I started working full time with Yamaha in 1997 after being a Yamaha Performing Drum Set Artist for a number of years.
One of the first projects I spearheaded was the Yamaha Young Performing Artist competition (YYPA), which recognizes outstanding young musicians from the worlds of classical, jazz and contemporary music.
Winners of this music competition are invited to attend an all-expense paid weekend at the Music for All™ Summer Symposium, receive a once-in-a-lifetime performance opportunity in front of an audience of thousands, national press coverage as well as a recording and photos of the live performance, and get to participate in workshops designed to launch a professional music career.
My first experience seeing the transformation of these bright, young, promising musicians from great players into confident, prepared and experienced rising stars lit a fire in me which still burns hot.
I have a vivid memory of first hearing Patrick Bartley as he rehearsed with the small group he performed with when he won the YYPA position for jazz saxophone a few years ago. His playing and sound were big, developed and deeply soulful. This was clearly a young man who knew how he wanted to approach the world out there. He was a masterful musician with a humble soul, searching for guidance on how to navigate his journey. We have kept in touch, and I am as grateful to have met him as he is to have met us. I see Patrick in social media or on late night TV from time to time and take great pride in knowing that our program helped him design a career on his own terms. It's great watching him unfold into a beautiful musician and man!
There is no way to describe the magnificent feeling of watching the YYPA winners walk onstage one by one, to the deafening screams of almost 2,000 music students and teachers cheering them on to a performance of a lifetime. But what is even more fulfilling is the quiet peace I feel getting a handwritten note from a winner thanking us for helping them along their life's path.
Man, do I love my job!
This article was originally published on the Yamaha Music USA blog.