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

BPYO - Rehearsal 1 + 2 - White Sheets

Benjamin Zander Center
Discussions — November 12, 2020

Sept. 25, 2020

Dear Mr. Zander

I am definitely “all in” for this year’s exploration in widening our perspectives as musicians past our own parts. I’ve read all of what you sent, and watched all the attached videos. I even tried to get through the analysis of the Ravel! Pretty heady stuff.

Not to be effusive, but I’m always inspired by this organization’s commitment to constant metamorphosis and innovation, from the live-streamed concerts to the visual representations and the commissioned pieces. I feel rather indebted to you and to Elisabeth and to everyone in the organization.

So a moment to be grateful is necessary. When I came to BPYO at age 10, I was in need of musical guidance. I had outgrown my current teacher, and you set me up with James Buswell, who has been nothing short of a guiding star in my musical development. He has been invaluable to me, musically and personally, and I could not have made the connection on my own. Thank you. With his recent health struggles, every moment has become more precious. This is just one big thing I have to be grateful for, not to mention the five international tours and Carnegie Hall. What I want to say is that my time at BPYO made me the musician I am today, and I am so grateful. I know you don’t like over-effusive praise (and neither do I), but I’d honestly be a fool not to thank you for all that you’ve done for me.




Sept. 30, 2020

Dear Mr. Zander,

Wow! I listened to the recording and just wanted to say that I’ve never heard such a pure, emotional sound from any instrument before. Mr. Cassadó’s playing was incredibly musical and precise. Thank you for sharing!




Sept. 30, 2020

Hello Mtro. Zander,

Exquisite, tasteful, effortless and brave were some words I wrote down as I was listening. There were moments of elasticity that reminded me of how you conducted the viennese waltz in the second movement of Symphonie Fantastique. Great memories… I’m glad the orchestra is still getting together even online, see you on Saturday!




BZ: Ingrid is a conductor in Australia who taught me how to do a Zoom conducting lesson.
She has developed lots of ideas about Zoom music teaching with her youth orchestra, some of which which I am planning to incorporate.
“working to help other conductors see the possibility of the moment”.
This is Possibility in action! Watch the ripples!
Ingrid and Susan, her wife and professional partner, have written 2 books  each since Covid 19 began!

Dear Ben,

I just LOVED reading about the journey you’re embarking on with the musicians of BPYO. I want to be a part of this in whatever way I can.

I do hope your safe concert went well last week – we got wind of it just a bit too late, and I think the timing didn’t quite work.

Below you’ll see a gift of ideas. I would love to join any BPYO rehearsal to contribute anything that might be valuable, and/or be a ‘fly on the wall’ in some of your Zoom rehearsals and witness it all unfold. (Even if I’m on almost Korea time!)

In the 4+ months since you came to our VYSO rehearsal I’ve been going on a similar journey with my ensembles online over Zoom and working to help other conductors see the possibility of the moment.

When else would we have considered making everyone the conductor? Amazing!

I’ve been working as a guest with high school students to elderly community band members doing online activities that reveal the magic of the score and music from the conductors perspective. I’ve also given sessions to over a thousand music educators from across Australia on how to do it with their own ensembles!

Susan and I have also both been taking the opportunity of this disruption to reimagine what both ensembles and music organisations might look like. Diving into possibility, we set ourselves a challenge to come up with 100 innovative ideas in our collective areas of expertise (Susan, of course, came up with 200+).

As a result, we’ve both written two books each, which I’ve attached for your reading.


110 Innovative Online/Hybrid Rehearsal Activities (that aren’t practicing individual parts)

I think there are lots of activities here that would be pertinent to the BPYO journey ahead

Score Reading for Ensembles – even more pertinent! This is an analysis activity I’ve been leading with my ensembles and musicians from 12 to 80+, helping them see music from the conductor’s perspective. Here’s a video of a session I did for the national youth chamber music competition (scroll down).


100 Ideas for Youth & Community Music Organisations – everything from fundraising to outreach, connecting within the organisation and to the community.

