Testimonials & Reviews

Henry Tsai, 8th grade violinist:
“My experience working with Dr. Flanders was amazing! I enjoyed both the online Rounds and Canons class and the Midori Concertino project. I learned a ton and had a great time!”
Regards, Henry
Prisha Bagchi, 7th grade Violinist:
I was in the chamber camp this summer. I had an amazing time with Dr. Flanders coaching our group! She was really fun and also gave us great suggestions and tips for our piece, which made it a lot better. Her analogies were really easy to understand too, and I learned a lot from her. It was truly a unique experience for me. 

Nicholas Epps, 12th grade violinist:
“Even during these unusual times, PSO’s partnership with YOCJ ensured we could still make music during the 2020-2021 season. Despite our virtual limitations, Dr. Flanders hosted a wonderful online course where we played Bach’s Musical Offering. And during the summer, the in-person chamber music Summer camp was exceptional. Our coach, Rajli, helped us take our piece to the next level.”
Nikhil Das, 12th grade cellist talks about his experience with PSO coaches during the 2021 Summer Chamber Music Camp at Rider University:
“Some coaching advice that was really helpful was making sure we were listening to each other at all times. Jichen Li had us play with our eyes closed, without music, and with the room pitch black at different times to help us listen to each other. I think this definitely let us hear each other more and the direction the music was supposed to take us. I also appreciate the subtle differences that he explained even with simple notes one of my favorite lines was as a cellist when we have easy parts we have to “create our own work” so even in parts in the Mozart he taught me how to phrase quarter notes that seemed very boring and spaced out at first. 
Working with other musicians who were also very into the music as well definitely helped me regain my love for cello playing and also the rehearsals with just the group I think allowed us to work on what we wanted to present during our coaching sessions which lead to more fruitful discussions and coaching rehearsals. I also loved the Master Class, and I think it’s great to help the little kids work on their playing.
I just really really loved Jichen’s coaching. I thought Jichen was spectacular as he made rehearsals very fun, interesting, productive, and he also had a great sense of humor.  He also made us feel like real musicians with chamber music protocol for performances as well as addressing every musician’s nerves of performing. One of my favorite memories was right before the concert he let us all go around individually and talk about what we do when we get nervous and then he offered us solutions to these different problems and that was some of the best advice I have ever received.  He is definitely a coach I will never forget and I would love to work with him in the future.”
Angela Li, 12th grade violinist talks about her experience with PSO coaches during the 2021 Summer Chamber Music Camp at Rider University:
“Jichen Li really helped in ensemble related feedback. He said that one of a chamber group’s biggest challenge is playing in unison, and a way to help is to make eye contact while cuing so everyone stays together. On performance day, he also gave advice on how to not be nervous while performing. He said that the reason why we are nervous is because of the audience, and that if we focus on the beginning of the piece and to play that part well, then the rest of the piece would come along well. Jichen also gave us some advice with sight-reading: when sight-reading with a group, always communicate with each other especially when it comes to tempo and also the repeats (whether or not the group does the repeats or not). 
Rajli Bicolli is also a really great coach. He gave me advice on how to play the Dvorak piece in a “playful” style and also helped the others out with rhythm and balance and dynamics etc. Rajli also shared about his professional gigs, and I think it really helped double bassist Laura because she is really interested in going into jazz in the future. Rajli also brought in his electric cello and a couple of electric violins because he had a gig later on one of the days of the camp, and we got to play on them after our rehearsals. Personally, I found Rajli a “fun” coach who was very immersed in conversing with us.
Both Jichen and Rajli are great cellists and coaches, and if there was an opportunity for them to work with YOCJ again, that would be awesome. Thanks for giving me this opportunity to play at the chamber camp!”

“We want to take this time to say thank you for all you have done for our little girl, Selma Cheeks. YOCJ does more than just teach and train youth to be great musicians, it also teaches them those values that are lacking in our communities and in our young people today. A few examples of these principles are: showing up 15 minutes before practice, being responsible, practicing at the end of the day, being committed, and most importantly, respecting those in authority and adhering to what they’re being taught. These are ethics that all individuals must have, for him or her to be able to cope with today’s fast-paced world. It is our hope that Selma will carry into adulthood everything she has learned from YOCJ. Your organization is definitely needed in today’s ever-changing landscape, with social media taking over young people’s lives with no other healthy choices to take. YOCJ is an excellent resource which our kids have, to safely navigate the chipping waters of today’s culture. Thanks to all the directors for taking time out from their busy schedule to work with our children. My family will never forget all that you have done for Selma and what you are continuing to do for all the children in your organization. May God continue to bless your continued efforts.” ~  Selma’s parents, Eugene and Roseline Cheeks

Brian Woodward

Jacob Woodward1“I would like to express my gratitude for the hard work and dedication of everyone involved with the Youth Orchestra of Central Jersey.  My husband has been a conductor with the organization for many years, and my children and I have enjoyed many concerts.   As an audience member, I was always astounded by the level at which these young musicians performed.

