The National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America (NYO-USA) is made up of 120 young musicians ages 16–19. David Fickes is one of a small number who have already completed a year of college. He was surprised at what he found as one of the oldest members of the group.
Being one of the few college students in NYO-USA, there were many things that I did not worry about in preparation for the residency and tour. I knew how to do laundry; I knew how to live on my own; I knew how to manage my time and get enough sleep. But one worry that I had because of college was whether or not the other students would be as mature as the people I was used to living with. I remember how huge the jump in maturity was from high school to college, and I was a little afraid to go backward. I have since learned that my fears were unfounded—I would even go so far as to say that there is a higher maturity level here. The level of respect that the musicians here have for both their teachers and their colleagues is phenomenal.
As an example, at the very first rehearsal with maestro James Ross, the orchestra was warming up with gusto. The amount of sound was absolutely incredible. But when the maestro lifted his arms to call us to attention, the room was silent within a matter of seconds. And this level of respect and maturity doesn't just apply to musical situations: Everyone incredibly friendly and welcoming—inviting others to morning runs, chamber music, or even group practice sessions—and it is clear that everyone has genuine care for each other.
I don't know if this is because of the drive and dedication required to join an orchestra like this, or if this maturity grows out of learning an instrument (I definitely prefer the latter idea), but I can honestly say that these musicians are not only incredible performers, but have grown to become wonderful humans as well. It is my personal belief that this respect is necessary to become a great musician. How can one play music without respecting the ideas of others? Everyone must both lead and follow, and the sounds that come forth from this level of mutual respect and trust are astounding.
I applied to NYO-USA for a fantastic musical experience, and it is certainly delivering in that regard. But what I didn't expect was the level of openness and camaraderie that sprung up almost before the residency began, and I truly hope that I will be able to continue playing with these musicians in settings beyond NYO-USA. This friendliness, this willingness to look outside of oneself, shows the level of maturity of these musicians. There have even been moments (and will certainly be more once we begin the tour) when I found that others, some as young as 16, surpassed me in this regard. Of course, as Igudesman and Joo showed us when we attended their concert last night, you can be mature without outgrowing a love for both music and life itself, and I believe music helps you to do just that.
Learn more about the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America.