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Feature Stories

AYPO Introduces A New Harp Ensemble

Julia Robins

AYPO is proud to introduce our new Harp Ensemble. Under the expert direction of Elizabeth Blakeslee, the harp ensemble will rehearse weekly on Mondays from 5:30-7:00 and will perform several times a year. Its repertoire will include arrangements for harp ensemble as well as original works. Any harpist who has had at least one year of private instruction and plays on an instrument with a minimum of 34 strings with a full set of levers is invited to join.

For more information about our harp ensemble and how to apply, click here.

2016-2017 Season Repertoire Announcement

Julia Robins

In its 52nd season, AYPO will provide a challenging and exciting musical experience for all of the musicians in our five orchestras. Highlights from the 2016-2017 season repertoire include:


AYP’s first concert of the season will feature Beethoven’s First Symphony as well as both of Ravel’s Suites from Daphnis and Chloe. The second concert takes two musical looks at the Romeo and Juliet story with Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Overture-Fantasy and the Symphonic Dances from Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story. In April, AYP will present the DC-area premiere of Takashi Yoshimatsu’s Cyberbird, a concerto for saxophone, piano, and percussion, as well as Rimsky-Korsakov’s dazzling symphonic suite Scheherazade. The season will conclude with Berlioz’s epic Symphonie Fantastique.


AYSO will open the season with Dvorak’s festive Carnival Overture, Khachaturian’s Adagio from Spartacus, and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio Espagnol. The next concert will feature Beethoven’s “Leonore” Overture No. 3 and Liszt’s Les Preludes alongside Sibelius’s stirring Scandinavian tone poem Finlandia. The final concert of the season will highlight masterworks of Italian music, including Verdi’s overture to La forza del destino and Respighi’s Pines of Rome.


AYCO will perform both full orchestral works as well as string only pieces in the 16-17 season. Highlights from the season’s repertoire include Copland’s Saturday Night Waltz from Rodeo, Rossini’s overture to La Cenerentola, Beethoven’s Prometheus Overture, Bruch’s Kol Nidrei and excerpts from Bizet’s L’Arlésienne Suites. Additional work performed during the season will include Mozart’s Divertimento (K.136), Hovhaness’s Psalm and Fugue Op. 40a, and Gabrielli’s Canzona for Double String Orchestra.


AYSE and AYDO will perform three concerts exploring the theme “Bach to the Future”. The first cncert will feature arrangements for string orchestras of several popular works by Johann Sebastian Bach. The second concert of the season will be a tour of classical music from the time of J.S. Bach leading all the way to more contemporary work. Repertoire for this concert will include arrangements of pieces composed by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms and Bartók. The final concert of the season will feature work that looks to the future, and will include favorites from Holst’s The Planets alongside music from Star Wars, Back to the Future, and others!

Meet Your Artistic Staff - Sylvia Alimena

Julia Robins

AYPO engages highly talented artistic staff with incredibly interesting backgrounds. Learn more about our brass coach, Sylvia Alimena.

1.     What is your primary instrument and when did you start playing?

My primary instrument is french horn and I began playing in the public school system in fourth grade.

2.     What is your favorite piece of music to play/conduct?

To both play and conduct, Brahms Symphony No. 3.

3.     What drew you to AYPO?

What draws me to AYPO is the creation of a venue for young people to experience a high level of orchestra music making. It’s probably the first time they will have the experience of performing a major orchestral work at a reasonably high artistic level. For me, it is the opportunity to pass on somewhat of an “old-school” style of orchestral performance and to teach them the good ensemble skills that will serve them for the rest of their performing lives.

4.     What professional jobs do you have outside of AYPO?

I am retired from professional playing, but serve as conductor of Brass of Peace. In the summer, I serve as Assistant Conductor and brass/winds coach for the NSO Summer Music Institute.

5.     Did you play in a youth orchestra when you were young and if so, can you please share a bit about that experience?

My first youth orchestra was the Junior Orchestra of Long Island, Eugene Kahn as director, in which I played for one year. They gave me a scholarship for my first private lessons. In my sophomore year, I joined the Long Island Youth Orchestra, Martin Dreiwitz conductor, with whom I performed major works – a Strauss concerto, The Schumann Konzertstuck for four horns, The Mozart Concertante for four winds and went on two fabulous five week tours.

6.     Who are your musical mentors?

Arthur Goldstein - NY freelancer, first private teacher
The late Harry Shapiro, 2nd horn of the Boston Symphony
The late Joseph Silverstein, Boston Symphony Orchestra Concertmaster, Boston University conductor, Utah Symphony Music Director. 

7.     What is some of the best advice you have received in your career?

Be on time, be prepared, be a good colleague.

8.     What are some of your hobbies/activities outside of music?

Home renovating, learning new languages, hiking, fly fishing.

