By Richard Campbell

The Boston Public Library has had their traditional afternoon concerts all summer, and this past Saturday hosted the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra in the McKim Courtyard to present a short chamber music program to a good-sized audience on a sunny afternoon. Under the direction of Frederico Cortese since 1999, the BYSO, founded in 1958 has been training young classical musicians through a variety of programs, performing, and continually expanding its mission.  Now it has grown to serve 600 child and young adult musicians from New England. Known for its high standards and innovative programs the BYSO’s courtyard appearance was a small, light sampling of the repertoire the students come to know.

The students performed: Mozart String Quartet no. 1 in G major, K. 80, Shostakovich Waltz from Suite for Variety Orchestra, Mendelssohn String Quartet no 2 in a minor opus 13, Sting’s Every Breath You Take, Halo by Beyonce, and Cold Play’s: Viva la Vida. arranged for 2 cellos. Before each piece the students gave the audience notes on the origin of the pieces, gracefully spoken and sprinkled with subtle humor. Reflecting a maturity and skill beyond their youth, the group came well prepared and held fairly tight throughout. A number of the pieces they performed were composed by the then child prodigy’s in their teens- Mozart was 14, and Mendelssohn 18.  This kind of put things in perspective.

Perfect for summer the Mozart piece has the feeling of the light court entertainment, that Mozart’s father was known to drag his son around Europe to perform.  The Mendelssohn seemed like the best piece for this group, as its cyclic form allowed the students to show they could attack the sharp parts and glide easily in the more nuanced sections. Their “Pops” songs from Sting and Beyonce needed a little more volume and verve but were crowd pleasing, and as one student quipped about Beyonce’s song Halo: “It was written while I was alive.”  Among the crowd were more than a few faces familiar with the orchestra and the Boston music scene, proud parents and teachers- and of course, librarians. For anyone who has seen the full BYSO in action, this summer chamber music series might seem a little diminutive- merely a short promotional city stopover.

The BYSO has grown to annually accept 500 musicians forming three full symphonic orchestras, two young string training orchestras, six chamber orchestras, a preparatory wind ensemble, a chamber music program, summer camps, and performances with professional symphonies. Very significantly the BYSO started special programs for inner city students through their Intensive Community Program have brought high quality classical training in partnership with the Boston public schools, providing students with in depth musical training, and the opportunity to learn and perform classical repertoire. Their premier orchestra the BYO is seen as the final step at the top of a series of carefully calibrated intensive youth programs. Students from this program have a 100% high school graduation rate, and a 100% college acceptance rate, besides learning how to be creative musicians and social skills. This is a program with a long and cherished history in Boston that deserves the community support and attention.  Visit: for more information on the BYSO schools, concerts, and events.