Formed in 2012, the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra has already established itself as a significant feature in the cultural and educational fabric of Boston and beyond.
BPYO made its Carnegie Hall debut in December 2013. The New York Times review of that concert noted that the members of BPYO “play with a maturity and cohesion well beyond their years,” and described their performance of Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony as “a brilliantly played, fervently felt account, enriched with silken strings, robust brass and eloquent solos.”
The inaugural 2012-13 season of the BPYO culminated in a 5-city concert tour of the Netherlands, featuring a performance of Mahler’s Second Symphony in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw. In the course of the 12-day tour, the orchestra received two superlative five-star reviews in national papers, collaborated with an orchestra of 600 12-year-olds, and was featured in the International Koorbiënnale Haarlem.
BPYO’s motto is “Shaping Future leaders through music.” Complementing their musical assignments, BPYO members receive weekly leadership assignments from Mr. Zander. The orchestra members carry on a dialogue with Mr. Zander through weekly “white sheets,” wherein they are invited to reflect on the leadership assignments, and offer feedback about the rehearsal process and their musical and life experiences. These conversations often lead to stimulating discussions on personal leadership and effective contribution.
BPYO members participate as musical mentors in the Crescendo! programs programs of the BPO, working with younger musicians in local schools and El Sistema-inspired programs. BPYO co-hosted the First Annual El Sistema Greater Boston showcase in 2013, which culminated in a side-by-side performance with musicians from BPYO and the Conservatory Lab Charter School.
The 120 members of the BPYO range in age from 12 to 21, and are chosen through a highly-selective audition process. They reside or attend school throughout New England, and come together on Saturday afternoons for sectionals and full orchestra rehearsals at the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology, in Boston’s South End.
Richard Dyer, Chief Music Critic of The Boston Globe from 1973–2006:
"Benjamin Zander was put on this earth to set young people on their path to a lifelong relationship with music, whether they become professional performing musicians or not. Zander does many things well, but no one does what he does best any better – his work with youth orchestras is inspiring both to the players and to the audiences who hear them. He leads the young musicians to play better, to dig more deeply into the meanings of the music, than they ever thought they could. When confronted with music-making on the level Zander achieves with young players, audiences find themselves listening on a new level as well. His youth orchestras are not just training themselves for music but also training themselves for adult lives; they learn social skills as well as musical skills, and learn the habits of discipline. Rehearsing with like-minded youngsters, performing, touring to Europe, South America and Asia, are profoundly educational activities. They not only change perspectives, they change lives. With his unique zest, Zander opens the doors that swing wide to reveal new worlds."
"The creation of the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra is wonderful news for young musicians and music-lovers throughout the Boston area. Through his vision, passion and artistry Benjamin Zander will provide extraordinary leadership for this exciting new project."
"Even in far away Berlin, the news that Ben Zander is founding a new youth orchestra is extremely important. These fortunate young people will experience an intense musical and emotional engagement which will remain with them for a lifetime. My warmest best wishes for your new adventure, and long may it prosper!"
“I was greatly thrilled to hear that Ben Zander is founding a new youth orchestra, because I can’t think of anyone who has such a special talent for working with young people. Ben has a unique way of teaching, coaching, inspiring and presenting the young minds with the wonderful disciplines that are involved in the art of making great music.”
"The formation of the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra is great news. Everywhere that I travel I meet musicians who began their musical journey with Ben Zander. They retain, gratefully, their enthusiasm, determination, and high ideals!"
“BPYO has changed my life. …I am in a great place now, and that is thanks to this orchestra and Mr. Zander. For the first time in my life, my seat within the section doesn’t matter to me…I learn something from each of my colleagues in the section every week, and I try to come prepared in such a way that I can do the same for them.”
“I know you've heard this a million times, and I hate to sound like a broken record, but the experience of BPYO has changed my life-- even just 6 months into it. I cannot wait to see where we'll go, musically and experientially, in the next few years.”
“The concert was absolutely unbelievable. It was more intense and exciting than anything I had imagined. By the end I was drenched with sweat and shaking like a leaf (I actually had to use my stand for support to stand up at the end)! It was one of the most physically draining things I have ever done, and it was also one of the best experiences I have ever had. The concert was more than just a concert, for it didn't feel like I was playing a piece of music. It really felt like I was experiencing all of life in that symphony, and that's why I have come to love it so much.”
“To get to play a concert with the orchestra I love so dearly was so much fun, and to play the music we were playing was a tremendous honor. To think high schoolers get the chance to play the notes Beethoven, Elgar and Strauss wrote shows that music is universal, music can stand the test of time and music truly is more powerful than human beings. But what I saw today was something even more extraordinary. It was the passion that humans can create with music.”
“I am always amazed by the amount of compassion, consideration, generosity, and sincerity in BPYO, not only as a group of musicians, but as a community. There is nothing more awe-inspiring than being surrounded by wonderful friends and musicians who are not only care so much about the music but also each other. I feel so lucky to be a part of BPYO and I'm always touched by all the white sheets that you share from other BPYO members. Everything is incredibly inspiring.”