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David Maslanka. Frank Ticheli. David Gillingham. These are just a few of the famous wind band composers that Micah Wilkinson, Principal Trumpet of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, had an opportunity to work with during his AYWS tenure.

“It’s one thing to get to play their music at a high level, but to get to meet them and be coached by them connected me much more deeply to their music,” he says.

Micah believes these types of opportunities are critical to the development of young musicians, and feels the AYWS challenges students far more than even the greatest high school band programs. 

“I don’t know of any other cities in the country that boast such an elite youth wind symphony,” he says.

“It’s one of the reasons so many great young musicians come out of Atlanta.”

When looking back on his AYWS years, he acknowledges that the ensemble shaped his future as a professional orchestral musician. “It also began my passion for orchestral playing, because it was the first opportunity I had to play ‘one on a part,’” he explains. “Most school symphonic bands assign several players to each part, but in AYWS (and in symphony orchestras) we were often responsible for our own part.”

These experiences served him well, and prepared him to perform with many notable orchestras across the country, including the San Diego Symphony, Houston Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, Oregon Symphony, and Tucson Symphony.

Undoubtedly, Micah values the time he spent in the ensemble, and believes in the importance of supporting the AYWS. “Contributing to AYWS benefits not just high school musicians, but also the entire musical community — connecting composers, college band programs, and talented soloists with this ensemble,” he says. “AYWS is a critical hub for wind band music all across the country.”