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

The Assignments - Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra

Roz Zander
Discussions — September 1, 2020

The “Assignments” are an important part of the program for BPYO. They are not mandatory: some of the students await them eagerly, others are not drawn to them, but everyone in the orchestra is framed by them and feels the results.

The assignments are a growing medium. For the most part they are counter-intuitive, and often present a puzzle: how can you “discover gratitude? When you don’t feel grateful? How do you “imbue the static with vibrant life”? How do you “advance the human race”? Unlike most school assignments that you can check off and be done with, these stretch into the future; they are open-ended.  Having once “walked with spirit and love” you begin a new way in the world, a new habit of being.

The assignments stretch a person’s capacities in many ways: First, participants learn that they can, in fact, generate within themselves what they thought they had to wait for from without: eg. be lifted by the spirit of the season, discover gratitude, be responsible for the whole. They have the answers to some of the puzzles within them: eg. “Get in touch with someone who is lost to you” or  they can act on a bigger stage than they had thought: “Be an ambassador to the world.”

The assignments are designed with no “right” answers in order to start an unconscious process. Have the Best Day Ever, was one assignment. That takes something when it is cold and wet and you are behind in your work, but you can!

When the students really engage with the assignments miracles happen. People win auditions when there was, in their mind, zero chance. People deepen relationships, find romantic partners, and let go of whatever has been holding them back.

Our job at BPYO, as we see it, is to provide an ecosystem for growth for the students such that they become used to thinking of themselves as global citizens, learn to focus beyond themselves, become naturally compassionate and responsible, and have a joyous, wonderful time in life. The assignments are a scaffolding for that ecosystem.


Roz Zander

Author of The Art of Possibility and Pathways to Possibility

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