2016-2017 Auditions

Julia Robins

Audition season is here! Please visit the auditions tab for information on the complete audition process for the 2016-2017 season. Please note that the process has changed a little from previous years, so be sure to read all information carefully. Let us know if you have any questions by emailing

Music Teacher Open Rehearsals

Julia Robins

With audition season fast approaching, we would like to invite all private and school music teachers to attend two OPEN rehearsals. Watch the orchestras practice, talk to the conductors and artistic staff, learn more about our programs, and ask any questions you may have about AYPO or the audition process.

AYCO and AYSO will have open rehearsals on Monday, February 29 at Kilmer Middle School.

  • AYCO rehearses from 7-9 PM.
  • AYSO rehearses from 7-9:30 PM.

AYDO, AYSE, and AYP will have open rehearsals on Monday, March 14 at Marshall High School.

  • AYDO rehearses from 5-6:30 PM.
  • AYSE rehearses from 7-9 PM.
  • AYP rehearses from 7-9:30 PM.

We encourage all private and school music teachers to attend!

Music Buddies

Julia Robins

Learn more about AYPO's Music Buddies Mentorship Program. Each year, AYPO musicians serve as mentors for young musicians who are otherwise unable to afford private lessons. Through training from our Director, Laura Cahn, mentors and musicians learn together in a wonderfully productive and engaging environment.

Watch this video, produced by AYPO parent Joanne Masterson to learn more.

Meet Your Artistic Staff - Stephen Dunkel

Julia Robins

AYPO engages highly talented artistic staff with incredibly interesting backgrounds. Learn more about our staff, starting with AYP's brass coach, Stephen Dunkel.

1.     What is your primary instrument and when did you start playing?

My primary instrument is the bass trombone, which I started playing at age 16. I played cornet, flute, percussion, piano and organ, tuba, and euphonium previously.

2.     What is your favorite piece of music to play/conduct?

Wagner "Der Ring des Nibelungen."

3.     What drew you to AYPO?

The opportunity to develop, encourage, and assist young musicians.

4.     What professional jobs do you have outside of AYPO?

Bass trombonist, Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra

5.     Did you play in a youth orchestra when you were young and if so, can you please share a bit about that experience?

I was a member of the Youth Orchestra of Greater Fort Worth during my senior year of high school. It was my first experience playing in a full orchestra and I fell in love with it. Every chair in the brass section was extremely competitive because of the strong band programs in North Texas. In an unusual move, the orchestra accepted two bass trombones that year due to the quality of our auditions. Of course, I never considered dropping out of my high school band program – I enjoyed it immensely, and took great pride in representing my school in competition.

6.     Who are your musical mentors?

My first orchestral teacher, Dennis Bubert (bass trombone, Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra); undergrad teacher Frank Crisafulli (second trombone, Chicago Symphony Orchestra); grad teacher Per Brevig (principal trombone, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra); and David Finlayson (second trombone, New York Philharmonic)

7.     What is some of the best advice you have received in your career?

Record all your practice and listen to it. Your brain cannot simultaneously create and evaluate.

8.     What are some of your hobbies/activities outside of music?

I like to stay physically fit. I have been doing CrossFit 4-5 days per week for 3½ years. I have also done a few triathlons, including two Olympic-distance. Recently, I have added occasional yoga, Muay Thai and Krav Maga classes into the rotation. Regular exercise and exertion help me feel in control of my life, which balances the top-down inflexibility of a professional orchestra schedule.

I enjoy spending time with my loving partner, Heather Patrick, a health behavior scientist, who designs wellness plans for corporate clients. I also relish being a father of two children, Nolan, 10, and Violet, 6. Our favorite activity to do together is preparing new recipes and learning about food. For the grown-ups, wine is usually involved. 

Baton and Brain

Julia Robins

On January 19, student musicians of the American Youth Philharmonic Orchestras played an integral role in a study currently taking place at Georgetown University.  The study, led by Dr. Josef Rauschecker and Dr. Jessica Phillips-Silver of the Laboratory of Integrative Neuroscience and Cognition, includes studying our Associate Conductor of AYP, Michael Wheatley, in an effort to reveal new insights into the workings of the human brain, and specifically that of orchestral conductors.

Among the differences between conductors and other trained musicians are the methods by which they are trained to listen to music, to anticipate desired changes in performance, and to bring about those changes in other musicians using only physical gestures.  Many conductors have described the art of conducting, in part, as akin to  listening to two musical tracks simultaneously.  As a conductor leads the orchestra, it is as if a first track is heard in advance, like a recording of the ideal performance played in the mind of the conductor.  Almost instantly, the conductor endeavors to guide the orchestra before him wordlessly, using only gesture, to bring about the performance as just heard in the mind’s ear.  And then immediately, the conductor listens carefully to the realization of the performance by the orchestral musicians to assess the differences between their real performance and what had been heard prior, in his or her imagined ideal.