This year, our older son auditioned and became a member of the String Preparatory Orchestra.  His participation with the YOCJ has enabled him to challenge himself and further his skills as a young musician.  The highlight of this year was the trip to Germany, where the students not only performed and interacted with local musicians and conductors, but were exposed to musical history.  For me personally, I never could have imagined that I would witness both my son and my husband performing on the same stage in another country!  This was an amazing and unforgettable experience.

As I am now attending YOCJ concerts as a parent, I am thankful that these talented young students are part of an organization that teaches them to appreciate music, and exposes them to so many opportunities that go beyond the boundaries of simply playing an instrument.” ~ Amy Woodward

Ayanna“As a young student joining the Youth Orchestra of Central Jersey, not only was I exposed to a variety of music and ensemble types, but I also had the opportunity to meet and work with other talented musicians. I’m so grateful that Mr. Brian Woodward encouraged me to try out 6 years ago. I believe that YOCJ has helped me to realize my music potential and passion, inspired me to audition and study music education at the University of Delaware, all the while creating memories and friendships that will last a lifetime.” ~ Ayanna Posipanko ’16

Gracelynn Lu“Art is something that is passed down, but also created anew; something through which I always strive to share in the history and future, and the Youth Orchestra of Central Jersey has helped me and many others achieve this. YOCJ has contributed to my growth and motivation as an artist/musician.

On the most recent trip to Europe for YOCJ, I have grown in many ways and learned a lot. I love music and learning about history, and this trip with my orchestra has only helped feed my passion.

YOCJ has contributed to my historical awareness, and has done so much to make this learning and musical experience enjoyable. My orchestra exposed me to different genres of music, and we have done this for different audiences. My instrument teachers always told me, “Music is something that is shared, so play your heart out! If you enjoy it, others will, too.” At the beginning of my music career, I was shy and always played softly, but being in the Youth Orchestra of Central Jersey has made me more aware of the importance of sharing the art we practiced and worked so hard to perform.

The conductor for my YOCJ orchestra was also conductor of my very first orchestra, plus the chamber orchestra I was in when I was in 5th grade. I remember on the last few days of school orchestra of 5th grade, I really wished to be in another orchestra; whether it was a chamber, pit, etc. While walking through that hallway, just after exiting the stage there was a gargantuan crowd. Many people were trying to push to the front, as if eddying through crevices in the crowd.

The people exiting the crowd had a brochure. I went to my friend (violinist) who was just getting through the cafeteria door, and asked, “Did you see what the brochures are for?”

“Umm, I’m not sure,” she shifted her violin case to her other hand as she scanned the crowd, now gradually shrinking.

I walked back to our classroom with her, and I saw someone from band holding a brochure. I pondered how he was able to get through the crowd.

On the cover of the brochure it had ‘YOCJ’ on the cover with a symphonic orchestra. This piqued my interest and I asked him, “Oh, you’re going to try out?”
“I’m not sure; maybe?”
I said, “May I read it?” He handed it to me, and let me keep it. I read the audition date and my goal for the summer was set. My cello teacher had mentioned me being able to audition in the fall, and the brochure made me even more excited, though auditioning always made me nervous.

And now, after some time being in the Youth Orchestra of Central Jersey, it has definitely benefited me as a musician; it got me inspired, made me progress a lot, learn, and I met a lot of people. I’m glad I made a commitment as an artist, being inspired and motivated by so many people, and I hope through YOCJ performances, I got someone to be more inspired, through this sharing of art.” ~ Gracelynn Lu

Madeline Epstein

Isabella Epstein “My daughter (rising 7th grader) attends a very small private school with no group music program.  She is very musical and plays several instruments very well.  We joined the Youth Orchestra of Central Jersey so that she would have the opportunity to play with a group – to reap the benefits of the group/team effort, to give exposure to a larger repertoire, and most importantly to allow her to make friends with other children interested in music at a high level.  Due to her audition and playing experience with YOCJ, she auditioned for the regional and all-state level orchestras this year, the first year that she was eligible by grade level, and she made it into both!  Thank you, YOCJ!

My other daughter (rising 9th grader) plays the harp and has been taking individual lessons for 3 or 4 years.  Her middle school did not have a harp to use, so she was unable to play with the orchestra through her school program.  In addition, even the NJMEA does not allow harpists to audition for regional or state level orchestras.  There are very few positions for rising harpists in the local area. YOCJ gave her the chance to audition for and perform with the various orchestras, which has maintained her interest in continuing with the instrument.”

~ Kristin Epstein

Laura Simone Martin

“YOCJ helped me become a better musician in many ways. I’m so glad my private teacher insisted on joining the Youth Orchestra of Central Jersey. Multiple students of his, were and still are in YOCJ. At school I was not challenged at all by the music there. I was so used to not even having to practice the music. Once I joined YOCJ, I quickly realized that the music was much harder than my school’s. I had to practice a lot to learn how to play a song. Then separate practice to get good at my intonation and speed. My parents and I feel that every song I learn at YOCJ has made me become better. My school and my family were so proud that I got into the Youth Orchestra of Central Jersey, and I’m proud too.”

