“Amongst all of the organisations that I have been a part of and the experiences that I have had in the 11 years since my time in GDYO, I still remember this program with great fondness. It is a wonderful organisation, and my time there was very memorable and inspiring. What a privilege it was to be a member of the GDYO.”
Elias is professional clarinetist and music educator from Dallas, Texas currently based in Paris, France.
What was your experience with GDYO?
I remember my experience with GDYO being both musically enriching and positively challenging. The group prepares and performs serious musical literature at an impressive level. The wind symphony plays at the level of a college band and the GDYO at a level up to par with many college orchestras. The conducting faculty is world class and it is thanks to my membership in this organisation that I matured as a musician and high school student. I was a member of both the GDYO Wind Symphony (2005-2006 with David Kehler) and the Greater Dallas Youth Orchestra (2007-2008 with Richard Giangiulio).
What was one of your favorite memories from participating in GDYO?
Looking back, one of the incredible things about GDYO is its collaboration with world class musicians. My sectionals were coached by Dallas Symphony musicians. I even remember playing a concert as principal clarinet accompanying David Bilger, principal trumpet of the Philadelphia Orchestra. During my two year membership, I played alongside members of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra at the Meyerson Center, alongside the Dallas Winds, and went on a concert tour in Atlanta, Georgia. To be able to say that and not even be 18 years old at the time is quite an accomplishment, and that is all thanks to the GDYO.
Tell us about your music education outside of GDYO…
Outside of the GDYO, I was a member of my high school wind ensemble and marching band program (Duncanville High School). I was also taking private clarinet lessons once a week.
How did you choose the school(s) you attended?
My membership in the GDYO exposed me to college music faculty. Most of the members of the Dallas Symphony also teach college students at local universities or have contacts with out-of-state professors. My participation in summer band camps/music academies and all-state groups also exposed me to college faculty and helped me determine which teachers I wanted to study with.
What factors should prospective music students consider when choosing a school?
I think the two most important factors to be considered are your future teacher and money. Your teacher is who you will be working with closely for the next 4 to 5 years. It is important that you get a sense of their teaching style and ability, ideally before you audition to the school. I would recommend that you get a sample lesson in order to get a sense of what it would be like to work with them. This is also a good opportunity to ask any questions you may have about the school. I would also recommend having a conversation with a current or former student. They can give you the best insight of what their time is/was like at that particular school. The more informed you can be, the better. The other factor is money. I would apply to schools that offer work study, full, or partial tuition scholarships. Student loans can accumulate quickly and you want to have a worry-free education.
Are there different considerations for those who know they want to specialize in a certain area?
Absolutely. There are many different paths you can take within the field of music. For example, some schools allow (and in some cases even require) a double degree in music and something else. Some music programs require membership in the marching band program. Some specialise in music education, while others focus on orchestral audition training. There are also music theory, music history, and music therapy degrees, among others. I would comb through curriculums to see what each degree program entails.
In retrospect, is there anything that you wish you knew before you pursued your education in music?
There are a lot of things that I have learned by experience and that I didn’t necessarily learn in school, but I believe this is true for every career. In retrospect, I would say use your time in college to learn how to become organised. Don’t leave things to the last minute and start your days early so that you have time to spend time with your friends and family in the evening.
Tell us about your career – what have done since leaving GDYO – what you are currently up to?
After GDYO, I graduated with a Bachelor’s in Music Education from Baylor University. I then served as Associate Director of Bands for Mesquite Independent School District. During my first year of professional teaching, I realised that I wanted to continue my education, so I pursued a Master’s degree in Clarinet Performance from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, which I completed in 2015. I also completed a 3 – year membership with The Orchestra Now, a new ensemble based at Bard College in New York. The orchestra has a concert series in historic New York City venues like Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. With this ensemble, I recorded a CD, a documentary film soundtrack, went on a concert tour in Austria and Colombia, and performed as a concerto soloist on New York public radio. Most recently, I was awarded an artist residency in Paris, France. As a recipient of the Harriet Hale Woolley Scholarship, I am provided with an artist studio in Paris, a monetary grant, and access to a concert hall, which I perform in about 15 times this year as a soloist in a recital series. I am also performing with the professional ensemble in residence, Ensemble Calliopée, and pursuing an Artist Diploma at L’École Normale de Musique de Paris, with the guidance of my dear teacher Patrick Messina, principal clarinet of the National Orchestra of France.
