Spring 2022 Senior Spotlights


Now that we are finally at the end of our WYSO orchestra season, we want to take a moment to celebrate the seniors who will be graduating this year. These seniors deserve recognition for their determination to WYSO over the years and persevering through a worldwide pandemic to continue their dedication to music. Their hard work has paid off and we are so proud of all of them!

These seniors shared their stories of how they came to WYSO, their favorite experiences, and their plans after graduation. We wish them all the best in their future ventures and are excited to welcome them into the WYSO Alumni family!

Ana Exerovich, Violin, Youth Orchestra

“I first heard about WYSO while attending theUW-Madison Summer Music Clinic in middle school. After experiencing a little bit of ensemble playing during the clinic, I knew that it was something I wanted to incorporate into my musical activities year-round. I began playing inWYSO’s Sinfonietta Orchestra when I was 13 years old under the instruction of Mark Leiser. Mr.Leiser showed me that playing violin could open so many doors for me, musically, as well as socially. I met lots of amazing people with similar interests that year and formed friendships that I still maintain today.

Being in such a vibrant group of like-minded individuals allowed me to see music through a different lens in which performing was not about displaying my art and skill, but rather sharing a common passion with my peers and coming together to create something beautiful. I am grateful for all of the amazing WYSO conductors and coaches, especially Mark Leiser, who truly taught me to love music and share that love with others. After graduating, I plan to pursue an engineering degree at UMN Twin Cities, while still studying violin on the side and participating in ensemble playing throughout college. I am so proud to say that I was part of such an incredible organization and I will always hold my memories from WYSO close to my heart.”


Jacob Mandelbrot, Clarinet, Youth Orchestra

“When my clarinet teacher first told me about WYSO, I could never imagine the impact it would have on me. On my first day of Concert Orchestra in the 8th grade, I was blown away by the talent surrounding me and I loved being able to play pieces like Carmen and The Barber of Seville that are only possible with an orchestra like WYSO.While playing a solo for a performance or audition is exhilarating, nothing comes close to the indescribable feeling of playing with other musicians, each one using their unique experiences to share the story of a piece with the audience.

This feeling is even more present in small ensembles, where each member plays a vital role in the group dynamic. One of my favorite WYSO memories is when the Lalita Quintet recorded Claude Debussy’s La Petite Suite, one of my favorite pieces, at the oboe member’s house with all of his recording equipment. He showed us how he recorded each instrument separately and then mixed them together. I love moments like this in WYSO, learning something new from talking to other passionate musicians, and becoming part of a vibrant community.

For the last five years, I have looked forward to playing in WYSO every week. I am so appreciative of the extraordinary opportunities that WYSO has provided me including playing in masterclasses, chamber music, chamber orchestras, and full orchestras. I would especially like to thank my teacher, JJ Koh, for his expertise and kindness, and for showing me how beautiful a clarinet can sound.

Lastly, I am deeply grateful for Kyle Knox setting high expectations for us, teaching us the skills to rise to that level, and most of all, for making us better musicians and humans. In the fall, I will be a freshman at Harvard where I plan to continue taking lessons and playing in an orchestra. Even if I end up choosing a career path outside of music, I know the skills I have learned and the people I meet through music will continue to be meaningful. I will always enjoy playing the clarinet!”




Katie Stockhausen, Trumpet, Youth Orchestra

“I got involved in music through my mom when I was really young – she started me in piano lessons when I was four years old. I continued playing, and picked up the trumpet when I started fifth grade. I still play piano once in a while, and I play alto saxophone for fun, but I spend most of my time with my trumpet. A couple of my good friends performed with the Youth Orchestra, and when I became interested in more classical trumpet playing, they suggested I should join.

I have been involved with WYSO for two years. My experience has been wonderful! Sadly, my first year with WYSO was during the pandemic, which led to an interesting experience to say the least. This year, though, I have met wonderful people and it has been so much fun to play with such a large group of extremely talented musicians. I think my favorite memory is walking around with two of my now closest friends, arm-in-arm, and laughing about things going on in the rehearsal that day. I really love the close relationships I have formed with many of my fellow musicians. Next year, I will be studying molecular biology – I don’t know where yet. I want to keep playing the trumpet, but what form that will take I do not yet know.”



