In September 2012, the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra (BPYO) was formed under the auspices of the Boston Philharmonic. Conducted by Benjamin Zander, the BPYO's motto is "shaping future leaders through music." The 120 enthusiastic and talented young musicians of the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra range in age from 11 to 21. BPYO offers a unique opportunity for young instrumentalists who want to study great orchestral repertoire in a musically dynamic and intellectually challenging community. BPYO members are asked not only to master their parts and to gain a deep understanding of the musical score, but also to engage in dialogue with Mr. Zander through weekly "white sheets," where they are invited to share their thoughts on all aspects of the music and the rehearsal process. These conversations often lead to stimulating discussions on personal leadership and effective contribution.
In the inaugural 2012-13 season, the BPYO performed two concerts to sold-out audiences in Boston's Symphony Hall and undertook a wildly successful five-city tour of the Netherlands, culminating in a performance of Mahler's Second Symphony in Amsterdam's acclaimed Concertgebouw. Six months later, in December 2013, BPYO performed at Carnegie Hall, receiving high praise in the New York Times for their "brilliantly played, fervently felt account." That acclaimed performance was released as a commercial recording on Linn Records in 2014.
The Inspiration. The Excitement. The Tour!
A review of the BPYO’s November 2014 performance in the Boston Musical Intelligencer proclaimed, “The Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra has found an essential role in our musical community in almost record time… From nearly nothing, Zander has fashioned an indispensable institution which executes on the highest level.” The BPYO operates with the conviction that music is for everyone, and that passionate music-making knows no boundaries. International tours are a vital and life-changing part of the musical and personal development of our young people: they allow our youth to experience performing in the most prestigious concert halls, to continue to learn to work together in a variety of challenging settings, and to become leaders in their personal lives. Cultural exchange and outreach activities with young people in host countries facilitate deep connections with the communities visited, with BPYO members serving as ambassadors and contributors. Collaborations with local musicians demonstrate "social action through music" and expand our musicians' vision of leadership.
When our inaugural international tour in 2013 was met with wild success and clamors for continued relationships and cultural and musical exchanges, we knew we would have the same results among audiences in new cities. In planning our 2015 tour, we selected an array of fabled venues, discerning audiences, and inspiring locations. We also decided to showcase our orchestra’s talents by bringing two programs. In the first, Natalia Gutman, the legendary Russian cellist and the last link with the golden age of Soviet music-making, will play the Dvorak Concerto, the king of all cello concertos. Natalia Gutman joined the BPYO for the Dvorak Concerto last November in Boston’s Symphony Hall, a performance that was met with rave reviews: the Boston Musical Intelligencer wrote, “[the BPYO’s] bravery in bringing that piece to this house was amply rewarded. If there were any weaknesses in the performance, I did not detect them.” The opener to this program will be the riotously exuberant Festive Overture of Shostakovich and the program will conclude with Bartok’s ultra-virtuosic Concerto for Orchestra – one of the pinnacles of the orchestral repertoire, as well as one of the most affirmative statements in all of music.
Our other tour program is equally exciting: Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro Overture, Schoenberg’s revolutionary and staggeringly difficult Five Pieces for Orchestra, Ravel’s spectacular Daphnis and Chloe 2nd suite and, mirabile dictu, Strauss’s Don Quixote, with the orchestra’s amazing first cellist in the title role. The performance of Don Quixote in Boston’s Symphony Hall last season was a sensation. You will simply not believe it when you hear it. This program would be an extreme challenge for a top professional orchestra, but the BPYO plays it so beautifully that every audience member will be moved to their core.
Two years ago the orchestra went to the Netherlands for a five-city tour that culminated in a performance of Mahler’s Second Symphony in the fabled Concertgebouw. Though nobody knew us when we set out on the tour, by the time we reached Amsterdam on the last day, the word had spread all over the country and the sold-out audience gave the orchestra a twenty-minute standing ovation! After it was over, the radio announcer asked the maestro, “Mr. Zander, how is this possible?” There were only two musical events that week that received the coveted (and very rare) five-star rating in the leading Dutch newspaper: Bruce Springsteen and the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra!
How is it possible? Well, every Saturday afternoon the musicians flock to a beautiful hall in Boston for four hours of the most intense possible training. All of them are accomplished instrumentalists at the leading conservatories and schools in Boston and surrounding areas. They also learn leadership skills, which develops their spirit, their confidence and their ability to communicate with each other and with audiences. In a sense it represents a utopian world, in which young people are given the tools and the freedom to be all that they can be. They cannot wait to share what they have discovered about music and life with the people of Germany, the Czech Republic, and Switzerland.
