youth playing in concert

Musician Testimonials

Hear what youth and alumni have to say about their experiences in BYSO.

As a home-schooled violist, I had never been in an orchestra in my life. I always dreamed of being in an orchestra. When I learned that I was going to BYSO camp 2015, I was thrilled! When I went there the first day, I could barely read music, and was scared by the difficult pieces. However, when we started playing and I played the few notes every line I could, it was wonderful. I had never experienced anything with such beauty as I had stumbling through the pieces. When the camp was over, I finally convinced my parents to let me play in Debut String Orchestra. There, I made awesome friends and learned so much more about music. I developed a love for the dramatic pieces like Legend and America’s Cup, and BYSO is still my favorite place in the world to go on Monday nights. BYSO rocks!  — Elise, age 13


In BYSO, I found a group who accepted me for who I am and loved me for it. — Lenna, age 14


My BYSO experience shaped me into the musician I am today. … Today my participation in an adult community symphony brings great enjoyment to my life, and I have BYSO to thank for establishing me in the wonderful world of classical music. — Spencer, alumnus (1999–2004)


When I first joined BYSO I was scared to go to the rehearsals because I didn’t know what it would be like. On the first day when I got home I thought the music was so hard and I thought I might pass out of stress. But after a few months, I got used to hard music and I am used to all that stress. BYSO has changed me by making me practice more and do harder stuff to challenge myself. Now I can play music that I never thought I could.

There are many reasons why I like BYSO. One thing I like about BYSO is the music pieces that sound great and it always gives me a bit of a challenge. Another thing I like about BYSO is how they give us/me advice to help make us better musicians. Another thing I like about BYSO is about how you can make new friends.

— Daniel, age 8


BYSO has impacted my life in many ways: having to come home late on Mondays while eating dinner in the car, getting to bed past my bedtime and needing to spend even more time practicing violin while having less time to do homework and play. BUT, it’s all well worth it because BYSO has also impacted me in how I understand and appreciate music! Last year at my first BYSO practice I heard the sound of music from the middle of a symphony for the first time and it was amazing! Being a small part of that big sound is so much fun. Learning an instrument can be lonely, hard work but playing in BYSO and hearing that sound is my reward. — Isabel, age 9


Noisy orchestra
Random notes here and there
Sharps and flats jumbled up in knots
New music

Second week
Better second week
Songs are “song want-to-be’s”
Pretty music covered in mud
Needs some work

Last rehearsal
Almost performable
Music with a couple little flaws
Almost there

Peaceful performance
Music dancing in air
Like angels and dolphins combined

— Catherine, age 10


BYSO has been an extremely influential force on my life. … I have learned the importance of self-confidence, but also the treasure of modesty. I’ve learned the importance of friends to motivate you, and I’ve had it proven to me many times over that hard work and pushing yourself will inevitably lead to many victories and triumphs. I’ve also learned that when given the opportunity, you have to seize it and use it to grow. If you have to fake it till you make it, then so be it, but one day you’ll be sitting right in front of the conductor in first stand, realizing that all of your hard work has finally paid off.  — Sidney, age 15


Bellevue Youth Symphony Orchestra taught me that there is no age limit in achieving an amazing musical experience. I did not have to be a professional violinist to enjoy the benefits of playing in an orchestra and did not have to be a connoisseur to appreciate the music of my fellow musicians. … This orchestra not only gave me countless opportunities to express myself, but provided me with a community to belong in. A world of music is a fascinating one to explore. I’m glad I am doing so with the members of the Bellevue Youth Symphony Orchestra.  — Cayla, age 16


I love BYSO so much! Not only is it fun, but it really has enhanced my love for music and has taught me so many things. 🙂  — Clarisse, age 13


The overall selection of music is a treat to listen to and to perform.  — Mac, alumnus (2008–10)


My favorite memory is when we were at retreat, having break time, and someone started playing Viva la Vida on piano and the entire orchestra just kind of joined in improv-ing Viva la Vida by ear.  — Maggie, alumna (2010–13)


Favorite memories: Adam Stern doing a hand stand and telling a car alarm that it was flat. The way he described the feeling of the music was a great help.   — Melody, alumna (2001–05)


BYSO is a great program and definitely contributed to my musical success. I remember playing at the Meydenbauer Center with the Youth Symphony Orchestra, as well as for the Bellevue July 4th concert, and there were one of my most memorable experiences with the program. Thank you so much for all you have done!!  — Pavel, alumnus (2005–08)


