“YOCJ…is an unparalleled platform for education…” ~ Azhad Syed

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“In 2013, YOCJ senior Azhad Syed performed the third movement of Joseph Schwantner’s Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra, ‘ritmico con brio’ in YOCJ’s Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Mr. John Enz. Half a year later, he has had the amazing opportunity to follow up with the Pullitzer Prize winning composer, Schwantner, himself. For the 2014 Winter quarter at Northwestern University, Joseph Schwantner spent one week at the Bienen School of Music as the Composer in Residency. During his stay at Northwestern, music students participated in a festival style presentation of a large selection of Schwantner’s music. Azhad performed in Chasing Light for orchestra under Dr. Robert G. Hasty, and …and the mountains rising nowhere under renowned wind ensemble director Mallory B. Thompson.”

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(One of the pictures

is a group photo of the

Northwestern SWE

percussion section and

Mallory Thompson

after a percussion sectional.)






Azhad began playing in YOCJ during his sophomore year of high school. This was also his second year playing percussion, and he saw YOCJ as an opportunity to play with serious high school students at an advanced level. What he didn’t see then was that YOCJ is not only that, but so much more. It is an unparalleled platform for education and connection that he has not seen in many places in New Jersey. YOCJ introduced Azhad to his private teacher, and he has seen this happen to many of his colleagues as well–the YOCJ faculty is truly a collection of some of the best high school music teachers in the state. Not only do students have access to their primary instrument instructors, but the artistic guidance of the entire faculty is at hand, when undertaking large projects, new works, or even hard orchestral excerpts.

YOCJ was where Azhad met some of his best friends from high school–making music at that level builds friendships that remain outside of the concert hall, and allows younger students to receive the guidance and support from older students. It is a place where a senior soloist in Symphonic orchestra and an upcoming 7th grade drummer and percussionist can develop an artistic connection and collaborate in making music–this is something he really believes you cannot find anywhere else in the state. It is an opportunity to meet high school students from around Central Jersey, develop friendships and help each other on anything from orchestra repertoire to solo music and from college apps to marching band.

Most importantly, these elements all combine to make YOCJ a necessary foundation of a student’s musical learning. It caters to every single step of the learning process and enables students to finish strong at any level of commitment to the instrument, be it a dedicated recreational player or a senior enrolled in a university music program. Azhad has YOCJ to thank for much of his experience in music in his senior year and for helping him transition into freshman year at the Bienen School of Music.

Azhad Syed would like to thank Mr. Pugh, for all the hard work he has put into making YOCJ all the things that are stated above. Both under the baton and otherwise, your contribution to YOCJ has made a huge difference on Azhad’s relationship with music and percussion. Best of luck in the spring concert!”