By Brenna Goth, Guest Blogger
Most students join the Phoenix Youth Symphony for a challenge. There comes a point when even the best of school orchestras can become dull for those pursuing music as a serious hobby. On Wednesday nights, all of these players converge at Central High School to share their common passion: orchestral music.
I was motivated to join PYS after my private viola teacher recommended it as the “next step” in becoming a competitive musician. I joined the program in seventh grade and was hooked until graduating from high school six years later.
My involvement in PYS became one of the most influential activities in my life.
Contrary to what you might imagine, PYS is not only for young virtuosos. In fact, many of us start with only basic training and a willingness to work. PYS is broken into four levels, and each focuses on developing orchestral skills. This way, students who enter with little experience can progress and “move up” throughout the years.
When I started PYS after three years of viola lessons, I didn’t know rehearsal techniques or how to play with a group. This wasn’t a problem, as I soon learned the ins and outs of following a conductor and leading a section and progressed through the various levels.
Many of the skills that I developed, like personal discipline and how to work in a group, have served me beyond the musical realm.
PYS promoted my personal growth but also gave me experiences that would’ve been impossible otherwise. I’ve played under influential conductors, worked with members of The Phoenix Symphony, and been critiqued by regionally known musicians.
I’ve played at Symphony Hall, the Orpheum, and Tempe Center for the Arts. I’ve performed concerts alongside the Phoenix Symphony and with professional soloists.
Finally, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to and perform throughout Washington D.C., Austria, the Czech Republic, and Italy, and I can honestly say that some of the best memories of my life are from these tours.
PYS is as much social as it is musical. Throughout my six years, Wednesday nights became associated with good food and lively conversation in addition to orchestral repertoire. Every Wednesday, my PYS friends and I grabbed dinner to catch up before rehearsal, and sometimes we’d even have sleepovers afterwards.
Though our conversations spanned across all subjects, I instantly bonded with my fellow orchestra members over our common interest. I still value these friends, with whom I can gossip about Lady Gaga as well as discuss my favorite Dvorak quintets.
That’s not to say that I enjoyed every moment of my PYS experience. There were days when an impending essay seemed more important than rehearsing Mahler, or my Sundays were made stressful by a concert. And, of course, there were carefully prepared auditions that I bombed and times that my section was called out for being ill-prepared.
Despite these upsets, PYS has had a profound impact on my life. Though I’m not pursuing music at the University of Arizona, I am a member of the Arizona Symphony and plan on joining community orchestras throughout my life.
Because of PYS, I no longer see music in terms of hours spent in a practice room. Instead, I see it as a passion that’s integrated in all aspects of my life.
Brenna Goth is a freshman at the University of Arizona in Tucson. Since writing this post, Brenna has informed me that she’s joined the “Arizona Daily Wildcat” at U of A as a news reporter. I look forward to reading her work.