Behind the Scenes: Hanrich Claassen

Hanrich Claassen headshot 1How old were you when you began playing music?
I was 6 when I started piano lessons, 7 when I started playing the violin. I switched form violin to the cello at 9.

Did you always know you wanted to lead an orchestra? What was your career/education path to get here?
No - I wanted to be a répétiteur - both my parents were opera singers and I grew up sight-reading songs and arias for my mother for fun; I guess it felt like a natural choice to continue working with singers and getting more into the coaching side of things. I was always around lots of singers singing opera - I went to the theater while my parents were rehearsing or teaching at home and really grew to love this art form. I wanted to be part of the process of creating and molding singers preparing for a specific role. I also love the German art song repertoire (Lieder) and would have loved being a full-time accompanist. I studied piano and cello pre graduate degrees, but towards the end of my third year, it became clear that I rather wanted to be an orchestra musician. I was already working professionally substituting in a various orchestras while I finished my pre-graduate studies, so that made me decide to pursue post-graduate studies in cello alone. I am so grateful for the piano skills I have though, as it has served me so well over the years as cello teacher and of course, as a conductor too. Directly after finishing my first post-graduate degree I won a seat in the Cape Town Philharmonic, where I lived at the time and actually thought this would be what I do for life. After 5 years of playing and experiencing some burn-out I decided to take a break and pursue a teaching career, which has lead me to conducting. While living in Saudi Arabia I started conducting some smaller ensembles and this continued in Shanghai, while working for the American International School. I slowly started working with professional ensembles there as cellist, and purely by chance one day I was asked last-minute to conduct a work that just didn't come together in rehearsals. This was with the Shanghai Baroque Ensemble - after that concert I pretty much always played cello for half of their concerts, and conducted the ensemble for the rest. I loved it! I studied with various conductors in Shanghai, back in Cape Town and in Italy over holidays and at masterclasses and conducting competitions. Like any skill you want to be good at, I still work at it daily - trying to find more ways of being expressive yet clear in gesture and body language. There are so many things at play while conducting an ensemble... it's fascinating!

What is your primary instrument?

What's the best advice you received when you were a young musician?
My parents both gave me hours of advice, but also my biggest influence probably was Albie van Schalkwyk, my piano professor and one of the most magical musicians and accompanist I have ever had to pleasure to work with and learn from - a true mentor. Work hard - harder than anyone else around you; become the best musician you can be - listen, always listen; be open - to change, to new things and new music, new people, new cultures, and try hard - always try hard! Be versatile as a musician - be open to adapt to whatever situation. The time is 'now' - don't wait - don't ever wait to make beautiful music or practice or play softly or follow the composer's markings - do it 'now.' Love what you do, and be passionate about it!

What advice would you give ​FSYO students, or young people thinking of auditioning for ​FSYO?
I guess all of the advice I got and that has served me well, but also, don't be afraid to try - don't put off auditioning now, because you think you might be more ready next year. In a year from now, things might be different and you might have missed out on a year's worth of amazing musical experiences. FSYO provides such an important opportunity to 'belong' to something unique, and for your uniqueness to find company in fellow-musicians that look at the world maybe a little differently than your general classmates at school. We really are a big family that care and look after each other, while inspiring and pushing you to become the best musician you can be!

If you weren't a conductor, what career would you want to try?
I pilot or a professional deep sea diver - both professions that would lead me to see new and wonderful things and places!

What's something fun about you that most people don't know?
I have run three half-marathons, one of which was the Great Wall race in China, more than half of the race happens on the actual great wall of China! I am a Padi qualified Advanced Open Water diver and have gone diving in many exciting places - Greece, Bali, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Thailand, Cyprus, to name a few...

FSYO Host Sounds of the Season

510x660 sounds of season poster WEBOn December 4th, the Florida Symphony Youth Orchestra's Symphonic Orchestra will help you kick off your holidays with Sounds of the Season. This concert will bring everyone together for an afternoon picnic accompanied by an array of holiday classical pieces and exciting collaborations with local arts organizations and American operatic tenor, Ben Gulley.