It was the only time there were strings in a group I played in. I had always played in the Issaquah Bands. It was also the first time I became aware someone could go to Europe for a ski vacation and not just Snoqualmie Pass. Rural meets Mercer Island. Even with that we were all just the same in the orchestra playing for our chairs. It is hard to imagine that was 50 years ago.  — Julie, alumna (1965)


I loved the summer camps!  — Hannah, alumna


My first orchestra was Debut four years ago. From learning how to hold a cello to playing songs by myself, I was incredibly nervous playing with people and holding myself with people. BYSO has helped me both in life, music and perhaps the greatest opportunity BYSO could offer… friendship. In my 4th year at BYSO with Philharmonia, I have friends that we all share in common. We play music well at the same level and are friends that I will have forever. BYSO has served 4 years well for me, 50 years in all, and may 50 years continue to come. 🙂  — Chris, age 14


Favorite memory: Being able to perform in front of an audience for the first time in my life!  — Khalil, alumnus


Music has has helped me through everything thick and thin, and has gotten me through very hard situations. Music through BYSO has been a positive influence and has given me inspiration that will last a lifetime! Being able to interact and work with other young musicians allowed me to expand my musical knowledge and enjoyment. The conductors encouraged me to work hard and I love working with the orchestra!  — Megan, age 16


Its my second year at BYSO and I love it here! BYSO has taught me so many things! One thing BYSO taught me is how to play with a team and how to stay together! Also if it weren’t for BYSO I would have never learned to play the beautiful songs Mrs.Gyro picks! I also had a great time at BYSO because it was an opportunity for me to learn to play the violin better than I did before! But the 2 most important things BYSO taught me is to have fun and to make new friends!  — Sofia, age 9


If I had never joined BYSO, I wouldn’t have been the great musician I am today. I have grown confidence of playing an instrument in public; with a crowd of people watching. I have made several friends; all who have the same interest as me. I have been able to feel the exhilarated feeling of being part of a wonderful, family-like, organization that challenges one’s ability to become a better instrumentalist; a better person. I want to thank BYSO for all the achievements I have accomplished over the years from being a BYSO musician. BYSO is no doubt something everyone should have the chance to experience.  — Madeline, age 14


BYSO helped me realize that music is about sharing emotions and kindness with other people and not being the best.  — Lauren, age 12


BYSO has given me so much over the past two years, including new friends, new music, new opportunities, much heartbreak, new expectations, and so much experience. I see BYSO as a theme park: it’s an emotional rollercoaster, but overall is a great and memorable time that makes me wish I could go back more than once per week.  — Sidney, age 15


If there is one thing I can say to you about orchestra it must be the size, I mean it’s just huge, and it is very different from solos. I remember the first day I was playing crazily, I didn’t play the notes, didn’t know how to count the rests, it was just chaos. With my sister and my friend’s help, I slowly developed a “orchestra heart” I corrected my mistakes and played well with my companions. Solos can very fun, but orchestra is not only fun, its handwork, teamwork, leadership, cooperative, some might even say that you need a good personality to play well in an orchestra. So what I want to say is that, if I never heard of BYSO, I wouldn’t play in an orchestra, I wouldn’t make new friends, I wouldn’t learn a second instrument, long story short, BYSO and orchestra had really created a new path in my life.  — David, age 14


I love BYSO because I love to practice and play in the same symphony as my big sister!!  — Caroline, age 7


Ever since I was little, viola and math have been integral aspects of my life. Outside of school, music has taken me from playing boisterous Bach partitas at my local botanical garden for Mother’s Day, to playing sentimental sarabandes at the National Orchestra Festival. Most importantly, music has taken me to my math and physics textbooks, where I learn about frequency and waves which can help me understand the importance of pitch and intonation in the violin. … A slight pitch error can be the difference between a mediocre performance and receiving a standing ovation. As I continue to advance myself in the musical and mathematics fields, I understand that the music will greatly improve my math skills.  — Raymond, age 16


My personal experience with music begins with the hours upon hours of closet time. I hid from my parents, often in the closet with a Garfield cartoon, to avoid those horrible thirty minutes of piano practice that I had to complete each day, always beginning with heinous Hanon exercises. However, when I joined the symphonic orchestra in middle school playing the french horn, my teacher, Mr. Blough, inspired me, among hundreds of other students, and opened my heart to the awes of music! I like to think of this as my own Great Awakening. … For me personally, classical music is by far the most magical and inexplicable earthly phenomena that I have ever encountered. Its emotional capacities are copious and mysterious. The impacts that classical music has on the world are immeasurable and perennial.  — Crystal, age 16

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