“I realized that my job is to awaken possibility in others.”

A Reflection on the BPYO

Benjamin Zander Center
Ben's Blog — July 10, 2021

An assessment of the BPYO experience from a current member of the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra…


The first time I heard the sound of a cello, I was seven years young, somewhat unwillingly stuck in a first-grade piano recital. It shocked me– that there could exist such a low and soulful sound, that it could so closely resemble the vibrations of a human voice, that a note could grow so loud within itself in that way. Changed, I asked my mother for the next two years to get me a cello and let me play to my heart’s content. And so at nine years old, I held my first cello, and the journey has gone forth since.

My first time playing in an orchestra was with the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra my sophomore year of high school– an undeniably daunting first encounter for someone like me who lacked experience and background knowledge in orchestral works. Within the first few rehearsals, however, I quickly and happily realized that this form of ensemble music was much like the chamber music that I held dearly to my heart, with the same core of fostering connection and joy among the players. At the same time, I was cognizant of a unique grandeur that this orchestra clearly possessed, a sense of nobility, a notion of undertaking a challenging mission every time we commenced a piece.

I vividly remember my first rehearsal in the fall of my sophomore year. From that haunting, shallow A that trembled in the air at the beginning of Mahler’s First Symphony, or the cascading, sweet melodies that the cellos would occasionally interject with, I was captivated. I knew right away that this was a unique group of people. And of course, that sounds superficial and shallow, but I was struck by the manner in which the musicians around me were completely aware of one another’s micro-gestures, mannerisms, minute details. It was clear to me that the communication and rapport were there from the start.

With such a large body of musicians and an amalgamation of different textures and timbres, coherence comes from holding a common goal and knowing which leaders to look up to. To me, that is a big part of why I am so grateful for this orchestra. It taught me how intimately and accurately a cellist could communicate across a distance with a bassoon by simply listening and being listened to. The cellists at the first stand became role models for me throughout every piece; they informed an entire group of musicians on harnessing discipline for the purpose of precision and emotional depth without even uttering a word. I learned that you could be an effective and respected leader without verbal flaunting, or even using simple commands.

I am especially appreciative of the wisdom that Mr. Zander provides in our rehearsals. Mr. Zander’s assignments, in conjunction with the cathartic musical journey we embark on every week, offer reassurance to me after a challenging week of school. I am especially aware that in adolescence, a group of teenagers that live together and witness the world’s tribulations can quickly plunge into a cycle of cynicism and pessimism. Every Saturday, I am constantly embraced by possibility and encouraged to reset through music. Because at the end of the day, a reset is always necessary to persist enthusiastically. I learn to keep my grounding by asking myself questions: how can I make myself known– how can I feel seen by myself? How can I walk with spirit and love, and how can I befriend those two entities so that I can constantly rely on them? How can I walk with a light step and welcome things in my life with good humor?

This year, as I am getting to know the stunning principal cellist, Claire, and observing Nikki boldly lead through Mozart, or Eric celebrate Mahler, I feel even more inspired to listen harder than I’ve ever done before, to enjoy every minute I can get with this truly special group of artists. I am so thrilled to be here every Saturday. And I cannot wait to explore more music with
these people.

See What Else is New