearsals). It has taught me that it really does require different skills to be able to play in different parts of the orchestra, including leadership and the ability to play in time with the rest of the orchestra while sitting farther from the middle.

Flavia Pajaro-van de Stadt, violin 2011-2014

I spent the summer of 2012 at Interlochen Arts Camp playing in the World Youth Symphony Orchestra. I remember thinking that I would never get to play in a high school group as amazing as WYSO after I left for the summer. That thought was quickly put aside after the first PYS rehearsal

Alex Dergal, clarinet 2012-2014

Kei pushed us every week to become stonger musicians. Under his direction I learned so much about playing in an orchestra and about playing as an individual. This year would not have been the same without him, and I know that after this year with him, I won’t be the same either.

Alexander Duke, cello 2012-2013

Walter Temme is one of the best mentors I’ve had a chance to work with, keeping the class organized but also fun and light hearted. It really made me feel like I was part of something wonderful

Amira Hagan, cello 2012-2013

At every rehearsal, I would remind myself of how fortunate I was to be a part of a group as musically talented and focused as PYS… PYS improved my overall confidence in every aspect of life. I became more confident in the idea that my musical passion would be enough to lead me to the level I needed to attain as a musician.

Courtney Schaefer, viola 2012-2013


Nathan Johnston pushed us to become better at a quicker paced and proved to us that we all had an amazing musician inside of us.

Jose Plascencia, French Horn 2013-2014

 My years in PYS have shaped me as a musician and as a person.

Aurora Lawrie, cello 2011-2015