September 12, 2017

I joined PSGYO because my high school had no orchestra. The first time I was ever pulled over was while trying to get to a rehearsal and had maybe made a few more lane changes than the officer felt wise. The youth orchestra pushed me like none of the other ensembles I had ever been in, as did my section-mates, and the European tour my senior year ignited a life-long love and longing for travel. If there had been a different career choice for me before PSG, there certainly wasn’t any other choice in my mind after. Many great years and some enduring friendships can be directly credited to the Phoenix Symphony Guild Youth Orchestra!

April 7, 2015

I was Principal Trumpet in PSG/PYS during high school 1972-1976. I won an audition and went directly into the Phoenix Symphony after graduating from high school in 1976. I was 2nd Trumpet in the Phoenix Symphony until 1993 when I left the orchestra to perform as Principal Trumpet in two orchestras in Sweden and one in Norway. My wife, Priscilla Phillips Benitez, played violin with PSG/PYS 1974-1977. She performed in the Swedish orchestras with me. We returned to the USA in 1998 and have worked with the AZ Opera Orchestra since. Our son, Nathan Benitez (who was born while we lived in Sweden), played Principal Trombone in PYS.

Perhaps you already know that my nephew is Will Tucker, who has been the PYS Tuba player for a few years until he graduated high school in May, 2014.  Noah Dugan, a former trumpet student of mine, was Principal Trumpet of PYS for a few years and is now studying at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. He studied with me for 5 years until the end of his freshman year in high school at which point I sent him, at my urging, to my old colleague Benny Nguyen who is Associate Principal Trumpet with the Phoenix Symphony.

January 9, 2015


Mavis Enders

Some of my best memories growing up are from PSG. I started with the string orchestra and soon moved up to Symphonette with conductor Dr. Walter Temme. Then to the Youth Symphony with Clotilde Otranto. I have such great memories of our retreats and of course the European Tour. I made life long friends in PSG and am hoping to reconnect with those I lost touch with!

November 21, 2014

Brian Maurer, violin

I was a student of Mrs. Press for 5 years before auditioning for string orchestra. I auditioned and was accepted into string orchestra as a second violin in 2004. I spent the next year in string orchestra as a first violin. In 2006 I advanced to Symphonette where I spent two years in the second violin section and my senior year advanced to the first violin section. Unfortunately I never made it into youth orchestra. I auditioned my sophomore year and did not get in. So I chickened out and didn’t try my junior year. I am still apart of PYS I now chaperone for the String orchestra retreat ad serve as a boys cabin counselor and ensemble coach.

July 5, 2014


I still remember my PYS audition the May before my eighth grade year. When I stepped into the waiting room, the escort ladies asked me what symphony I was coming from. MYS? Symphonette? I just stared back blankly. I had no idea what they were talking about; my violin teacher had encouraged me to try out, and all of these odd acronyms and terms were entirely foreign to me.

That first experience definitely portrayed my nonexistent experience in symphonies. After I was miraculously accepted into the Youth Symphony, the real struggles began. As a pianist since age 5 and solo violinist since age 10, I was unaccustomed to playing music around so many other people. I was timid, shy, and unbelievably self-conscious—things that would soon place me at a large disadvantage among the older symphony members. I found myself lost 99 percent of the time during rehearsals, swallowed up among 35 other violinists with horns blaring and piccolos whistling ceaselessly in the background. It seemed impossible to follow along.

Year one with the Phoenix Youth Symphony was without doubt one of the greatest challenges I have ever faced. But it also proved to be the year of change; the year I would finally break out of my timid little shell and fully embrace the musical world. For once, I finally felt like I belonged.

I carefully watched the section leaders and learned from them. “If you’re going to make a mistake, make it loud and proud.” This bit of advice practically governed my life for the first couple of years. I found myself making mistake after mistake, but my attitude towards these blunders began to change. Rather than shrinking back, I began to laugh them off and make mental notes to prevent them from reoccurring. The music made more sense, and I began to foster an appreciation for the symphonic works that I had only observed from an audience member and pianist’s perspective.

With each progressive year, more and more friends entered the symphony. By my sophomore year, I realized musician friends are for life. We communicate in a language devoid of words; a language in which melodies have the ability to penetrate the soul, conjuring old memories while simultaneously creating the new. We share experiences making music together during the late hours of Wednesday night rehearsals. And we undertake the challenges placed before us together; feel the frustration of learning a difficult piece together; share the joys of defeating an obstacle together.

The Phoenix Youth Symphony is my family. It is where I feel like I belong the most; I can be who I am, among others who similarly hold music close to their hearts. Many people have been to symphony concerts before, but being a part of the music-making is an entirely different story. The unparalleled feeling of sitting among dozens of other extremely talented musicians is something few are lucky enough to experience. I feel the vibrations of the drums and the brass players rippling through the stage floor. To the left and the right, I hear the sound of bow hairs on strings. I anticipate each cue, each entrance. I know exactly when the second flautist enters and how long each grand pause must be before the baton strikes downward once more. Being a part of the Phoenix Youth Symphony shaped who I am today, and I wouldn’t have dedicated my high school experience to anything else.

