Formed in 2012, the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra is a significant feature in the cultural and educational fabric of Boston and beyond.
Conducted by Benjamin Zander, the BPYO’s motto is “Shaping Future Leaders through Music.” The 120 enthusiastic and talented young musicians of the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra range in age from 12 to 21. The wide range of ages affords younger members of the orchestra the chance to collaborate with older students who have already begun their professional careers. In turn, collegiate members of the group are offered the opportunity to nurture and coach the future generations.
BPYO offers a unique opportunity for young instrumentalists who want to study great orchestral repertoire in a musically dynamic and intellectually challenging community. BPYO members are asked not only to master their parts and to gain a deep understanding of the musical score (including through regular sectional rehearsals led by top professionals from the Boston musical community), but also to engage in dialogue with Mr. Zander, through weekly “white sheets,” where they are invited to share their thoughts on all aspects of the music and the rehearsal process. These conversations often lead to stimulating discussions on personal leadership and often initiate ongoing individual conversations with Mr. Zander through email, phone calls, and conversations at rehearsal, creating a unique mentoring relationship between Mr. Zander and each musician.
In the inaugural 2012-13 season, the BPYO performed two concerts to sold out audiences in Boston’s Symphony Hall and undertook a wildly successful five-city tour of the Netherlands, culminating in a performance of Mahler’s Second Symphony in Amsterdam’s acclaimed Concertgebouw. Six months later, in December 2013, BPYO performed at Carnegie Hall, receiving high praise in The New York Times for their “brilliantly played, fervently felt account.” In 2015, the group undertook an 18-day European tour with concerts in the Czech Republic, Germany, and Switzerland, including performances in the Prague Rudolfinum, the Philharmonie of Berlin, and the KKL of Luzern. In 2016, BPYO performed six concerts in Spain. In 2017, the orchestra traveled to South America with performances and outreach activities in Peru, Uruguay, and Argentina. In 2018, the orchestra performed 8 concerts in Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, and the Netherlands, including performances in the Prague Rudolfinum, Budapest National Concert Hall, Vienna Musikverein, and Amsterdam Concertgebouw. Each international engagement has been met with top critical approval and formed life-long bonds between the orchestra and the musical cultures of the various host countries. In 2019 they toured to Brazil with concerts and outreach engagements in Salvador, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Ribeirao Preto, Campinas, Porto Alegre, Belo Horizonte, and Curitiba.
BPYO has released three highly acclaimed commercial recordings: Shostakovich Symphony No. 5, recorded live at Carnegie Hall in 2013; and Mahler Symphonies No. 6 and No. 9, both recorded live at Boston Symphony Hall in 2017 and 2018 respectively.
In 2019 the BPYO premiered Bonecos de Olinda by Brazilian composer Clarice Assad, a piece that was commissioned for the 2019 Tour to Brazil. The concert video features Benjamin Zander and Clarice Assad conducting side by side.
Click on the image of Benjamin Zander and Clarice Assad to view the video.
The many musical and personal growth opportunities offered by the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra cultivate exceptionally skilled musicians who become respected and acclaimed leaders in music and in their communities. Lloyd Schwartz, formerly of the Boston Phoenix, wrote, “I wish more professional orchestras played as thrillingly as this.”
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.”