111 Innovative Ideas for High School Music Programs – not completely your wheelhouse, but plenty in here I think you’ll enjoy and ideas that are transferable

I’d love to hear what you think and also make a time to catch up on the phone or Zoom.

xox Ingrid

PS. I’ve been doing score study almost every day for the last 7 weeks now…!!! The A letter is coming true in front of my eyes!

After our Zoom lesson, Ingrid wrote me a white sheet (12 pages) and a brilliant A letter (you will read the chapter about the A letter in The Art of Possibility).  Now it is coming true. 


Sept. 30, 2020

Hello Mr. Zander,

Thank you for this beautiful recording. I found this email as I was filling out college applications (Master degree.) The stress of filling out these applications seemed to melt away as I listened to the great phrasing and beauty of sound that Cassadó produced in this recording.

I also think that the Zoom Call was interesting and successful this past weekend!



Concerning Draft 1 [Recap 1]:


I personally think that length is relative to the quality of the content. I feel that all of the pages were full of very useful information, and so I think that the length is perfect. Long enough to say what you are trying to say.

However, I can say that when I was 16 (I will be 22 next month,) I may have overlooked or “skimmed over” the email a bit. If you don’t mind a recommendation, I would say that you may consider a google drive with all of these Reviews in them, that all current, previous, and future BPYO musicians could have access to in the future. I wish that NEC would create an archive like this, that includes public domain content from our courses! It’s so often that as we age, we recall some useful information from the past that we wish that we could review, but we can’t! An archive of sorts could counteract this unfortunate truth. You could also include recordings from past tours and concerts!

BZ: This is a brilliant idea.



I feel that you were very concise in explaining information that can be difficult to convey to others! I tend to be rather verbose when teaching. I may “break down” everything in “draft 1,” so that I can try to figure out how to say things to students in a more concise way!

I found Draft 1 to be very useful. I particularly liked the part where you broke down the structure of 4/4 and 2/2 patterns. Beats 1 and 3 have an agogic accent, while quarter/eighth note beats 2 and 4 are the “weaker beats.” Boy! I wish that someone had explained that to me when I was pounding away at Etudes and excerpts for the first time when I was 14-15 years old!

I also appreciated the italics that you inserted in regards to the Performance of the Goldberg Variations at your home! I feel that it gives one insight into how somebody in a leadership position operates.

See you Saturday!

Best Daniel

BZ: Very useful white sheet, Daniel.


Oct. 1, 2020

BZ: This is a message from a mother of a young cellist (aged 13) from New Jersey. They drove up several times from New Jersey to attend my Saturday Interpretation Class and came to BPYO rehearsals

Dear Maestro Zander,

Alex has such fond memories of his visits with you and your interpretation classes as well as the BPYO rehearsals. We have never had much money in our home and mostly, have never yearned for any, but the only time Alex wished to have money was after driving back from Boston and wishing we had enough funds for him to fly to you every weekend to be able to play under your baton.

Now you will give so many a different way to be under your baton, but it will still be just as meaningful. I say this only because we were privileged enough to participate in your zoom conducting classes. Then Alex was accepted into the Sphinx Performance Academy hosted by CIM this summer and he grew so much as a musician.

But now, I wonder if you would consider allowing Alex to somehow be a part of your virtual BPYO vision. I know that he is not near Boston, and at 13, he may be still too young, but he is so incredibly eager and yearning to learn from you. Let me know if you think that this could be possible. He could even just be there behind the scenes. This is just his dream and now, money cannot be a barrier to him being near your musical essence.

You are and will always be his hero. So even if this is not possible, he will always love you.

Take care and be well.


Mother of Alex

BZ: Alex is now enrolled as an honorary member of the “crew” of the HMS Possibility! Welcome, Alex


Oct. 1, 2020

BZ: Frederick is a member of my Zoom conducting “class” (currently 274 conductors in 22 countries). He conducts a youth orchestra in Denmark.
Imagine, he is already rehearsing in person with his youth orchestra and they have a concert coming up in November.  VOTE!!!!