Hailed as "an outstanding tenor" (Opera News) and "startlingly-gifted" (San Francisco Classical Voice), Ben Gulley, will take the stage with FSYO to perform renditions of Holy Night, The Prayer, and From a Festival of Carols: A Christmas Processional, backed by the singers of Central Florida Vocal Arts and Montverde Academy. Gulley has performed both nationally and internationally, with a variety of ensembles and artists, including numerous crossover concerts and events with mainstream artists and entertainers such as David Foster, Natalie Cole, Brenna Whitaker, Blues Traveler, SNL alumni Darryl Hammond, and others. In addition to an outstanding vocal performance, scenes from the Nutcracker Suite will be brought to life by the graceful young talent of the Orlando Ballet School.

"This, our 60th season, is a year of new collaborations for FSYO. We are very excited to be working with such wonderful artists, both local and national, for this festive occasion. This is a great opportunity for our students to experience their music as a part of a larger production and for our audiences to experience the great arts programs that Central Florida has to offer." - Heide Evans Waldron, FSYO Executive Director

The concert will begin at 3:00 p.m. at the The Grove at Mead Botanical Gardens - 1500 S Denning Dr, Winter Park, FL 32789. Tickets range from $10 to $20, and can be purchased at As always, teachers receive free admission to this and all FSYO events.

ABOUT FSYO: The Florida Symphony Youth Orchestra aims to educate and inspire Central Florida's top young musicians through programs committed to strengthening musical talents and developing appreciation of the arts through classical music. The FSYO, in its 60th Concert Season, comprises three full orchestras, one string training orchestra and an advanced chamber ensemble, made up of more than 250 students from nine Central Florida counties, including Orange, Osceola, Lee, Seminole, Brevard, Lake, Highlands and Volusia. Programs are sponsored in part by the Florida Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs; the Florida Council on Arts and Culture; Orlando Utilities Commission; and United Arts of Central Florida. We thank these groups for their generous support.

Learn more: web: | FB: Florida Symphony Youth Orchestra | Twitter: @FSYO | IG: @F_S_Y_O | Youtube: @fsyo

ABOUT BEN GULLEY: The American operatic tenor, Ben Gulley, has been hailed "as an outstanding tenor (Opera News) ... startlingly-gifted (San Francisco Classical Voice)." Mr. Gulley's career is burgeoning with lead and feature roles in opera, solo engagements, concert work, film work, nationwide touring, and prestigious appearances abroad. Mr. Gulley is the 2009 winner of the Metropolitan Opera's National Council District & Regional Competitions and a National Semi-Finalist. Recent engagements include appearances with the Chautauqua Opera as Edmondo in Manon Lescaut and Edgardo (cover) in Lucia di Lammermoor, Opera San Luis Obispo in a role debut as Tamino, his debut in I Puratani as Arturo with Minnesota Concert Opera, Cedar Rapids Opera as the fourth Jew in Salome (his first HD Broadcast), Borsa in the Lyric Opera of Kansas City's Rigoletto and as The Peasant in La fille du Regiment. For more information, visit

ABOUT MONTVERDE ACADEMY MUSIC CONSERVATORY: Montverde Academy Music Conservatory is a school unique in central Florida: a place where talented students advance their music skills, learn from highly trained educators, and have access to first-class facilities. Montverde Academy fosters an environment where students are challenged both academically and artistically, and the days are bursting with possibilities and enrichment. Students are encouraged, involved, and vested in their academic and musical education. They spend every school day under the tutelage of highly skilled professionals. Upon graduation, students are prepared for the rigors of any top-notch college, university, or conservatory of music. Our award winning program offers majors in piano, strings, voice and musical theatre. Just 20 minutes from downtown Orlando with access to all of the best and most diverse performers and venues the area has to offer, the Montverde Academy Music Conservatory has its fingers on the arts pulse of Central Florida. For more informaiton, visit www.

