Headmaster’s Newsletter

Senior Musician to Play with Vermont Youth Orchestra

April 27, 2021

St. Johnsbury Academy senior musician Mason Davis will perform with the Vermont Youth Orchestra on May 2, 2021. After what Mark Alpizar, the Vermont Youth Orchestra Association’s music director, calls a “Senior Solo Audition,” Mason was one of four high school seniors selected to perform as a soloist with the premiere ensemble. Two of the finalists performed in February. Layla Morris from Champlain Valley Union High School will perform Shostakovich’s – Cello Concerto No. 1 on May 2.


According to Alpizar, “Mason was one of seven highly qualified applicants playing strings and wind instruments to audition. Each applicant played with piano accompaniment for a panel of five adjudicators.” Mason’s playing of Debussy’s Premiere Rhapsodie on the clarinet earned him the chance to perform with the group. The song is one of the most iconic pieces of clarinet repertoire and is considered a leading exponent of the Impressionist Movement.


Mason began playing the clarinet when he was in seventh grade, following in his fathers’ footsteps. Since then, Mason has also become proficient on the violin, and drums. Asked to pick his favorite, though, Mason struggles, saying “each instrument has its own unique personality! Drums and piano are awesome because I can play pop music with my friends, and violin is an incredibly challenging, beautiful, expressive, and versatile instrument. However, if I had to choose (I am probably biased), I would say my favorite is the clarinet. It has a very large range and encompasses several different timbres, making it an incredibly versatile instrument. While the clarinet can handle fast technical passages, it is widely regarded as one of the most expressive and beautiful sounding instruments. Yet, it is commanding enough to play solo with a full orchestra.”


Alan Rowe, one of Mason’s music teachers at SJA, says, “Mason has made a huge impact on our music program, competently performing not only on clarinet but drums and violin. Mason has been one of the most inquisitive, dedicated, hard-working students I have had in the music program. He has a hunger for knowledge and a work ethic that gives him success. His improvement as a clarinetist has been meteoric, largely due to his dedication to practice. He has embraced performance and is fearless of any challenge.”


SJA’s strings instructor, Jason Bergman, gives another example of that dedication when he points out that Mason was selected for the 2020 All-State Symphony on violin despite just two years of study on the instrument. Mason is disciplined, tenacious, and dedicated to daily honing the skills necessary for becoming the artist he dreams of being. In addition, Mason has been writing, creating, and recording drum parts, continuing his ‘hobby’ of pro-active collaboration with his peers.”


Asked why he works so hard, Mason says, “I try to maintain proficiency on my secondary instruments as much as possible because I love being multi-instrumental and playing types of music I otherwise could not.”


The VYO meets every Sunday in the Burlington area and consists of musicians from around Vermont, the Adirondacks, and northern New Hampshire. Traditionally they play in a full orchestra setting. However, this year they have been forced to play in smaller groups such as chamber winds and brass and percussion ensemble. For Mason, “It is an awesome experience because all the musicians are of a very high caliber and we, therefore, get to play amazing challenging repertoires, such as Tchaikovsky’s Marche Slave and Dvorak’s New World Symphony.”


Headmaster Sharon Howell said, “We have sorely missed musical performances this year because of COVID restrictions. Hearing students play music is one of the joys I most look forward to once the pandemic passes. In the meantime, it will be such a treat and an honor to hear Mason play with the Youth Orchestra, and we’re so proud that he’s representing us there.”


After graduation, Mason plans to attend the Boston Conservatory at Berklee, where he plans to pursue a clarinet performance degree. Mason says college “will prepare me to make a living performing. While I have no idea where my college path will take me, I am hopeful to one-day play music professionally.”


For now, Mason realizes he is “very fortunate to have been presented with the opportunity to play this solo with a full orchestra at such a young age.”


Mason will perform his senior solo with the VYO on May 2, 2021, in the Elley Long Music Center at 3:00 PM. Additional information can be found at https://vermont-youth-orchestra-association.networkforgood.com/events/29228-vyo-spring-concert

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