As a violist at the age of 15, I was completely unaware of what happened in the world of classical music beyond my high school string orchestra. At that point in my life, I enjoyed playing the viola but it was not something I had planned on taking seriously. Before one of our school concerts, I happened to over-hear another student talking about his time in Chicago Orchestral Academy's Protégé Philharmonic, a wonderful youth orchestra in downtown Chicago. Having some interest in something beyond my high school orchestra, I decided to take an audition. Upon being accepted into the orchestra, I received my music before rehearsals began and started to listen to professional recordings of the pieces. I remember thinking to myself: “Wow! I am going to be able to play this amazing music?” Looking back on that, I realize that that is one of the many factors that make Protégé so special. Being able to play Principal Viola in 4 different concerts a school year consisting of virtuosic repertoire was an incredible experience. This is all achieved in very professional, but wonderfully encouraging, fun, and nurturing environment.
Through Protégé and the personal guidance of Mr. Glymph as my private viola teacher, I came very far. Mr. Glymph straightened out every bad habit I had, taught me how to practice intelligently and effectively, and encouraged me to make a strong commitment to becoming a professional musician. Small things like IMEA, where at 15 years old I was 20th chair, and at 17, I won the Principal chair! I was invited to a live audition at the Juilliard School of Music and took other auditions at New England Conservatory of Music, Rice University, Northwestern University, as well as the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University - where I was awarded a large scholarship and attended. After 2 years of hard work in Protégé and with Mr. Glymph, my abilities as a violist had significantly increased to a high level acknowledged by professors around the nation. Even though Protégé is now behind me, I will always remember it to be the beginning and foundation of my musical career!
Ben Wagner, Viola
Ben has now graduated and is a full-time active free-lance professional with a growing career in professional chamber music groups throughout the Midwest.