Richard Dyer, chief music critic of the Boston Globe from 1973-2006, accompanied the BPYO on its 2013 tour. Even before then, he recognized the inspiring leadership of Maestro Zander and the unique opportunities that the BPYO can provide to its musicians:
"Benjamin Zander was put on this earth to set young people on their path to a lifelong relationship with music, whether they become professional performing musicians or not. Zander does many things well, but no one does what he does best any better – his work with youth orchestras is inspiring both to the players and to the audiences who hear them. He leads the young musicians to play better, to dig more deeply into the meanings of the music, than they ever thought they could. When confronted with music-making on the level Zander achieves with young players, audiences find themselves listening on a new level as well. His youth orchestras are not just training themselves for music but also training themselves for adult lives; they learn social skills as well as musical skills, and learn the habits of discipline. Rehearsing with like-minded youngsters, performing, touring to Europe, South America and Asia, are profoundly educational activities. They not only change perspectives, they change lives. With his unique zest, Zander opens the doors that swing wide to reveal new worlds."
One way the members of the BPYO maintain regular communication with Maestro Zander is through “white sheets,” in which they reflect on rehearsals, performance, leadership assignments, and their own experiences. These notes consistently reflect the invaluable impact that the BPYO’s mentoring and musical education components have on their young lives:
“As a junior in high school, I couldn’t believe the music that was being made around me and it pushed me to play at that level too. Then only nine months later, we stood to thunderous applause in the Concertgebouw. I will never forget the tour to the Netherlands, the bonds that were made, and every unreal performance we gave. It changed my life. Standing in the Concertgebouw as an orchestra that was barely even a thought a year earlier felt like standing on top of the world.” – Justin Smith
“I think coming in every Saturday for the sake of this particular music is somehow like church. It’s an opportunity to acknowledge there’s more to the human experience than everyday tedium… there is love, and violence, and there are spirits and heroes.” – Jesse Gardner
“This has been one of the most incredible journeys I have been on. We built it up from the bottom, and when we finally added the singers the magic happened. It wasn’t only about learning the notes, but we learned about the passion that went into writing this music and the sophistication it requires to play.” – Harrison Klein
“Knowing that we are the first youth orchestra to play this piece is truly amazing. When we first started I wasn’t sure what to expect. While I knew how talented everyone in the orchestra was, I also knew about the difficulty level of this piece and wasn’t positive if we would be able to play it at the level we wanted to. Now, having heard the success of weeks of hard work, I have been blown away by the abilities of the musicians in this orchestra. I think this piece has taught us something about our own abilities and talents, as well as how to push ourselves to the point where anything is possible. Thank you for helping us reach this point!” – Susanna Monroe
The Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra relies upon donations from our generous supporters. As we have grown over the past three years, we have outlined ambitious but achievable goals to allow us to bring our passion and vision to as wide an audience as possible. At the same time, these initiatives provide our young musicians with opportunities for musical and personal growth that they won’t find anywhere else.
Your donation is invaluable to making these dreams come true, so we ask you to show your support by backing our project today. The total cost of this tour is approximately $800,000. This includes airfare, ground transportation, accommodations, hall rental, marketing for the concerts, meals for the orchestra, and other logistical expenses. We have secured funding from a variety of sources, including long-time supporters of the BPO, families and friends of musicians, corporate sponsors, and dedicated community members, but we still need your help.
Your contribution will not only help us overcome the financial barriers that any touring ensemble will face; it will also voice your support of the next generation of world-class musicians and of their commitment to building community and personal character through music.
For everything you are able to give and share with us, you have our heartfelt thanks.
Risks and challenges
Plans for the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra tour to the Germany, the Czech Republic, Switzerland are in the actualization stages. All basic needs have been addressed, and we have accounted for additional external factors that may change between planning stages and our departure. (For example, we have already addressed changes in currency exchange rates and in the required insurance coverage in the last few months.) There are always challenges associated with traveling internationally with a large group, but we are confident that strategic staffing, thorough research, careful budgeting, and partnerships with local collaborators in each country will provide the resources to overcome any potential challenges that arise. Our artistic and administrative teams have led dozens of successful international youth orchestra tours over the years and are thrilled to bring that expertise to the BPYO’s second international tour.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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