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YPO is the Youth Philharmonic Orchestra at the New England Conservatory in Boston. It is a true youth orchestra, in that it consists of musicians up to the age of 18 years of age. It has been my joy and my privilege to conduct this orchestra for the past 32 years!

First the WHAT, WHERE and WHEN: YPO is a full size symphony orchestra of around 95 musicians. New members join the orchestra after winning a place in auditions held in June. All members then re-audition for seating placement on the first Saturday of the school year in September, at which time any one who did not audition in June might be considered for a position if one is still available.

The orchestra rehearses once a week on Saturday afternoon from TEN PAST THREE* until 6pm.

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The Youth Philharmonic

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courtesy The BBC & Landseer Films

* "to be delivered in an exaggerated
English Accent"

The Soloist

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Video courtesy Geovision, Inc.
Fanfare Review Of
Ein Heldenleben

The performance of Ein Heldenleben and the supplementary works of the program are of a standard to rival the very best in the catalogue.
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Viennese Critics Praise American Youth Orchestra

When the tough Viennese music critics attend a concert given by an amateur orchestra and then use such phrases as, "Bravo für ein Jugendorchester!"... the performers realize that they have arrived at the peak of perfection, at least as far as the Viennese are concerned
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High Spirits In São Paolo
In which a powerful vision is revealed as the true leader in the
lives of young artists.

On our 1997 tour to Brazil, the New England Conservatory Youth Philharmonic gave its first big public concert in the Teatro Municipal in São Paolo after three exhausting days of rehearsing, sightseeing, and touring. The house was filled to capacity. The enthusiasm of the warm-hearted, passionate Brazilian audience was overwhelming.
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The Story Of Rosario
In which we discovered how to go beyond the barriers that divide us.

The New England Conservatory Youth Philharmonic Orchestra was on tour in Chile, and it was a day in which we had a recording session in the afternoon and a concert in the evening. I thought it was better not to have a rehearsal in the morning as well, but I was also wary of how exhausted the young players might become if they were let loose on the town.
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The repertoire is extremely demanding. In recent years Mahler's 5th and 9th, Bartok's concerto for Orchestra, Harbison's 2nd Symphony, Strauss Ein Heldenleben, Rachmaninov's 2nd (uncut) and Stravinsky's Petruchka have been programmed – works that High School age orchestras very rarely, if ever, perform. . The YPO concerts, held in the New England Conservatory’s spectacular Jordan Hall, have become important events on Boston's busy concert calendar.

Every other year the orchestra makes an international tour and produces a commercially available CD.

Beyond these bald facts, the true nature of YPO is hard to pin down. Let me begin by describing the typical YPOer. He or she is dedicated, passionate, intellectually curious, patient, engaged, vulnerable, permeable, coach-able, enthusiastic and unreasonable.Let me give just two examples of the latter quality in two recent students:
Many of the students come from considerable distances to play in the orchestra, but no one as far as Marissa Licata. For two years Marissa had been driven by her parents from their home in New Jersey, FIVE HOURS EACH WAY so that she could attend rehearsals on Saturdays! For her senior year she decided to attend nearby Walnut Hill. And what about Evan Seitz, trombonist, who finding that his Graduation coincided with a YPO performance, filmed his Valedictorian Speech and had it played at his Graduation on a 20 foot screen, while he was performing Mahler's 9th with YPO in Jordan Hall.That’s unreasonable!

The instrumental level of the individual players is extremely high. It is not uncommon for a player in the back desks of the string sections to have major concertos like Tchaikovsky, Bruch or Dvorak in their repertoire.

Are these all future-professionals? By no means! The list of schools that the graduates of YPO attend (see this year's list) attests to the fact that quite a number will keep music as an avocation. However, in the two hours and fifty minutes of their weekly rehearsal, and, especially, while touring, they are treated and act like professional musicians.

Their accomplishments are remarkable and occasionally border on the unbelievable. On a recent tour to Venezuela and Cuba, YPO gave seven performances of Ein Heldenleben of Richard Strauss, notoriously one of the most demanding pieces in the orchestral repertoire, and a challenge for even a major orchestra. The final two concerts of the tour in the Amadeo Roldan Hall in Havanna, Cuba were recorded and the disc was recently released on the CPI label. It may well have been the first time that any high school orchestra has ever performed this work. Certainly it is the first time that a performance by a high school orchestra has been released on a commercial CD.

In the July 2002 edition of Fanfare Magazine, a leading journal for record buying afficionados, Bernard Jacobsen, one of England's most respected music critics, suggested that this performance might well be the best available on record - an astonishing fact! YPO performances have always elicited extravagant praise from both music critics and professional musicians.

High achievement is never completely explicable. Certainly the fact that the orchestra is part of the New England Conservatory, one of the nation's most distinguished music academies, and that it is situated in Boston, one of the country's greatest cultural centers, has much to do with it. No doubt, also, the fact the YPO is the primary orchestra for the students at Walnut Hill, a boarding high school specifically designated for the training of outstanding students in the performing arts, and therefore attracting excellent students to the area, plays its part. However, beyond that, it is probably the uncompromising standards which are set for these musicians by all their teachers that has them reach for the stars.

The underlying assumptions are that young people will produce whatever you ask of them and that the best thing you can do for them is to create an environment of enthusiasm, appreciation and high aspirations. Great works of music make huge demands on us, the job of teachers is to help remove the barriers that stand in the way of their full expression.

Here is one statement by a YPO student that speaks of that sense of
liberation that these young musicians experience playing in this orchestra.

Dear Ben,

You've taught me the different roles humor can play in working with people, relaxing, empowering, freshening. I can remember one rehearsal, close to a December concert, when we were trying to prepare Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra for the performance. It was not going well. I think that many of us, including myself, had taken some standardized test earlier that day, in addition to other rehearsals and coachings in the afternoon. I know that I was mentally exhausted, and we all kept missing notes and entrances. "Take it straight through the second movement," you said to us, "and NO MISTAKES." I don't know about anyone else, but all my muscles tensed, and I wanted nothing more than to run away and crawl into a hole. You must have sensed this, because you thought a moment and then said, "If you make a mistake . . . a five-hundred-pound cow will fall on your head." Partly from the image, and partly from the complete surprise of hearing that word out of your mouth, we all began to laugh, and everything was better, including the Bartok. I don't think anything could have relaxed or empowered me more at that moment than the word "cow."

-Kate Bennett,
from her final white sheet as a graduating member
of the Youth Philharmonic Orchestra


Rite of Spring
Benjamin Zander/Boston Philharmonic Orchestra
Ravel Piano Concerto in G Major with Stephen Drury
Benjamin Zander/Boston Philharmonic Orchestra

Mahler 6
Symphony No. 6
Benjamin Zander/Boston Philharmonic Orchestra

For YPO Student 2008-9


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