Geoffrey Saemann, Trombone, Concert Orchestra


“I got involved in music in the fifth grade because it sounded interesting and I wanted to try it out. I play the trombone and the piano. I learned about WYSO from my mother. I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience with WYSO, I look forward to it every week.

I’ve been involved in WYSO since the fall of 2020. My favorite memory from WYSO was the masterclass I did with Megumi Kanda last summer. I am going to University next year, and I plan to continue playing the trombone in the University Concert Orchestra.”

Sophie Reader, Oboe, Youth Orchestra

“Growing up, my brothers and I were obsessed with attempting to play my mom’s all-white clarinet and pretending that we were in the UW-Madison Marching Band. Hence, when the opportunity to join a real band rolled around in fifth grade, I was stoked. My school’s band director assigned me to play the trumpet – which I attempted, with few positive results, for a year.

So, in sixth grade, in a last-ditch effort to not quit music altogether,  I switched to playing the oboe. Thankfully, I stuck with it, and band and orchestra have been a monumental part of my life ever since. In high school, in addition to playing the oboe in the concert band, I learned to play the saxophone so that I could participate in our marching and pep bands (and served as the rifle captain of the Sauk Prairie Marching Band’s Color Guard (state champs 2020!!), and I learned the clarinet (properly, this time) so that I could cover more parts in our pit orchestra. In a wonderful turn of events, performing in the pit orchestra led me to WYSO when the musical’s pianist, Lisa Montelbano, suggested that I audition.

Since auditioning as a freshman, I’ve participated in WYSO for three years, but my favorite memory is still of my first day. Coming from a school that doesn’t offer an orchestra program, it was awe-inspiring to see so many string instruments and to tune the orchestra for the first time. WYSO has introduced me to worlds that I couldn’t have imagined four years ago, and it is thanks to this community and programming that I was able to connect with my private teacher, Laura Medisky. Each weekend, I continue to be impressed by my incredible fellow musicians and the lengths that the WYSO staff goes to in order to give each of us a fantastic experience, regardless of worldwide pandemics.

To build on my wonderful experience with WYSO, the oboe, and music in general, in the fall, I will be attending UW-Madison to study oboe performance in the Mead WitterSchool of Music in addition to studying sociology.”

Aiden Dalby, Percussion, Youth Orchestra

“I’ve been involved in music since I was five, when my parents got me into piano. Once I got into the 6th grade however, I started playing percussion as well. I learned about WYSO from a letter/email that was sent to my parents as we were moving to Madison. It seemed like a cool group, and a great way to practice my musical skills and increase my musical ability.

My experience with WYSO has been great. The percussion community is very tight knit, and we all support one another, and the music that we play in the percussion ensemble is challenging and helps me become a better musician. Alternatively, the music we play in the orchestra, while much easier and less active than PE, still improved my skill in playing along with a full orchestra. I’ve been involved in WYSO for five years, and my favorite memory from WYSO is definitely the first Percussion Extravaganza that I played, in 2018. The presentation of it all, and the culmination of a lot of hard work made it a truly special concert.

In terms of plans for next year, I have been accepted to, and am planning to attend UW-Madison next year, with a major in statistics, as well as a certificate in Scandinavian studies. Musically, I will be joining either the band or the orchestra program at the UW, as well as a possibility of joining the marching band.”

Finola Dienger-Hanson, Oboe, Youth Orchestra

“I play the oboe and English horn. Music has been one of the biggest components in my life ever since I was a toddler and would listen to my dad playing his guitar. I originally learned about WYSO through my private oboe instructor, Mary Beth Hensel, who is the principal oboist of the La Crosse Symphony.

I joined theYouth Symphony at the beginning of my Junior year, 2020.  Ever since the first day I played with the group, I have absolutely loved being a part of WYSO. Not only has it been inspiring to create music with others my age who share a passion for music, but I have made friends from other cities in Wisconsin that I wouldn’t have met otherwise. 

Next year, I have been accepted to the Royal Irish Academy of Music in Dublin, Ireland, where I will be studying oboe to play professionally.”