To reveal the brain’s activity throughout this multifaceted musical interaction, Dr. Phillips-Silver has been regularly observing and recording our Maestro Wheatley while in an fMRI scanner.  And we were thrilled when over 40 musicians of the American Youth Philharmonic Orchestras enthusiastically agreed to take part in this study.  Volunteering to perform for an additional hour prior to their normal weekly rehearsal, Maestro Wheatley led them through a rehearsal and subsequent reading of the final movement of Dvorak’s sixth symphony.

Maestro Wheatley’s final session in the fMRI scanner will take place very soon.  And we will be anxiously awaiting word of what this new study has revealed, in the coming months!

AYP Guest Artist

Julia Robins

We are thrilled that Ieva Jokubaviciute will be joining AYP for its 3rd concert of the season on April 3. Ieva will be the piano soloist featured in Shostakovich's Piano Concerto No. 2. The full program on April 3 also includes Respighi's Pines of Rome.

Please read Ieva's full bio here, and come join us on April 3 (tickets can be purchased here).

Lithuanian pianist Ieva Jokubaviciute’s powerfully and intricately crafted performances have earned her critical acclaim throughout the US and Europe. Her ability to communicate the essential substance of a work has led critics to describe her as possessing ‘razor-sharp intelligence and wit' and ‘subtle, complex, almost impossibly detailed and riveting in every way’ (The Washington Post) and as ‘an artist of commanding technique, refined temperament and persuasive insight’ (The New York Times). In 2006, she was honored as a recipient of a Borletti-Buitoni Trust Fellowship.

In late 2010, Labor Records released Ieva’s Alban Berg Tribute recording comprising Berg’s piano sonata and previously unknown or unrecorded works written in tribute to Berg by Giacinto Scelsi, Franghiz Ali-Zadeh, Ross Lee Finney, Jacob Gilboa, and Hans Erich Apostel. London’s Sunday Times called it a ‘very interestingly devised debut disc’, and the New York Times lauded it and described Ieva as “an authoritative and compelling guide throughout this fascinating disc.”

In the wake of this enthusiastic critical reception, Ieva has performed the Berg sonata in a number of contexts throughout the US and Europe over the last seasons. Ieva was invited by Festival Pianos aux Jacobins in Toulouse to give her French recital debut in September 2011. Ieva’s performance of works written in the first decade of the 20th century—Debussy, Janacek, Scriabin, Berg, Schoenberg—was described as ‘revelatory’, as demonstrating ‘impressive intensity’, and as ‘illuminating each piece with a deep luminescence’ by Voix du Gars. Most recently, Ieva presented this program in January 2013 in Chicago, Baltimore, and in her Philadelphia recital debut presented by the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society. The Philadelphia Inquirer remarked: ‘However impressive Jokubaviciute's fingers were in the music's execution, it is her brain that is most entrancing.’

With a reputation for presenting masterful and insightful programs, Ieva regularly gives recitals in major American and European cities—most recently in France, Chicago, New York City, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Vilnius, Lithuania, and at the Smithsonian Institution's Freer Gallery in Washington DC where she performed a program in conjunction with an exhibit on the 19th century American painter James McNeil Whistler. The Washington Post called her a ‘splendid colorist' and described her performance as ‘magical tone-painting'.

Ieva made her Chicago Symphony debut at the Ravinia Festival in June of 2005 under the baton of James Conlon and her orchestral debut in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil performing Mozart's K. 488 under the baton of Ligia Amadio the following season. She has also performed concerti with the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, The Gratz University Orchestra, and the Lithuanian National Symphony.

In June of 2009, Ieva’s piano trio—Trio Cavatina—won the Naumburg International Chamber Music Competition and made its Carnegie Hall debut in May of 2010 and its San Francisco debut at Herbst Theater later that year. Since its New York City debut at the New School and its Boston debut at Jordan Hall in 2006, the trio has become a prominent force within the chamber music culture in the US and tours extensively throughout the country.

A much sought after chamber musician and collaborator, Ieva regularly tours and appears at international music festivals including: Marlboro, Ravinia, Bard, Caramoor, Chesapeake Chamber Music, Prussia Cove in Cornwall, England, and Festival de la musique de chambre at La Lointaine in France. She has participated in the Schleswig-Holstein Festival in Lubeck, Germany, the Katrina Chamber Music Festival, Aland Islands, Finland, the Oulunsalo Chamber Music Festival in Oulunsalo, Finland, the Joaquin Turina Chamber Music Festival in Seville, Spain, and Music in the Vineyards in Napa Valley, CA, the Lake Champlain Chamber Music Festival in Burlington, VT, among others.

Earning degrees from the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia and from Mannes College of Music in New York City, her principal teachers have been Seymour Lipkin and Richard Goode.