They’ve all participated in one of the five PYSO international concert tours in the past fourteen years!

Mark Debski (Oboe/2010-13) is the newly appointed Principal Oboe of the Richmond Symphony.
When asked what he remembers most about his PYSO days, these are just a few of the things he shared:
“2011 Tour to Italy!!! Also, playing Rachmaninov Symphonic Dances in the fall of 2012…Getting the chance to play really great repertoire and making so many friends that I still keep in touch with today…PYSO really helped me find my voice as a musician and opened up a lot of doors for me in the music world. I feel really lucky to have been a part of the orchestra with so many other incredibly talented musicians who also became some of my closest friends. I always remember feeling so inspired by my peers to work harder and contribute more to the orchestra in each rehearsal and performance. We had a really cohesive wind section during my final year there, and I learned what it meant to really listen and respond to the people who are sitting around you. It also provided me with the opportunity to begin studying with Mr. Smoliar privately. Throughout the time I studied with him and worked with him through PYSO, he was, and still is, an enormous inspiration to me. PYSO also helped me figure out that I wanted to pursue music professionally, and I am forever grateful for that revelation.


Pooja Tripathi (Violin/2008-2011) is co-creator of Kombuchachacha, a new comedy web-series which promotes veganism. The first episode, “Plant-Based,” was created by an all-female cast and crew and launched this past April on Youtube in celebration of Earth Day.
Like Mark Debski, Pooja participated in the PYSO 2011 Concert Tour of Italy and says, “I had such a great experience in PYSO and believe it’s helpful to show students how a music education allows for exciting and diverse projects throughout life…(it) is so versatile in how it can be used…I could have never written the song [in the video] without the knowledge that comes from many years of classical training!”

Sri Lekha Tummalapalli (Violin/2002-2005), a Physician in San Francisco in internal medicine and nephrology, wrote us to say, ““In PYSO, I felt like I was a part of a greater whole. During pieces the music surrounded me and I had a sensation that the orchestra was moving my fingers and bow for me. It was an incredible feeling and experience. PYSO was full of excellence. The leadership treated us as adults with tremendous respect. I have lifelong memories and friends from PYSO.”  Her favorite PYSO memories? The 2005 concert tour to Central Europe!

Recent PYSO grad Reed Ulery (Horn/2015- 2017) has been busy! He is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Music Education degree at the Jacobs School of Music, Indiana University. He’s an undergraduate member of Jeff Nelsen’s horn studio, marches mellophone in the IU Marching Hundred (pictured to the left in his marching uniform) and plays in the Jacobs School of Music Concert Band, Horn Choir, and a horn quartet called “Quartetttt” (comprised of four members of the BME Class of 2021).
 Some of Reed’s fondest PYSO memories mention PYSO’s repertoire and international tours, too!
I most remember our rehearsals on stage at Heinz Hall while we were working on The Planets preceding the (May 2016) spring concert. We sounded pretty amazing on that stage, and I made several great friends playing that music…My favorite memories of PYSO have to be on the 2017 summer tour to Spain. We played four concerts (one in which I got to conduct an encore, the next in which one of my best friends got to conduct an encore…PYSO was my first exposure to (play) nearly professional-level music performance, and my growth and experiences in PYSO prepared and inspired me to audition for music degrees at several colleges – something I thought I would never be good enough to do before I played in the orchestra. This in and of itself has made a profound impact on the course of my life as I now study at a great music school, but it also showed me what can happen when a group of motivated, talented individuals comes together to make something magnificent.”

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