Alumni tell their stories about NYO

Jason Hurlbut - Violin

Graduated  from Waldorf School of San Diego High School - Attending Eastman School  of Music & University of Rochester (Howard Hanson Scholarship)  

At NYO I was really lucky to be surrounded with highly qualified faculty  who were always there for me and pushed me to become the best musician  and leader I could be.

NYO has helped me understand what it means to play with a high standard  of quality, and given me the tools to reach that standard. It has also  made me have a much deeper understanding of chamber music and taught me  how to rehearse effectively so as to get the most out of every coaching  session.

The chamber music program has given me many team skills, such as the  ability to create an environment where everyone is comfortable giving  and receiving critiques, and where everyone feels heard. This is not  only useful for making the best music possible, but also in any  circumstance in life where group dynamics are involved. In the  orchestra, I learned how to adjust my playing by constantly listening to  what is going on around me, both in my section and the entire ensemble.  I could not have learned this through any other method than being  surrounded by great musicians with an experienced conductor.

The artistic staff are not only some of the best musicians in San Diego,  but also just great people. I enjoy working with all of them and  wouldn't hesitate to call them my friends. Aside from the high quality  coachings in chamber, orchestra, and sectionals, I have also found that I  have learned a lot just through talking with the faculty. I have gotten  a lot of interesting and valuable information about what the music  world is like and what being a professional musician really entails. 

If you are looking to become the best musician you can be in a friendly  and helpful environment, then NYO is what you are looking for. The staff  and musicians are committed to making performances that everyone can be  proud of, and year after year I have left every end of year concert  proud of what we accomplished and sad that I won't see my friends until  next season.

At NYO, you get out what you put in. The artistic staff all want you to  succeed, and will offer incredible opportunities. In return, they ask  that you be committed to whichever program you are in. Because of NYO I  have gone to China, gone to Mexico, soloed with an orchestra, and soloed  with the Moscow Ballet; on my part, I show up to rehearsals on time and  as well prepared as possible. I have not been part of any other  organization that offers such a large and direct return on investment.

When I graduate, I will miss being able to talk with my friends in the  hallways about anything from soccer to the latest international music  competition. I will also miss the fun atmosphere and serious  music-making that I can count on in every rehearsal. 

Douglas Swayne - Tuba

Graduated from West Valley High School - Attending Berklee School of Music 

In my one year at NYO, I had a very great experience as I shared it with  other NYO members who are very talented young musicians. 

Generally, even though the symphonies are much less interesting and challenging  for brass players, participating in the Select Wind Ensemble definitely  made up for the performing and training I needed. In my short time at  NYO, I learned a wide range of skills working with the conductor as well  as getting very helpful assistance from the amazing and talented  staff! 

Since I was  surrounded by other quality musicians who care, everybody seemed to be  sufficiently prepared and they always practiced their parts prior to  rehearsal. By far this is the best symphony I have participated in. I  would recommend all local young musicians to pursue NYO, it’s a great  educational experience. 

Hyunjae Lee - Clarinet

Graduated from Del Norte High School - Attending Duke University 

My experience at NYO has been very rewarding and enlightening. It was a  great and fun way to remain part of an ensemble throughout high school  and improve. 

The NYO experience helped teach me to focus on the little details in a piece of  music I am playing. Through my experience, I learned how much of an  impact the dynamics and articulations of the notes of a piece have an  impact on the sound quality. I have learned to not just focus on myself  when playing my music, but to watch for cues and actions of my other  peer musicians. 

The  conductor, John Ramirez, is a very informative and patient instructor  who will efficiently teach how to make the best possible result in  musicality of the orchestra. The wind coach, Peter Dayeh, was also very  knowledgeable in helping improve upon technique and phrasing of  passages. 

I would say to definitely give NYO a try, as the small ensembles truly provide  opportunities to be looked at on a more personal and individual basis.  The training is specific to each individual, and really nurtures the  growth of every participant. 

NYO training is different in that it relates my playing and performance with those of my  other fellow musicians too. Everything that is taught to me is taught in co-ordinance with the rest of my section and sometimes even the whole orchestra.


I will miss the experience of being able to play music with friends of mine and  miss the opportunity of playing famous pieces with a skilled symphony. 

Sarah Wesson - Viola

Graduated from Canyon Crest Academy - Attending Texas A&M University (honors program) 

At  NYO, I was not only in a top-tier pre-professional orchestra; I was  part of a community of extremely motivated, talented, and friendly  musicians. 

NYO  inspired in me a passion for music. Being surrounded by musicians that  really did care about what they were doing, instead of just doing it as a  resume-filler, made me realize just how amazing and diverse the  repertoire was. The conductor, John Ramirez, is not only an extremely  talented musician--he's also a great teacher, and he helped to build me  as a musician in ways I couldn't have even imagined otherwise. 

I learned how to lead a section and be a proactive member of the  orchestra. I also really explored how my part fit in with the rest of  the orchestra, and learned a lot about how the parts of the orchestra  work together. 

They're amazing!! Unlike other orchestras I've been in, the conductors and  coaches are very talented and down- to-earth, so I was able to very  easily learn from their careful instruction. 