ABOUT ORLANDO BALLET SCHOOL: Orlando Ballet School is regarded as one of the finest training academies in the world and is the official school of the Orlando Ballet. The school has been named "Outstanding School" at the New York finals of Youth America Grand Prix three times. With three locations in Central Florida, Orlando Ballet School adheres to the American Ballet Theatre® National Training curriculum and our American Ballet Theatre® certified teachers provide disciplined training for dancers of all ages. For more information, visit

ABOUT CENTRAL FLORIDA VOCAL ARTS: An important part of Central Florida Vocal Arts' mission is to train the artists of tomorrow. We have established two initiatives to provide training opportunities for future artists. The first initiative, our Bel Canto Scholarship fund is a year round opportunity offered to students who show promise in the arts and can establish a financial need. The second initiative, our Summer Institutes, train artists in all aspects of the performing arts including voice, dance, acting, technical production, script writing, set construction, audition preparation and more. For more information, visit


Students on the go!

A HUGE congrats to our very own FSYO Symphonic Orchestra concert-mistress Emily Erdman, who was chosen for the National Association for Music Education All National Orchestra as their concert-mistress! You make us proud!

This weekend Brenton Zhang will be a finalist in the Tampa Bay Symphony Young Artist Concerto Competition. We wish you all the very best!!

A big congrats, of course to our very own FSYO Concerto Competition Finalists, in alphabetical order Chase DeCarlo, Emily Erdman, Molly Kaplan, Emily Kipp, Alex Koller, Jakob Schoenfield, Lauryn Sparger and Brenton Zhang. They will compete on November 19th at 5pm at Montverde Academy Sandra O. Stephens Auditorium.

Congrats to the following students who were chosen for the FSU Tri-State band and the Florida Orchestra Association Annual All-State Orchestra Festivals:

36th annual Florida State University TRI-STATE BAND FESTIVAL

Miguel Barrios (Symphonic)

Jack Carr (Symphonic)

Sam Dufresne (Symphonic)

Nicole Gironda (Symphonic)

Thomas Larger (Philharmonia)

Pedro Mujica (Symphonic)

Bryce Nguyen (Philharmonia)

KeeJin Yoon (Symphonic)

9-10 and 11-12 All- State Orchestras

Noah Bartfield (Symphonic)

Camilla Carvalho (Symphonic)

Ronald Chancey (Symphonic)

Jason Donnelly (Symphonic)

Emily Erdman (Symphonic)

Kate Goodin (Symphonic)

Anna Horzen (Symphonic)

Christina Junga (Symphonic)

Molly Kaplan (Symphonic)

Emily Kipp (Symphonic)

Alex Koller (Symphonic)

Hannah Lindvall (Symphonic)

Alex Luna (Symphonic)

Jacob McKey (Symphonic)

Lili Pope (Symphonic)

Colton Potter (Symphonic)

Julia Reprip (Symphonic)

Edwin Rivera (Symphonic)

Jakob Schoenfeld (Symphonic)

Curtis Shugart (Symphonic)

Prayo Smitasin (Symphonic)

Kayla Smith (Philharmonia)

Lauryn Sparger (Symphonic)

Brandon Stacy (Symphonic)

Alexander Vaquerizo (Symphonic)

Timothy Vu (Symphonic)

Dillon Wilson (Symphonic)

KeeJin Yoon (Symphonic)

Brenton Zhang (Symphonic)

*If we missed anyone off this list, PLEASE let us know and we apologize in advance!

**If there are any further accomplishments we don't know about, please let us know at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - we'd love to share this with our FSYO family!

Day in the Life featuring - Miya Luebke


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This month we interviewed Prelude cellist , Miya Luebke. 

How long have you been in FSYO? What made you want to join?

As of now, I am going into my 2nd season with the FSYO and currently the assistant principal cellist in the Prelude orchestra. I heard countless positive things about FSYO, and there were numerous reason why I wanted to join. My biggest influence was my violinist friend and fellow member Maggie Yuan who (in a nice way) forced me to audition. Also I really wanted to challenge myself and improve myself as a musician and a person, as well as meet and learn from other fantastic musicians.

What was your favorite memory from FSYO?

I have almost too many favorite memories to count! If i had to choose one though, I would say my first rehearsal. When I walked in, I saw and met so many incredible musicians from all the orchestras, and became deeply inspired to become just as incredible as them one day. Everyone there shows so much passion for music and the works that will be performed, it's absolutely incredible! I made so many friends from just that first day, and hope to play with them until we graduate.

What do you do when you're not rehearsing?

