David Dufour - My CYS Story

I’m pretty sure that if I were to have auditioned for the CYS of today rather than the CYS back then, that I would not have gotten in.  I remember in preparation for my audition, my horn teacher gave me a quick tutorial about how to transpose.  During the audition, Dr. Jakey asked me whether I could transpose and to test me, asked me how I would transpose into horn in Eb.  I asked whether it was up a half step and he corrected me that it was down a whole step.  Oops!  But he let me in anyway.

The repertoire for my first year in CYS consisted of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, Berlioz's A Roman Carnival, Tchaikovsky’s 5th Symphony and Respighi’s Pines of Rome.  Our horn section consisted of three seniors that were strong horn players, Sarah Priwer, Monica Rosser and Jeffrey Watney, plus me, Ryan Fortson-Jones, and Ariana Pitchon.  Sarah was principal horn and in my naïve view of the horn world, she could do no wrong!  At camp, John Evans, the brass coach, had her go through the Tchaikovsky horn solo and at the end of it made the comment that she had done a beautiful job and that she’d played it better than many professionals that he’d heard.  Wow!

I, on the other hand, could barely keep count and wasn’t a very good player.  Playing Stravinsky was a nightmare and the Berlioz being Horn in E was giving me grief too.  (Why can’t the C written on the page be a C that I play rather than a B natural?)  After rehearsals, my parents would routinely ask how many times Dr. Jakey had yelled at the horns that day.  It became a running joke in our family.  “HORNS!!!!”  He didn’t really yell at the horns that much, but sometimes it seemed like he did.  It was very frustrating for me and extremely embarrassing and after the first couple weeks of rehearsals, I wanted to quit CYS.  I think my parents talked me into staying with it just a little more.

I did stay with it and survived the first year.  That happened to be a tour year, so after the regular season ended, CYS embarked on a tour of Scandinavia – Norway, Sweden and Denmark.  I don’t remember the reason, but the orchestra arrived first and Dr. Jakey came a day or so later.  There was a rehearsal scheduled before Dr. Jakey arrived, so CYS alum and chaperone Jay Winograd conducted the rehearsal.  It was in a cathedral with lots of reverberation.  We got to the last chord of the Berlioz, held it the appropriate length and then he cut us off… and cut us off and cut us off.  “Watch and cut off with me!  Ok, last chord.”  So we played the last chord and he cut us off, but the sound continued.  He started looking around and said, “Oh, it’s the echo!”  We all erupted in laughter.

David & Dr. Jakey at Beethoven's memorial

A couple years later, the orchestra went on tour to England and received a bit of education regarding Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance.  We were to play it as an encore piece, but many within the orchestra were sick and tired of the piece having played it year after year for school graduations.  After we finished the last piece on the program of the first concert the audience applauded enthusiastically and within a few seconds was clapping in unison.  We (the orchestra members) didn’t know what was going on, but Dr. Jakey started in with the Pomp and Circumstance which was followed with more unison clapping.  Back in the green room after the concert was over, someone explained that the clapping in unison was the equivalent of a standing ovation.  What’s more, many of the chaperones who were out in the audience commented that the audience members became very emotional during the Elgar to the point where many were singing words to the melody (there are words to it???!?!?!!) and were swaying back and forth with the melody.  We had touched the audience in a deep and profound way and we had no idea!  After that, we all treated the piece with a lot more respect rather than a throw away piece that we’d rather not play.  One of the main attractions of this tour was a brief stop in France, where CYS was invited to perform at the Festival de Sully.  We were told that we were the first ever youth orchestra to perform at this event.  We were all very excited at first.  When we got there, we saw the tent that we’d be performing in.  Oh, well!  On the program was the brass fanfare by Dukas La Peri, so that was to be the first thing played in the rehearsal in the tent.  Word had gotten around that it happened to be Dr. Jakey’s birthday, so the brass agreed that when Dr. Jakey gave the downbeat for the La Peri that we would all play Happy Birthday instead.  Dr. Jakey looked so confused and kept conducting for a few bars before he figured it out!  It’s sort of a bittersweet moment to look back on given that this was his last birthday.  He passed away about 6 months later in January of the next year.  Years later, CYS would again be invited to the Festival de Sully and again perform in a tent.  It was so hot that everyone was sweaty by intermission, but Leo had everyone beat!  There wasn’t a square inch of cloth on his shirt that wasn’t soaked!