Dear Maestro Zander,

Thank you for sharing this beautiful recording of Cassadó playing. It is indeed a profound sound that inspires me very much!

We are fortunate in Denmark – I can have rehearsals with my youth orchestra and hopefully we will make all the way to our concert in November. We are playing Borodin 2nd, Mahler Adagietto and Blumine and Three pieces for orchestra by Bruckner.

It was very inspiring to read your letter to your young players. I have divided the players into groups this year across instrumental, nationality and age groups. I give the groups assignments to discuss and present for the orchestra during the season.

Last week I gave all the groups a copy of John Cage’s 10 rules for the student and teacher and offered them to discuss how we could use the rules during our time together in the orchestra. Every group has to present their reflections for the whole orchestra.

By the way; My principal clarinet played in the BPYO a couple of seasons ago; Tekla Nilsson. She sends her warmest regards to you.

All the best and thank you for sharing!


BZ: So fantastic that Tekla is with you.  Send her lots of love from BPYO. She was a wonderful addition to BPYO last year.  We miss her!
Thank you for these suggestions.  I will look up the Cage’s 10 rules.


Oct. 1, 2020

BZ: Nikki joined BPYO last January. She is a sophomore at NEC, a student of Ayano Ninamuya and a very gifted teacher.

Dear Maestro Zander,

I thoroughly enjoyed reading your recapitulation of the first meeting, I should also thank Alfonso, who helped to put the whole document together. Thanks to everyone, really, for making this virtual BPYO possible- Miss Christensen, Mr. Churchill, Amanda, Greta, and, of course, you.

One point that particularly stuck out to me was the discussion of emotions accompanying living one’s life in possibility. It’s not that you cannot be happy without possibility, for there’s a wide range of emotions to be felt- from elation to anger- but that you are inherently living life to a fuller potential when living in possibility. I think that pretty much explains the reason I chose to pursue music. There is something more important than societally-accepted sources of “success” like the attainment of wealth (which we all know isn’t a reason a person to pursue music😂) I can think of several specific musical moments when I’ve had this indescribable feeling of joy and passion and happiness and realization of what life can be about:

1. Being a virtual “RA” for this year’s NYO-USA ensembles. It was really so special to see how these kids still managed to form such a strong bond through what was essentially a 2-week Zoom music camp. (Most of them had never met!)

2. In Petrushka “A Peasant Enters with a Bear” – with the clarinet and tuba theme – at Symphony Hall with a nearly empty physical audience but tons of people watching online from around the world.

3. Running our teaching organization throughthestaff.org, and making sure so many deserving K-12 children receive weekly lessons from college students.

Now that I think about these experiences, the common theme seems to be that they were all within the last few months and that the lack of accessibility to in-person human connection has pushed me harder to realize the POSSIBILITY of what can be done through DIFFICULTIES.

(^ I promise you I only thought of this after articulating those experiences above)

I had a separate question regarding the phrasing lesson you are teaching. In the “Allegro” by Mozart that you have attached, what would be your phrasing solution whilst keeping dynamics in mind? It seems like a very solid forte versus piano. I also noticed that he interchanges between marking the antecedent weak versus making the consequent part of the phrase weak. I guess one would simply use the dynamics as a broad phrasing form to follow and play with the notes in between.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I was watching the Bolero… I’d seen something similar but not nearly as high quality nor as fun to watch because of their personalities!

Happy belated birthday to Maestro Cassadò. What a sweet sound, so intentional and really meaningful. I listened to it several times, each time finding more details to love. It really meant something to me, I am sending him my thoughts.

I have the same feelings about my previous violin teacher in Texas, the late Emanuel Borok, and frequently think of how he would play the music that I am playing now. I miss him a lot.

One thing I haven’t told really anyone is that I never cried when he passed away. I was very sad and probably more prone to crying when I heard he was battling severe lung cancer because I was thinking of him in pain and that hurt me. But the day I heard he passed, I was numb. I really felt his spirit with me and still, do to this day. I think I will carry him in my heart for a long time to come. He continues to live on in love!

