This season marks the 50th anniversary of the Audrey G. Baird Stars of Tomorrow competition and concert. We've caught up with some of our program alumni and will be sharing their stories throughout the season. We recently spoke with MSO first violinist and Waukesha, WI native Alexander Ayers, who has been a member of our string section since 2013.
My earliest memory of attending an orchestral performance: That's a tough one. The first orchestra concert I went to was a Fox Valley Symphony concert when I was really young, but I don't remember it. My family went to lots of performances as I was growing up, and I know I saw the MSO perform several times. The ones that I remember now the most are the concerts I was part of; I played two movements from the Bach double concerto with the MSO when I was about 12 I think, and the Stars of Tomorrow concert of course.
The Stars of Tomorrow process taught me a lot. I didn't do many competitions when I was in high school, so I didn't have much of an idea of what it would be like. I remember just thinking I was competing against myself instead of trying to beat someone else - was I playing to the standard which I knew I could? Then when it was down to three people playing with the orchestra, I really had no idea how to prepare for that: do I just follow the conductor, will he follow me, wow there's a lot of people on stage, even more people in the audience. But I do remember feeling supported through it all, by the conductor, the orchestra, the staff. I think the Stars of Tomorrow competition made me realize that I wanted to make music my career. And it's a nice bonus that now I get to be part of the orchestra that inspired me!
To future Stars of Tomorrow, I would first say to keep good records of the whole experience - how you felt throughout, names of the staff and conductor, etc. Also, I would want them to keep in mind that being a musician is, like most things, an extended journey. Learning many pieces when you are in high school and college is great, because they will be easy to come back to later, as well as benefiting from a new perspective. Don't practice so much that you injure yourself; instead focus on correct form and posture without tension. Play for many different people; you can learn something from all of them. And last, let the Stars of Tomorrow experience inspire you to continue making music.