NYO is absolutely the best orchestra in the area. It's a much more  personable experience than with other orchestras (the staff actually know my name!!), and the instruction you get comes from world-class  musicians and teachers. Also, the community in NYO is unlike any other.  Some of my friends I've met through NYO are my closest friends, and they  are some of the only people I plan to keep in touch with after high  school! It is simultaneously extremely disciplined and extremely  artistic. NYO taught me the value of hard work and passion in a way that  you really don't get in a traditional classroom setting. 

I will miss the sense of community that NYO created! We are all a truly unique bunch of talented, passionate musicians. 

I'm going to miss NYO!! It was definitely one of the best parts of high school for me. 

Alex Quan - Bari Sax

Graduated from Canyon Crest Academy - Attending Santa Clara University (Johnson Scholar) 

The coaches and conductor are very helpful for pinpointing the rough spots  in our playing and offering advice to help us improve. 

NYO really teaches you to listen across to everything else going on. You  can really hear each individual part, so the group teaches you to  balance your sound with the others in the room and understand  holistically what your role is at the given moment. 

NYO is a great opportunity to really hone specific aspects of your playing  that other ensembles and instruction might not focus on. It's really  about the subtleties in finding your place in a bigger sound. I would  definitely recommend it. 

There's a lot more individual attention in NYO as opposed to honor bands or  wind ensembles. The instructors still expect you to know what you're  doing, but they can pick out small details to help you improve as a musician. 

I'll miss the music and the community most. It's always fun being able to hear  each person's contribution to the music and to hear your individual  sound added to the group. 

Kristofer Leslie - Trombone

Graduated from Coronado High School - Attending The Boston Conservatory


Throughout my training at NYO, it seemed that every week I was challenged in a new  way. The NYO training program has created a nurturing environment where  we all wanted each other to succeed. I realized early on that it was  not just about me and my playing only, but rather that I had to be good  at playing well with others. 

As trombone player, I learned that performing in an orchestra extends  beyond playing well within the brass section. I also had to consider  what the strings and woodwinds were doing, and as principal trombone, I  acted as bridge between my section and the other sections. I’ve became  friends with all the coaches while still considering them my mentors. I  appreciate how the coaches care about what I have to say, while at the  same time offering important advice to my musical approach. 

I have grown so much as team-working musician from NYO. There are a lot  of things that you can only learn from playing in a good organization,  that you can't learn on your own in solo practice. 

Mario and John Ramirez worked very hard to give me as many possible  opportunities at NYO. I played in a chamber group with strings, I performed a trombone concerto with the wind ensemble, and much more.

I  will miss NYO very much. Hanging out after rehearsals and concerts, and  being able to joke with my friends, while we were all working hard to  make the ensemble sound its best. It's been a great 3 years! 

Kiya Klopfenstein - Viola

Graduated from Torrey Pines High School - Attending San Diego State University 

NYO has given me the opportunity to challenge myself and break out of my  comfort zone in terms of my musicianship and friendships. From  discovering non-mainstream music to a close-knit group of friends from  all backgrounds, NYO has allowed me to grow and experience a myriad of  moments which have shaped me for the better. 

Given the difficult repertoire, I have grown to discover new ways to work  around the ink on the page: exploring different bowing techniques,  practicing techniques, and fingerings extending beyond what I was  comfortable with. 

I have learned the importance of communication and how it alters the  musical performance as well as the relationships within the ensemble.  Proper communication allows for the connection between instruments and  flow of the musical lines in a way that isolation in playing can never  achieve. By working as a team and family, we are able to create a way of  expression on time itself. 

They were supportive of my choices, as well as allowed me to push myself  into situations that I may not have been comfortable in. They have also  allowed me many opportunities to play within NYO and outside of it,  exposing me to different types of repertoire and experiences. 

NYO is a close family of musicians which allow for connections to be made  across the orchestra. The training provided is custom to each ensemble,  working to improve not only the strongest player--but also the weakest.  Performance opportunities allow growing musicians to explore the big  stage as well as the smaller more intimate stages, such as with the  biannual chamber concerts. Auditions allow for musicians to test  themselves and their own comfort zones, as well as learn important  excerpts and pieces that will follow them into the professional world.  Overall, NYO has provided a positive experience that was not  overwhelming and allowed me to grow. 

The  repertoire was nothing like anything I had seen before. It was  challenging, interesting, and ultimately unknown. Within other  ensembles, most pieces were familiar; however, NYO allowed me to expand  my horizons and expose me to a wide variety of composers and styles. The  exposure to these pieces introduced me to different keys, different  shades of similar composers, the historical context behind pieces, and  the different colors which each should take on. Additionally, the small  size allows a form of comfort in rehearsing and provides a strong  support system which is difficult to achieve in other ensembles where  many members may remain unknown. 

I  will miss the friends that I have made as we separate into different  schools around the country. I will miss our get-togethers outside of  NYO, including our post-concert dinners, movie nights, ice cream runs,  nights at the symphony, and holiday celebrations. 

Paul Gaukel - French Horn

Graduated from Canyon Crest Academy - Attending California Maritime Academy

In NYO’s relaxed learning environment, I performed at the highest level  alongside members who are passionate and friendly people. I developed  skills on how to become a much better musician, like following the  conductor’s pulse and more. The incredible  artistic staff were always helpful and positive, constantly offering assistance and showing different ways to attack specific passages. 

There are true benefits in participating in the smaller traditional sized  ensembles at NYO, since mistakes are obvious, leading me and others to  work harder to get the passage right the first time. 

I definitely recommend NYO for those who want a fresh take on the stagnant SDYS.