When I'm not doing anything music related, I'm usually acting like some form of nerd. I'm an avid Bob's Burgers and Doctor Who fan, and I try to get as much merchandise as I can. I adore the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter series, as well as classic works of literature like Don Quixote and The Odyssey. Literature is something I find very fascinating, and being able to read the mind and creativity of the author is the best. As well as those things, I'm truly fascinated by history, geography, and linguistics, and I even attended the State Level National Geographic Geography Bee in 2014.

What's one thing that you would like to change in the world?

If I could change one thing in this world, I'd get rid of all kinds of prejudice. I'd change the fact that someone's life and value are almost solely based on their race, gender, nationality, sexuality, and other things that cannot be controlled. Sadly, there is so much pressure in our society to be and act the same, or in some cases "perfect". Today's prejudice wouldn't exist if we only accepted our differences, instead of trying to be the same. Music can unify us and help us defeat prejudice, because music is one of the few things that will never believe in prejudice.

FSYO Host 60th Season Opener, featured artist Eric Jacobsen

FSYO to Host 60th Season Opener on October 9th

Featuring Eric Jacobsen, cellist

concert openingORLANDO, FL – On Sunday, October 9, 2016 at 4:00 pm, the Florida Symphony Youth Orchestra will dazzle the public with the first concert of their 60th Anniversary season at the historic Bob Carr Theater. Featured guest artist - Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra Music Director and remarkable cellist, Eric Jacobsen - will perform Dvorak's Silent Wood and Popper's Hungarian Fantasie accompanied by the FSYO Symphonic Orchestra.

Joining the Central Florida arts community in 2015, Jacobsen has honed his musical skills as a conductor and cellist, nationally and internationally. His style melds the classical with the contemporary in seamless fashion, performing in and directing innovative groups such as The Knights and Brooklyn Rider. Jacobsen has collaborated with such greats as Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, and Susan Graham at venues ranging from Carnegie Hall to the Ojai Music Festivalin, and on October 9th, he will join us at Bob Carr Theater for his first performance with the FSYO.

This concert will also be the first Season Opener for new FSYO Music Director and Symphonic Orchestra conductor, Hanrich Claassen. When asked about this concert, he said, "The FSYO is a family of some of the most talented and hardworking young orchestra instrumentalists and staff Central Florida has to offer. The artistic team and I have been enthusiastically preparing our four orchestras to inspire and wow audience members at our opening concert. I promise we will not disappoint - it will be a festive celebration of our 60th Season!"

Having performed and conducted internationally, Claassen brings new interpretations and ideas that are helping the students reach new heights as an ensemble. He is also bringing a fresh look to our season programming, which will now feature exciting collaborations and several new concert experiences, including some outdoor performances for the community to enjoy.

Tickets to this concert, and to all 60th season performances, can be purchased on the FSYO website ( and at the door. Ticket prices for this concert range from $10 to $20. This is one that you do not want to miss!

About FSYO: The Florida Symphony Youth Orchestra aims to educate and inspire Central Florida's top young musicians through programs committed to strengthening musical talents and developing appreciation of the arts through classical music. The FSYO, in its 60th Concert Season, comprises three full orchestras, one string training orchestra and an advanced chamber ensemble, made up of more than 250 students from nine Central Florida counties, including Orange, Osceola, Lee, Seminole, Brevard, Lake, Highlands and Volusia. Programs are sponsored in part by the Florida Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs; the Florida Council on Arts and Culture; Orlando Utilities Commission; and United Arts of Central Florida. We thank these groups for their generous support.

Learn more: web: | FB: Florida Symphony Youth Orchestra | Twitter: @FSYO | IG: @F_S_Y_O | Youtube: @fsyo

cropped Dario Acosta-lightbackgroundAbout Eric Jacobsen: Hailed by The New York Times as "an interpretive dynamo," conductor and cellist ERIC JACOBSEN has built a reputation for engaging audiences with innovative and collaborative projects. Following an international search, Eric Jacobsen was appointed Music Director of the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra in the 2015-2016 Season.

