Sophomore student chosen to attend National Youth Orchestra

Williamsport Area High School sophomore and violinist Michael Fisher is set to take the stage this summer as one of just five Pennsylvania teenagers chosen for the National Youth Orchestra (NYO), as announced by Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute.

After an intense three-week rehearsal process the 119-member youth orchestra, from 33 states, will perform at the Tanglewood Festival and Carnegie Hall before setting off on a European tour this summer.

It’s an honor the gifted musician was skeptical he would receive.

There was no cost to audition and with the encouragement of his family and teachers, Fisher decided he would “go for it and see what happens.” With the possibility of a great experience to be had, he decided “Why not?”

“I worked really hard,” Fisher related about preparing with his orchestra teacher Matt Radspinner. He practiced for a month before submitting his audition video. Not only was he required to practice and perform three excerpts from the music chosen for the Youth Orchestra, he needed to submit written essays and record a personal video essay to demonstrate his professionalism.

The process is about more than just practicing, Fisher explained. “I could learn the notes all day long, but it doesn’t mean anything if I haven’t gone through the steps of really analyzing what the composer wanted. That’s a huge key in this.”

Fisher knew he wanted to play the violin as a 3-year-old. His dad Don, a percussionist and instrumental teacher at Lycoming Valley Intermediate School, showed him a DVD of the Dave Matthews Band, pointing out the skills of the drummer.

Michael was mesmerized by the electric violinist. “I wanna do that,” he said, and the rest was history.

At the age of 4, young Fisher began Suzuki violin lessons with Pat Thayer in Williamsport and when she retired several years later, he began studying with James P. Lyon at Penn State University, where he continues to take instruction about once a week. “Pat Thayer was my foundation and my rock,” he said of his first teacher.

“I thought it was cool,” Fisher explained about playing the violin, “and I love that I don’t always have to use my words to express things.”

The entertainment aspect of performing also appeals to him as he likes interacting with others and meeting new people. Fisher’s favorite genre is classical, especially the “romantic side of music that’s really passionate and expressive”and that also includes feelings of tension, he pointed out.

The young musician is a typical teenager, though, and also likes rap and hip hop. A well-rounded student, Fisher is a track and cross country athlete and also enjoys weight lifting and basketball.

The Fisher family includes four musicians. In addition to the men, Mom Kristin are a pianist and vocalist, and Michael’s younger sister, Marcella, plays cello and guitar.

Kristin Fisher has thought a lot about her son’s musical gifts and where they come from. In addition to his skill with the violin, the young man has perfect pitch, the rare ability to name a note just by hearing it.

“Because Michael was adopted, I get asked a lot if his gifts are more nature or nurture,” she related. “Don and I nurtured him but there’s no doubt he has some wonky, innate, beautiful gifts and if we sought out his biological family in Korea, I am sure there is a musician in there somewhere. That’s my take as the mom.” Both Michael and Marcella, also adopted from Korea, “have these beautiful brains, with the ability to memorize very easily, Kristin noted.

Don describes the violin as part of Michael’s body, which is different from the percussion instruments he “manipulates” to produce sound. “When Mike plays the violin there is no dividing between the instrument, the person, and the heart. It all flows,” he said.

An excellent student, Michael already has ideas about his collegiate level studies, looking first to top-class music schools that could take his musical talents to the next level, possibly enabling him to pursue a career as a soloist “Realistically, it’s difficult” he said of the solo path.

He also has a secondary interest in the field of medicine and could see himself as a pediatrician, a career that would let him interact with people.

In his “older days,” when they come, he might like be a college professor and violin instructor.

Fisher credits his achievements to being born into a musical family. “I couldn’t escape it,” he says. “I have the rhythmic side of my percussive dad and the lyrical side of my pianist and singer mom. “I wouldn’t be where I am now without them,” he noted of their investment in him, both financial and otherwise. The violinist also credits his instructors and others who continue to support him on his musical journey.

While he is most excited to see the Netherlands on the transatlantic tour, Fisher admits he is really looking forward to the European food, which he has heard is excellent, explaining it’s the desserts he looks forward to most.

Yes, Michael Fisher is a typical teenager but one who demonstrates amazing musical talents honed by hard work and a dedication to excellence. The world stage awaits him and his fellow musicians this summer.


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