Italy Tour 2004. Richard Cionco's wife was the soloist on this tour, but he (dressed in white shirt) is pictured here.

In Italy, we performed the Rachmaninov 3rd Piano Concerto with soloist Richard Cionco.  For one of the rehearsals, Leo decided to play a joke on Richard by passing out the introduction few bars for the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto.  Richard didn’t miss a beat though!  He came right in with the right piano solo and then didn’t want to stop!

In Switzerland, we had a joint concert with the Zurich Youth Orchestra which allowed college age students to participate.  We were rehearsing one of the movements from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet when the other orchestra came in to listen to us finish up before getting ready for the joint rehearsal.  At this point, Leo tells the orchestra to pull up the "Tybalt’s Death" movement.  He gave an extremely energetic prep beat and we were off and flying at tempos double or triple what they should have been, or I’m sure the strings felt that way!  They were going so fast that there could have been some that caught on fire.  Afterwards, I happened to catch a short moment with Leo and asked whether he thought that it went a little fast.  His reply, “When you have an orchestra as good as CYS, you have to show it off!”  He succeeded because I saw the other conductors jaw hit the floor!

Japan Tour 2008, not 1996. Still, what an awesome horn section!

In Japan, one of the concerts was at an all-girls school.  The main piece on the program was Mahler’s 1st Symphony.  As we wound down the 3rd movement, getting softer and softer, lulling the audience to sleep, we abruptly came to the 4th movement with a wall of sound that woke up everybody and surprised those that were still awake.  Even over the loudness of the orchestra, the laughing, talking and general shuffling around from the audience was audible on stage.  After the concert, there was an opportunity for the orchestra members to mix with the Japanese students.  Shaw San was trying to talk to a group of Japanese girls but they didn’t speak English, so using hand motions, she put her hands together and rested her head on them as if she were going to sleep, then she shook her finger “No, no”.  They all started giggling as they got the meaning of the message.  It was a very friendly scolding that didn’t cause an international incident.

Another fun memory is a regular rehearsal where we were going to learn Rachmaninov’s 2nd Piano Concerto.  The soloist wasn’t to come for another couple weeks, so Tyson Mao was asked or volunteered to play through the piano part to let the orchestra hear how it sounded with a soloist.  Tyson started in on the chords when there was a whoopee cushion sound.  Tyson stopped and looked around, but Leo said not to goof off.  Tyson started again and the sound came again.  Tyson yelled, “It’s not me!”  Tyson started again and so did the whoopee cushion, but this time he kept going although I could see that it was hard for him to keep from cracking up laughing!  Afterwards, I was talking with Leo and he confessed that he had a remote controlled whoopee cushion.  Ah, the practical jokester!

I have many more fond memories including performances in Davies Hall, the prize winning performances in the International Youth Festivals in Vienna capturing 4th place and ultimately 1st place a few years later, playing through a movement of Mahlers 5th Symphony at the rehearsal of our final concert in France just “for the fun of it” since it wasn’t on the program for that concert, receiving a huge “bear” hug as a welcome when I met up with the orchestra in China, watching the poor flight attendants surprise when half the plane gets out of their seats to change seats when the “Fasten Seat Belt” sign is first turned off, Jay Winograd’s camp morning bugle wake-up call, the friendly softball rivalry between Leo and Pete with the threat that “If you strike me out, you’re fired!”, camp night hikes, trivia night, talent night and much more.

What I Did “after” CYS and Where I Am Now?


After graduating from high school, I attended UC Santa Cruz and got BA degrees in Mathematics and Computer Information Science along with a minor in Music.  While I was there, I was a member of the UCSC orchestra which was more of a chamber orchestra of about 35 members.  Philip Chou was there as well, so we could reminisce about the good ol’ days in CYS.  In the UCSC orchestra, we did a lot of Mozart and Haydn, but since the orchestra conductor had more of a background of a choral conductor, we also did a some music that was a mix of orchestra and choir such as Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms, Orff’s Carmina Burana, Mozart’s Requiem (no horns!  Bummer!) and Rutter’s Gloria (again, no horns!).  Even with the new orchestra/choir experience, all the Mozart/Haydn/Beethoven with the small orchestra was driving me crazy.  In CYS, I’d played Holst’s The Planets, Copland’s Third Symphony and Mahler’s 1st Symphony – huge pieces!  Also, Mozart and Haydn wrote music at a time before valved horns, so most of the music could be played without moving my fingers and usually only consisted of the root/tonic, 3rd, 5th, upper octave tonic and maybe one or two other notes of the scale.  Not very interesting!  During this time, I wished I could be back in CYS even though I thought it was impossible.