Jacobsen is the co-founder and Music Director of the adventurous orchestra The Knights. As Music Director, Jacobsen has led the "consistently inventive, infectiously engaged indie ensemble" (The New York Times) at venues ranging from Carnegie Hall to the Ojai Music Festival, and international hot spots such as the Dresden Musikfestspiele and Cologne Philharmonie. Recent collaborators include cellists Yo-Yo Ma and Jan Vogler, violinists Itzhak Perlman and Gil Shaham, and singers Dawn Upshaw and Susan Graham.

A dedicated chamber musician, Jacobsen is a member of Yo-Yo Ma's venerated Silk Road Project. He has participated in residencies and performances in Azerbaijan, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Switzerland and across the USA including The Art Institute of Chicago and The Hollywood Bowl.

Jacobsen is also a founding member of the genre-defying string quartet Brooklyn Rider, dubbed "one of the wonders of contemporary music" (Los Angeles Times). After 10 years with Brooklyn Rider, Mr. Jacobsen stepped away from the group to focus on his passion for conducting and the orchestra.

As a cellist, Jacobsen has performed with Renee Fleming on David Letterman and at the inaugural concert at Zankel Hall at Carnegie. He has also appeared with The Silk Road Ensemble at the opening ceremonies of the Special Olympics in Shanghai. (for more on Eric Jacobsen visit

FSYO Announces New Music Director Hanrich Claassen

Hanrich Claassen

The Florida Symphony Youth Orchestra has appointed cellist, conductor, and educator Hanrich Claassen as the new music director and conductor of the Symphonic Orchestra for our upcoming 2016-2017 season.

"I immediately fell in love with the passionate, energetic young musicians' joyous approach to music making and I look forward to exploring a wide variety of repertoire and projects with this vibrant organization. Together with our wonderful artistic and executive team, I am excited to cultivate innovative programs and initiatives to make our organization even more visible and expand the love of music within our community." – Hanrich Claassen

An international performing cellist and pianist, as well as conductor, Mr. Claassen musically began at the University of the Free State in South Africa, earning a Bachelor's in Music with cello and piano. Continuing his cello studies, Claassen obtained a Music Honours degree and his Master's degree in chamber music at the University of Stellenbosch. Mr. Claassen then finished his Teaching Licentiate at the University of South Africa with distinction, and continuing his cello study in 2003 in Portugal.

"We are absolutely delighted to have Mr. Claassen joining the FSYO and very much look forward to his input and vision for the organization. We have no doubt that Hanrich will draw on his diverse musical background to bring new strengths to FSYO and the Symphonic Orchestra. He clearly bonded with the students during rehearsal and I believe the students are looking forward to working with him" – Stephen Schenck, Board President

Mr. Matthew Davis will continue to act as the interim music director and the conductor for the Symphonic Orchestra until the completion of the 2015-2016 season.

ABOUT: The Florida Symphony Youth Orchestra aims to educate and inspire Florida's top young musicians through programs committed to strengthening musical talents and developing appreciation of the arts through classical music. The FSYO, in its 59th Concert Season, comprises three full orchestras and one string training orchestra made up of more than 250 students from eight Central Florida counties.

Programs are sponsored in part by the Florida Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs; the Florida Council on Arts and Culture; Darden Restaurant Foundation; Universal Orlando Foundation; The Central Florida Foundation and United Arts of Central Florida. The FSYO is a non-profit 501(c)(3) charitable organization. For more information, please visit | | @fsyo (twitter) | @f_s_y_o (instagram) |

About Hanrich Claassen: Hanrich Claassen is a passionate cellist, conductor and educator who believes that a balance between educating and performing music is the key to true artistic enlightenment.

Mr. Claassen obtained his Bachelor of Music in both piano and cello at the University of the Free State in South Africa. He furthered his cello studies at the University of Stellenbosch, where he completed both a Music Honours Degree and his Master's Degree in Chamber Music. Mr. Claassen was awarded the Teacher's Licentiate from the University of South Africa with distinction before furthering his cello studies in Portugal in 2003 at the Escola Superior de Artes Aplicadas.

Florida Symphony Youth Orchestras | (407) 999-7800 |

Florida Symphony Youth Orchestras is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Florida Symphony Youth Orchestras is supported in part by the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs and United Arts of Central Florida, host of and the collaborative Campaign for the Arts.

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