July 1, 2014


I only began playing the French Horn my Junior year of high school and auditioned for the PYS program entering my senior year, encouraged by Parker Kauffman, a member of the Youth Symphony. Entering the program I realized how much of a mistake I had made to not have started playing the french horn sooner in high school and joined such an amazing program sooner.
I was a part of the Symphonic Winds ensemble and could not believe the amount of dedication a large group of kids as young as 12 were devoting to music.

Nathan Johnston pushed us to become better at a quicker paced and proved to us that we all had an amazing musician inside of us.

As part of my first and last year of PYS I was blessed to be sponsored by Rotary International Clubs in Arizona to attend the PYS Tour in Germany! The trip was one of the greatest things that has happened to me.

I could not be more grateful to Keitaro, Dr. Temme, and Nathan for all they have done to create such an amazing atmosphere and establish a learning environment to flourish the dedication, creativity, and compassion of young musicians.

June 20, 2014


I had the opportunity to play with the Youth Orchestra in high school, which was one of my greatest high school experiences. PSG provided me with invaluable training in orchestral playing and etiquette, and allowed me to cultivate personal and professional relationships that I still have today. Now I work as a professional flutist, and am thankful for the experiences I had in those years.

I went on the tour to China, which was an unforgettable experience. The concerts and cultural exchange with Chinese musicians were a true blessing, and something I will always cherish. Playing under Robert Moody was a treat, and I have nothing but wonderful memories. His positivity, kindness, ability to inspire, and impressive musical talents were such a huge and integral part of making the Youth Orchestra so wonderful.

Some of my favorite memories of PSG include going on the retreats. Campfires, rehearsals in the woods, seeing and performing hilarious skits for each other – all such positive memories that will always be etched in my mind.

Thank you, PSG, for all that you have done and continue to do for young musicians in Arizona!

June 20, 2014


I spent the summer of 2012 at Interlochen Arts Camp playing in the World Youth Symphony Orchestra. I remember thinking that I would never get to play in a high school group as amazing as WYSO after I left for the summer. That thought was quickly put aside after the first PYS rehearsal. Starting off my time in PYS with Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 5 under the baton of Maestro Harada was a dream come true. Unparalleled, even by WYSO.

Probably the greatest musical memory I have of PYS was after the Rachmaninov Symphony No. 2 performance. I had practiced that piece more than any other orchestral piece I had ever played, and getting to perform it so professionally with the Youth Symphony is something I will never forget.

Every concert holds a dear place in my heart. PYS has changed my life since I consider everyone in the organization to be a part of my family. I have never felt so close to everyone in an organization before. From committee members to fellow peers, I felt love for everyone. Being able to create these relationships while making music has truly changed my life.

June 20, 2014


I am so indescribably thankful for PYS because it was the best thing that ever happened to me.
I learned and grew so much as a player and person under Maestro Harada’s rigorous instruction. Throughout the years, I got to play the famous horn solo from Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5, as well as The Rite of Spring, Strauss’s Also Sprach Zarathustra, Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2, and many other unforgettable pieces.

Music aside, it was the people in PYS who made it so great. I truly felt like I belonged when I walked into rehearsals on Wednesday nights, seeing so many good friends who loved the same thing that I did, music.

PYS became my family, my second home, my favorite place to be, and I will never forget all of the talented friends, beautiful music, and cherished memories that I made in my career as a PYS musician.

June 20, 2014


I was very nervous when I first joined PYS. I had just moved to Phoenix and only barely knew one person in the orchestra. It’s definitely the best orchestra I’ve ever been in, and at the first rehearsal I felt intimidated. I was not used to being around so many great high school and middle school musicians. I did not even know where to sit, afraid there was already an assigned seating list I didn’t know about. I saw a girl without a stand partner and tentatively asked if I could sit with her. I told her I was new and didn’t know where I was supposed to sit. She enthusiastically told me that she was also new and that I could of course sit with her. I felt a bit more relaxed–until I found out that Kei would be rotating the seating throughout the rehearsal, meaning that I would eventually have to sit in the front.

But I soon realized that, although the talent of all these kids was intimidating at first, they certainly were not intimidating people. The orchestra is full of nice people who make rehearsal fun. And throughout my time in PYS, Kei’s seating arrangements have given me experience playing in so many different parts of the orchestra (including a bit in the wind and percussion sections during experimental rehearsals). It has taught me that it really does require different skills to be able to play in different parts of the orchestra, including leadership and the ability to play in time with the rest of the orchestra while sitting farther from the middle.

I have had such a great three years in PYS, and I know I will really miss it. We are so lucky to have such an amazing conductor as Kei at the podium. I’m so excited that I still have a few concerts left with PYS and Kei this summer in Germany! It is an amazing opportunity that I really look forward to!