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Former AYWS clarinetist Michael Wang says there’s nothing like an AYWS performance, especially when it makes the concert hall rock – literally. One of his most memorable concerts included Steven Bryant’s Ecstatic Waters, which “my parents said made their seats shake.”

Aside from rockin’ performances, the Northwestern University medical student also fondly remembers the ensemble’s trip to LA: “We got to meet Wynton Marsalis, tour the sets of some of our favorite movies, play under Bruce Broughton, gape at Hans Zimmer’s studio, and interview my favorite film composer, Michael Giacchino,” he says.

But incredible memories aren’t the only thing that makes AYWS so special to Michael. He also appreciates the immense artistry of the group.

“To put it simply, AYWS offers Atlanta-area high school students an unmatched musical, social, and professional experience,” he explains.

“What does it sound like when everyone in the band is good, and you play the most challenging music you have ever played together for a year? What does it mean for your friendships when you see other AYWS players at Honor Band and All-State, Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra rehearsals and LGPE? How should you carry yourself when you are dressed up and about to perform on a big stage? AYWS is important because it answers these questions in a way no other opportunity can.”

His family also values the unique opportunities afforded by AYWS. “We are all thankful for what AYWS did for me and want to support its mission for future students,” he says. “If you understand how AYWS plays a central role in high school students’ growth in all aspects of life – perhaps by seeing it in yourself, or your child, or someone you know in the group – or you have just enjoyed the free concerts, I think any of those are a great reason to support AYWS.”

The Yale University grad kept his passion for music alive after his AYWS years by conducting and arranging for a student-led orchestra called the Davenport Pops Orchestra. (“Find us on YouTube!”) Even as he pursues his medical degree, he still believes in the power of music and advocates that the benefits of music education are undeniable.

“Everyone understands the language of music and interprets it in a unique way,” he says. “In learning and playing music, we study ourselves in a way that no other subject can touch – and we share something that no other subject can offer. Ultimately, music is an irreplaceable force in our lives.”