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From Home to the Stage: Youth Orchestra Competition Winner Performs Brahms’ Violin Concerto

By Jessie Williams


Ayman Amerin grew up surrounded by music. With three older siblings, all of whom are musicians, the Amerin household was never quiet.


“Ayman would hear me practicing piano accompaniments from upstairs, recognize the piece, and run downstairs with his violin to start playing along with the solo part by memory,” remembered Ayman’s sister, Aliyah Amerin. “Mid-way through Haydn or Accolay or Beethoven's Romance in F, he'd jump an octave higher, or speed up to an unreasonable tempo, or play the melody a half-step flat so it sounded funky, and we'd both laugh at how ridiculous it was.”


Now a junior at Fort Zumwalt West High School in O’Fallon, Mo., Ayman is considering whether he wants to pursue a career in music.


“Music was natural from such a young age. I didn’t think about it. Only recently have I started to think seriously about what I want to do—that music could be a real option for me,” said Ayman.


Ayman’s violin teacher, Khrystyne Bunselmeyer has been a big influence on his career. He has been taking lessons from Bunselmeyer for more than nine years and she taught two of his siblings before him.


“The personal connection makes it easier to learn,” said Ayman. “I’ve had conversations with her about everything: from majoring in music to future careers.”


His ultimate dream is to play professionally in an orchestra.


In 2019, Ayman joined the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra with the intention of gaining more experience.


“I would say rather than hard skills, I’ve learned to bond with like-minded people and to enjoy the good community and environment,” said Ayman. Ayman’s optimistic attitude toward music traces back to his time bonding with his family over music.


Aliyah explained: “Goofing around together in our music room is how we made practicing a little more fun, and more importantly, it helped us see each other as music partners rather than competitors.”


The St. Louis Symphony's Youth Orchestra, or YO, was founded in 1970 by Conductor Laureate Leonard Slatkin and is comprised of young musicians from throughout the bi-state region. The YO boasts over 2,000 alumni, three of whom are currently members of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.

The Youth Orchestra presents three concerts per season at Powell Hall and is directed by SLSO Assistant Conductor Stephanie Childress. Each year, SLSYO musicians have the opportunity to compete in the YO’s concerto competition. After multiple rounds of auditions, the winner performs with the YO at its second concert. Ayman won the 2023 concerto competition and will perform the first movement or Johannes Brahms’ Violin Concerto with YO on March 19.


A year ago, Ayman told his teacher he wanted to play the Brahms Violin Concerto. She agreed but insisted that he start with the third movement. In the past, he would learn the first movement of the concerto and move on but starting with the third movement would help him learn the entire concerto.


“The third movement is much more difficult with the double stops and the technicality, but the first movement is harder musically,” said Ayman. “When I first heard the opening of the first movement I thought ‘I want to play that.’”


The main motif is one of Ayman’s all-time favorites in music: “Every time I play it, it feels so good.”


Ayman will perform the first movement of Johannes Brahms’ Violin Concerto with the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra on Sunday, March 19, 2023, at 3:00pm CDT. Stephanie Childress will conduct the program which will include Dimitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5. Floor-level seats are free while balcony seats are $10. You can reserve your seats now at slso.org.


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