Student Feature: Theo Smith

If there’s one thing that unites all CYSO musicians, it’s their commitment to music. Even with the significant time commitment involved in playing in our orchestras, many students carve out time to play with other ensembles as well, whether in school or otherwise. One example is Long Beach, Indiana’s Theo Smith, a tubist in Symphony Orchestra. Theo has played tuba for six years and been a member of CYSO for three. In addition, he is also a Student Apprentice with LaPorte County Symphony Orchestra (LCSO) in LaPorte, Indiana. Read on about Theo’s experience playing with talented peers in CYSO and alongside professional musicians in LSCO.

Theo Smith holding tuba

How did you find out about CYSO and what was your audition? like

CYSO has a pretty good reputation; it’s probably the premier youth symphony of the Midwest, so I didn’t feel like I had to do that much searching for it.

For the past three years, auditions have been held via recordings. It did take a while to get used to, but I’m used to it now. Surprisingly, it’s been hard getting used to in-person auditions again.

What is your favorite part about CYSO?

I like the consistency of it. Every weekend, being able to go to Chicago and play, it’s really fun. I also really love the conductors. I feel that CYSO has some really amazing conductors and I feel really privileged to play under their baton.

How did you get involved with the LaPorte County Symphony Orchestra’s Apprentice Program?

I got involved through my my private teacher, Richard Watson. He is currently the principal tubist of the LCSO. The LCSO is also my local professional symphony.

I’ve had a really great time and it’s very interesting to see how different orchestras run. The conductor, Carolyn Watson, is really good. She knows what she is doing and people really respect and listen to her. It’s really great working with such an awesome conductor.

LCSO performing Tchaikovsky’s 5th Symphony in spring 2022

What is the level like in the orchestra and who would you recommend to audition for it?

It’s a professional orchestra, in a professional environment, and they run things very tight. So, I would say it’s very serious. If you really want to do it, I’d say go for it. The playing level, overall, in the LCSO is very high.

How would you say it’s different or similar to playing in CYSO?

It’s different because in LCSO, we don’t really spend a lot of time on the repertoire. They usually run through a piece, Ms. Watson gives her comments, and then we move on to the next piece. So you kind of only get one shot to do something because the cycles are much much shorter than the concert cycles in CYSO.

Is playing with professionals different from playing with kids your age?

It is a little weird because they call me “the kid” since I’m the youngest person in the orchestra. They don’t know my name so they just refer to me as “the kid.” A couple people are standoffish, but overall they’re all very nice. They’re all very serious. The LCSO is a smaller orchestra, in terms of the amount of people, so they play things a little differently. I think they tend to have a lighter interpretation of things, like more focus on strings and less on winds.

Theo Smith playing tuba

How do you think playing with professional musicians will help you later in life?

While I still really want to go to music school, being in the LCSO has made me realize that being a professional is pretty difficult. I’ve also made a couple good connections from it already. I’ve gotten a couple gigs from being in the LCSO because some of the members are music directors of their own ensembles/organizations. So, it’s been a good experience for me starting out as a young musician.

Do you think that having high schoolers alongside professionals in the orchestra contributes in any way?

Well, the program is kind of new and I’m actually the first person to ever participate in it. It’s only in its second year. I’m on the board of directors as the student representative. I was talking to them and they want a more youthful orchestra, so they really enjoy having younger people in the orchestra because they feel that it brings in a younger audience.

Learn more about LCSO’s Student Apprentice Program’s upcoming auditions.


Abigail AuYeung is a cellist in CYSO’s Symphony Orchestra and an sophomore at Hinsdale Central. In her free time, she enjoys falling down classical music rabbit holes, reading, and baking.


Jessica GaoJessica Gao is a violinist in CYSO’s Symphony Orchestra and a sophomore at Walter Payton College Prep. Aside from music, she also enjoys writing and playing badminton.


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