Playing in the New York Youth Symphony Jazz Band has been nothing short of fantastic. Over the past six years that I’ve been playing the saxophone, I’ve participated in so many bands, camps, and classes that I’ve lost count, but none of those have impacted me as much as a musician as the New York Youth Symphony. For me, the best part of the program was that the director, Matt Holman, and the rest of the band held me up to professional standards. I believe that this is a vital quality for any student, and it is one that is oftentimes forgotten in other, more recreational settings. Every member of the band came from a different background and with a different attitude, but each and every one left more focused, more enlightened, and, in the end, far more prepared to enter the world of professional music. At the beginning of the first season, rehearsals would largely be people struggling through their parts, but by the last season, everybody recognized that learning their music was a bare necessity, and that their own solos weren’t the only thing to look forward to during a performance. Individual members started to play to make each other sound better, and, in the end, make the band sound truly spectacular. Being on time, being prepared, having an open mind and a good attitude, being ready to take leadership, these all became qualities so central to my participation in the band that I didn’t (and no longer) have to think about them. A program that can build these characteristics is rare, but the New York Youth Symphony really does it.
Update, February 2016: Ryan now attends Harvard University.
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