It sounds like a dream: starting a youth orchestra from scratch with the resources of the Los Angeles Philharmonic behind you, with a brilliant team of people led by and inspired by the genius of Gustavo Dudamel. But it was even better than that. Working with YOLA for its first 5 years was a unique opportunity. Very few educators have the chance to take students from their first years on instruments all the way to advanced musicianship. But that’s exactly what I had the privilege to do with YOLA. Watching the program grow from 85 students to nearly 700 over those 5 years, I led the same students in everything from simple arrangements of “Can Can” to “Firebird” at Walt Disney Concert Hall. That’s stunning progress in any field. Seeing the pride on these young musicians faces, and getting to know them and their families has been one of the most enriching and rewarding experiences of my life. Although I am no longer the day to day conductor, the program continues to expand and thrive with a group of dedicated, talented and committed teaching artists, all inspired by Gustavo’s brilliant vision. Luckily, I still get the joy of hearing them, conducting them on occasion, and recently did orchestrations for their performance at the Hollywood Bowl with the legendary Rock and Roll band: Journey.