Laura-Simone, age 12

Web Masterclass“My name is Selma Cheeks and I’m currently enrolled in a prestigious youth orchestra known as the Youth Orchestra of Central Jersey. This September 2017 will be my 3rd season with the organization and hopefully not my last. When I first started my freshman year, I had an adequate understand of music theory and different types of classical pieces to perform; and now I have a broader understanding of most, and I couldn’t be happier. The organization is also full with well experienced and helpful staff. YOCJ has plenty of opportunities for the students of various instruments- such as masterclasses. Last season on March 21st 2017, I had the honor to be a part of the brass masterclass which featured Principal Horn of the Philadelphia Orchestra Ms. Jennifer Montone. She—along with the staff provided me with useful information which has helped to mold me into a better musician.”

SONY DSC“The exposure of the different types of music both inspired and challenged our son in his clarinet playing.  Along with the support of the conductors, we believe all of that combined experience from the Youth Orchestra of Central Jersey gave him the confidency and competency to be accepted to Mason Gross School of the Arts.”

~ Dr. Anita Franzione

“As grandparents, we have the privilege of loving and being proud of our grandchildren. It is a great blessing when the grandchildren do something to make us even more proud. Seeing our granddaughter and grandson play with the Youth Orchestra of Central Jersey tops it all. We see their hard work, and that of each private teacher and all the YOCJ conductors. Everyone gives 100 percent and it is readily seen at each performance.  We are in “awe” of all the children and their very dedicated mentors. Each performance comes through with diligence and pride in their work. We are so proud of our grandchildren. May God continue to bless them.”

~ Grandparents, Jim & Irma Martinez


“Our son thoroughly enjoys being part of YOCJ and he is SO PROUD to be part of this prestigious youth orchestra!  The Youth Orchestra of Central Jersey offers countless enriching opportunities for young string, brass, and woodwind students to grow as musicians!  Since joining YOCJ two years ago as a trombonist, my son has grown tremendously as a musician.  His conductor, Mr. Woodward, has played an integral role in challenging our son to progress instrumentally and in nurturing a love and appreciation of music, all while managing to make weekly rehearsals FUN!  All of the YOCJ Conductors are truly outstanding, extremely accomplished, and are an inspiration to both the YOCJ musicians and their parents alike! The Youth Orchestra of Central Jersey is a wonderful community of teen musicians, conductors, and parents  — where we have always felt right at home!”

~ Kristin & Bob Rossi, parents of YOCJ member

“We’re so thrilled to have found The Youth Orchestra of Central Jersey for our daughter. As a homeschooling family, there was no orchestra at school! She’s participated in all 3 YOCJ orchestras and has made some great friends, especially on the Europe trip. The quality of the musical instruction is excellent; the conductors have a great rapport with the kids but also command their respect. The music selection broadens their horizons by introducing them to classics from many countries and time periods. Master classes with the members of the Philadelphia Orchestra have been inspiring. Exciting performance venues have included the music pier in Ocean City, Richardson Auditorium at Princeton University and Esterhazy Palace in Austria, Haydn’s home for 50 years. The pressure’s on to practice, knowing that they have seating auditions before each concert! And it’s well-run, reasonably-priced, and conveniently located. Sign up now for your audition!”

~ Amy and Chris B.

“The Youth Orchestra of Central Jersey challenged my children to become better musicians than they ever expected to be. Our family has been a part of YOCJ since 2007 when my son Erich joined the SPO as a second violin.  His sister Julia joined a year later as a violist.  They both rose through each of the orchestras and performed, or in Julia’s case will perform, in their senior years with the Symphonic Orchestra.  The memories run deep and they are both proud to have been part of such a wonderful and talented group of musicians and conductors in Mr. Pugh and Mr. Enz. Truly a first class experience.”

~ Eileen M. Heinzel

“It’s a special treat every time I get to see them play… I marvel at the dedication and creativity of the students and conductors AND the great sound they produce at the Youth Orchestra of Central Jersey concerts! The trips and special venues they get to play in are the icing on the cake… what a unique group!”

~ Mike, father of two string players in YOCJ

Euro kids at Prague airportEuroBriffa10

“Because everyone else has already raved about the other Youth Orchestra of Central Jersey students and lauded the excellent music instructors, I would like to focus on how YOCJ made me fall in love with classical music. I was never really a fan of classical for the first 15 years of my life; it was too slow for me. However, YOCJ reversed those false stereotypes – classical music is actually very passionate and is almost like narrating a story, it has its fast and slow parts. Each instrument adds its own tone to the story’s portrayal and the different sections come together as intricate, dynamic characters whose intwined interactions add plot. Now, I listen to classical music almost all the time, especially when I’m studying or driving.”
~ Ryan D’souza