Now, I have some good news to share. I completed my audition for the Plano Symphony this past Sunday and got the runner up/first substitute position! The lady who got the job was a violinist who completed her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from NEC, graduating in 2012, and has since been a member of the Florida Orchestra and principal 2nd violin of the Sarasota Orchestra (apparently she was also a finalist in the finals for the associate concertmaster position in the Dallas Opera) maybe she played in BPYO too, Samantha Bennett. Do you recognize her? More than anything, I am so looking forward to playing on the PSO’s first concert of the season! It will be a special experience- I will tell you how it goes. The repertoire consists of “Eroica” and concerti movements performed by the winners of our local concerto competition from last March.

Looking forward to Saturday’s session.

All the best,


BZ: Nikki has identified perfectly the difference between living in the downward spiral of complaint and despair and living in Possibility.   She is doing the Assignment – throwing herself into life like a pebble into a pond and now she gets to watch the ripples. Thank you, Nikki for the contribution you are!


Oct. 2, 2020

Hi Mr. Zander,

Sure, I would be happy to play the Beethoven excerpt tomorrow!

I really enjoyed the first BPYO rehearsal last week. I have watched your Ted Talk in the past, and it was fun to see you describe “one buttock playing” again in depth during the zoom session. I did read your letter, and even though it might have seemed like a long letter, it actually flowed very nicely and I found it very useful to have all the topics discussed during the zoom session summarized with additional interesting ideas and short anecdotes. I am looking forward to learning how to conduct, as well as read “The Art of Possibility”!

Best, Brian

BZ: Brian, I love that you call our sessions “rehearsals”, because actually that is what they are.
You played beautifully in the Beethoven 5th excerpt. Welcome to BPYO!


Oct. 3, 2020

BZ: This is from Simon Zerpa who is a conductor from Venezuela studying in OHIO. He studied in my conducting class last summer in Aruba and  organized a Zoom conducting class with 274 participants in 22 countries! I sent him (and all the conductors) the Review of the first rehearsal.

Hi maestro!

Wow… thanks! You have shared pure gold with all of us.

It is very inspiring, admirable, and certainly exciting to see the magnificent Orchestral Studies Program that you have planned for your beloved BPYO players this year.

I found it amazingly interesting and formative to read all your instructions on the Flute and Oboe excerpts, and listen/watch all of those great videos and recordings, and learn from them. Will you continue examining orchestral excerpts like these ones with them during the year? With all of this very valuable written material that you are creating now you could later think about putting together a book. Most of the things that you would normally teach to your orchestras during your rehearsals are going to be put into written words, which I think is marvelous, and eventually could be made available to a lot of people if it gets published!

My mother used to encourage me (and still does nowadays), every time I faced a difficulty, to think about what was the purpose of that situation in my life, what did we have to learn from that. Probably I did not always understand or notice the profound meaning of such advice in my early years, but little by little it was shaping me to always finding purpose in what I do and always finding the positive side of all hard situations. And I have to say that I am amazed and feel inspired by your response to the challenge that the new world is calling us on.

If possible, I would love to observe your BPYO class every Saturday, just like a spectator, if you think it would be convenient.

Thanks again for sharing, maestro!

With love,


BZ: I would like to invite Simon to join our journey as a guest.


Oct. 3, 2020

Dear Mr. Zander,

On Monday, I studied through the night for a math test Tuesday morning, my mind distant from the bodily routine of typing in numbers to my calculator. On Thursday, I spent my limited free moments throughout the day, cramming in writing for an english class deadline, my eyes watery from my computer’s glaring blue light. This Saturday morning, I traveled to school to take the SAT, where I remained confined in the bounds of time, uncomfortable by my acute awareness of each test question.

I then returned home proceeding the test and joined the BPYO zoom. Instantly, I was transported to a better place and a better “being.” I felt free, finally – nothing else bogging me down, or important enough to take control of my focus. The sound of my laughter after hearing your story of the Juillard quartet and the cellist’s act of playing the first bar heavily, the physical yet internal grounding and stability I felt as Henry drew his bow across the string of his final note of his caprice, and the intense churn of gears in my brain as I processed our discussion regarding ambiguity in the four or six bar phrase – these three moments were simply breathtaking, and far more replenishing and gratifying than the other frivolous activities I found myself partaking in, earlier in my week.