After graduating from UCSC, my younger brother Chris became a member of the CYS Senior orchestra in the oboe section.  Through him, I heard that they were short on horns or something.  I don’t remember how it all came about, but somehow, I was invited back on a trial basis.  So after a brief hiatus, CYS again continued to be a big part of my life, but I did always have quite a lot of other stuff going on outside of CYS.  Most of the time, I was a regular member of two additional ensembles and often played in four or five groups when I was called in as a sub.  (This is in addition to a full time job and going to school part time to work on my Masters Degree in Computer Engineering at Santa Clara University.)  I’ve covered most different types of horn playing including symphonic band, orchestra, chamber orchestra, opera (Wagner’s Siegfried!!!), brass quintet, woodwind quintet, community theater, children’s musical theater, various church ensembles and teaching.  As far as I can tell, all that’s left is marching band (which I did in high school) and jazz/improvisational horn (does Pink Panther count?  Probably not, so no, I haven’t done jazz ☺).  I’ve played as a regular member of the Milpitas Community Band, San Jose Wind Symphony, the Palo Alto Philharmonic, the Peninsula Symphony, the Redwood Symphony, two different woodwind quintets, and a brass quintet as well as subbing or playing as a ringer for PACO, ECYS, CPYO, KAMSA, the Stanford Symphony, Winchester Orchestra, Ohlone Wind Symphony, Nova Vista Symphony, Mission Chamber Orchestra, Saratoga Symphony and the Sacramento State University Orchestra.  It’s a testament to CYS that I run in to other musicians that are CYS alumni.  There are several CYS alums in both Redwood Symphony and Peninsula Symphony.

Outside of music, I’ve had a career as a software engineer working in quality assurance and have been very fortunate with my various positions in tech companies.  I used to joke with people that I break things for a living.  Then I started working in automation testing where I would write programs to run tests for me.  I love figuring out how to automate tasks so that they run on their own, freeing me up to automate something else.  Many of the companies I worked for were network related, so I got to know about routers, switches and wireless technologies.  For the past few years, I’ve been working at DreamWorks Animation.  I started by testing their new lighting tool.  It is used to place lights in a shot so you can illuminate the characters and set the mood of the scene.  Now, I’m helping to build test frameworks for the render team (the render program generates the final images) in addition to building an automated test system for the animation team (the team that manipulates the character positions over a series of frames).  It’s a fantastic work environment!  They occasionally show movie shorts at lunchtime and have full feature film screenings every Wednesday night (which unfortunately conflicts with Redwood Symphony Rehearsals…Bummer!).  The cafeteria is always themed according to the next movie to come out so right now it has pictures of the Penguins of Madagascar everywhere.  The best part is all the creativity at the company and being able to watch the new movies form.  If you’re ever in the movie theater watching a DreamWorks Animation movie and care to sit through the credits, if you look carefully, you may see my name fly by!  For a while, another CYS alum Joyce Pan also worked at DreamWorks.

Between work and all my music, I did manage to squeeze in a little (very little!) time for other hobbies such as woodworking, photography and astronomy.  This last summer, I completed a major piece of an “entertainment center” cabinet that I’ve been working on for quite some time.  It’s not done, but it’s major progress!  It’s been a learning process for me as I tried to figure out how to build what I visualize in my mind.  Plus, I’ve learned how to use (and respect) the various saws, routers and sanders that I used along the way.

New Zealand Tour 2012 with Leo Eylar

Throughout the years, I never took CYS for granted and I enjoyed the opportunities it provided me whether it’s the chance to play in Flint Center, Davies Hall or Esterhazy Hall.  The musicians have always been top notch.  Many wouldn’t believe me when I said that CYS was better than my college orchestra and that CYS Associate was better than several of the local adult community orchestras.  I’m sure many of the alums reading this can probably also attest to that fact.  It’s also been amazing to watch how the quality of both the senior and associate orchestras has improved over the years.  I think that the associate orchestra may be comparable to the senior orchestra when I joined.  I am eternally grateful for the music education I received (most of the symphonic works I’ve played, I’ve learned initially in CYS) as well as the friendships that have developed over the years.


Date: October 22, 2014

CYS YEARS 1985 - 1988

CYS Senior Orchestra

Recent Performance Photos