Musicians join outside orchestras for rigor and sense of community

by Eoin Walsh

On any given Sunday, junior Peter Fletcher plays the viola for five hours.

Fletcher is part of the Boston Youth Symphony, one of the many youth orchestras in the Greater Boston area. Though it is a big time commitment, many of the high school students that participate in these orchestras said they are great places to pursue their love of music.

Senior Gerald Karni said one of the main reasons he joined the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra was because of the conductor, Benjamin Zander. Zander is known for his musical talent and his ability to work well with young musicians. Karni said he wanted to continue his lifelong passion for music, and joining BPYO helped him learn and perform to the best of his ability.

“I’m always excited,” Karni said. “The orchestra has given me so much. They have given me a free trip to the Netherlands to go on tour, and we’ve played in Carnegie Hall. We play amazing music, and I’ve made amazing friends. I’m always really grateful.”

Fletcher, like Karni, had been involved in music before joining BYS. He initially joined BYS following prompts from his peers. He was unsure of what to expect when he arrived at the orchestra for the first time. 

“I didn’t really know what it would be like coming into it,” Fletcher said. “But I knew that all the violists that I looked up to in the high school were all in orchestras at the New England Conservatory of Music or BPYO or BYS, so I thought that I would get into it as well.”

Fletcher said he has progressed both as a musician and as a person through his experiences in BYS.

“Originally, I didn’t like doing orchestra,” Fletcher said. “I thought that the kids who did it seemed a lot less normal than the kids at the high school. They’ve worked really hard and seemed almost one-dimensional in that sense, but when I got to know everybody a lot better I realized that these kids could be my peers at BHS. I think that speaks to what a great example it has been in getting to know people.”

Junior Yoo Jin Ahn, who plays for NEC Preparatory School’s most advanced orchestra, the Youth Philharmonic Orchestra, has also travelled abroad with her orchestra. Two summers ago, YPO went to Argentina and played at Teatro El Círculo, one of the premiere concert halls in South America. Ahn said she loved the experience and that it strengthened her love for music and for the people in NEC.

“I grew up playing at NEC, with lessons, chamber groups and orchestras,” Ahn said. “I chose to stay here because in many ways it feels like home, and I’ve grown to love the people.”

Fletcher said a big part of his love for orchestra is going somewhere knowing that everyone shares the same goal.

“You can just tell that everyone in the orchestra is really dedicated,” Karni said. “After the final concert on tour, people were sobbing. It’s really special just because of the type of people you’re around.”

Eoin Walsh can be contacted at [email protected]