How do you feel that GDYO prepared you for your career as a professional musician?
The rehearsals in GDYO are run exactly like any professional ensemble. The expectations are high and there was a level of professionalism amongst my peers and the conductors—from starting rehearsals on time, to preparing difficult concert literature. By the time I graduated high school, I was already very familiar with the rehearsal process in a professional setting. GDYO inspired me to continue doing music, because the experiences I had were very enriching.
What unique challenges and rewards come from working as a professional musician?
One of the unique challenges of working as a professional musician are adapting to various work environments. As a musician, you are constantly moving. You travel a lot for auditions, music festivals, and job opportunities. You become really good at finding a place to practice, booking flights, and writing cover letters/applications. A lot of the time, you are traveling alone in a new city, and this experience really raises your self-awareness. In some music programs, flights and accommodation are booked for you and everything is paid for. I’ve taken advantage of these travel opportunities to learn new languages. A career in music also requires a lot of patience and dedication to your craft. it is an investment of your time and money, but you have to believe in the process. The journey is not easy, but I can’t think of a more rewarding career choice.
How can the reality of a career as a musician differ from typical expectations?
The reality of a career in music is that there are many more students graduating from conservatories and music programs than there are openings in an orchestra. However, that shouldn’t deter anyone from pursuing music. There are many other ways to make a living, and it is still possible to have music be a significant part of your life. I recommend reading Dr. Pasha Sabouri’s « 51 Music Careers for Music Majors, » as an example. Another book I would recommend reading is: « Becoming an Orchestral Musician: A Guide for Aspiring Professionals » by Richard Davis. A reality about a career in music is that you may have to delay establishing roots in a city or setting down compared to your peers in other fields. Music is a career that takes time and perhaps just as much schooling as those in the medical profession. If it’s something you are unsure of, you may even consider looking into a program with a double major or double degree. Bard College has a 5 year degree program where you graduate with a Bachelor’s in Music and another degree of your choice. There are endless possibilities, so don’t be discouraged. There are tenured secure jobs out there, you just have to keeping building upon yourself and your experiences in order to get them.
Who are the biggest inspirations for your career?
My first clarinet teacher, Jeff Garcia. My college clarinet teacher, Dr. Richard Shanley. My hardworking parents. My sister. My current teacher, Patrick Messina.
What ranks among the favorite achievements that you’ve completed in your career and why?
Never in my life would I have imagined that I would have performed at Carnegie Hall, played on New York public radio, gone on tour in Europe, South America, and then be settling in Paris, France all within the span of a few months. I look down at my clarinet sometimes and say, « and it’s all thanks to this! » It has been a long and wild journey, and it is still going! I am very proud of myself. I have come a very long way.
What are some of your personal and/or professional goals for the future?
I would like to have a principal clarinet position in a professional European orchestra. I would also like to continue touring, and I would like to start learning my 4th language. I would also like to learn how to dance tango and salsa.
What other advice can you give to prospective students thinking about an education and career in music?
To GDYO kids currently in the program? Every musicians’ trajectory is going to be different. Being a musician is not a race, and there is not one road to success. It is a rewarding career full of many twists and turns. Be brave and always strive to be the best version of yourself that you can be. Be patient with yourself. Celebrate your colleagues successes and then keep working towards your dreams. Be pleasant to work with. Be curious. Stay humble. Have a non-musical hobby. Never give up on yourself. 🙂