I understand that you are looking for ways to make the zoom classes more engaging, but my one honest piece of “feedback” is to just keep having them. Nothing more do I feel is required, and nothing less.

Thank you for the genuine moments you graciously gift us each week. Although Saturday afternoons, for all of us, are not what we expected, the emotional sentiment is just as valuable and ever present.



BZ:  Thank you Melanie for this beautiful message.  It really says it all and makes the whole enterprise feel so worthwhile.


Oct. 3, 2020

Hi Mr. Zander,

I just want to write about my thoughts before the rehearsal today. I’ve had a very hectic week (I have been moving to a new home!), and it constantly felt like things were moving faster than I could handle. When you sent this email, I listened to the recording and immediately thought about the story that you told of Cassado.

If I recall correctly, there was a concert where Cassado was “playing like a pig”. However, when you turned to look at the people sitting next to you, there was a woman with tears streaming down her face. At the time, I did not realize the extent of how wonderfully crafted Cassado’s music is.

Listening to the recording, I was swept away into a new world. All my troubles and my stresses from school and moving and everything about life didn’t matter; all that mattered was the pulling and pushing of Cassado’s musicality and the way it tugged on my heart. Even with the crackling of the recording, I could still hear the power of his voice through his instrument, and that to me is amazing.

Thank you so much for sharing!

With love,

John Qiu


Oct. 4, 2020

To Mr. Ben Zander,

Amongst all the chaos, I can honestly say the two hours I spend on Saturdays with BPYO is a major source of anxiety and stress relief. Coming back to school after months of self-reflection and quarantine confined in my little room in Lincoln MA has been a whirlwind of emotions. Entering my Junior year it’s been difficult to adjust to the new environment and I look to music as my oasis. I’ve been struggling with my interpretations of Bach and Hindemith on the viola and listening to Gaspar Cassadó’s cello performance left me inspired and motivated to reach such a level of sophisticated and intuitive playing. I am readily challenged and open to this journey with you and 70+ other ambitious musicians, and I’m very excited for what’s to come.



Oct. 8, 2020

Ben, this is a brilliant offering, and we all are thankful to you for your forward moving and encompassing energy!



Oct. 9, 2020

Dear Maestro,

I had a wonderful time with you and the rest of the BPYO last Saturday so thank you so much for inviting me.  I have learned lots of things this week and have also taught two people about the 4 bar phrase idea.  I found that when I started to compare speech and musical phrases, that the people I taught really began to understand my lesson.

From reading the first chapter of your book, “The Art of Possibility”, I really liked how the title represents how different people can have different ideas about the same thing.  You can have one person saying in a negative way, “Oh what are we going to do now? ” or another person saying an exciting way “Oh, yay, what do we get to do now?”  This is something that I loved reading about.

I have also enjoyed beginning to learn how the brain works and specifically how there are different parts to the brain.  I think it’s important to know these things because then you can begin to understand how our thoughts and actions are connected.

I am truly excited to get to see you and the members of BPYO tomorrow as we have more musical adventures together.


Alex, cellist, age 13 from NJ


BZ: This is from the Chairman of our Board, Sherie Bush:

Good morning!  This is wonderful.  I really do enjoy reading these and particularly listening to the clips.  Please keep sharing!!   The BPYO participants are enjoying a unique educational experience this year.   And the insights into the various works help me listen to music in a different way.  I find myself increasingly critiquing conductors’ interpretations of orchestral works thinking “How would Ben interpret this?”  As Maestro Gergiev  said to you, 94% is just performing, only 6% moves the soul!

Have a great session today!!



Click here to read Rehearsal 1 – Recap

Click here to read Rehearsal 2 – Recap


View all the Rehearsal Recaps in the BPYO during COVID Collection.

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