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WRTI is proud to highlight the accomplishments of young artists in our local communities. You can donate now to champion and support WRTI's education initiatives! Learn more about what inspires and motivates these musicians through the interviews in this series.

WRTI Young Artist Spotlight: Percussionist Sydney Charlene Vance

Percussionist Sydney Vance
Joseph V. Labolito
Percussionist Sydney Vance

Percussionist Sydney Charlene Vance, a Montgomery County native, made her professional debut with the Main Line Symphony Orchestra in February 2024.

Sydney, 14, enjoys performing as a marimba soloist, and was a winner of the Philadelphia International Music Festival, 2023 12-14 Division First Place Concerto Competition.

She also collaborates with ensembles such as the West Chester University High School Honors Percussion Ensemble and the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra Music Institute, where she is a current member of the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra and the Philadelphia Youth Symphonic Band.

Sydney is a student of Angela Zator Nelson of The Philadelphia Orchestra and the 2023 recipient of the Settlement Music School's Schoenbach Family Perpetual Scholarship, where she takes additional lessons with Dr. Andrew Thierauf.

Sydney has been a PMAY (Philadelphia Music Alliance for Youth) Artist since 2020.

10 Questions with Sydney Charlene Vance:

1. Outside of classical music, what do you like to listen to?

My father’s taste in music feeds my interest in music outside of classical music. Currently, I am listening to French jazz, disco, and marimba solos.

2. What was one thing about your instrument(s) that surprised you when you started learning to play? 

What surprised me when I started taking percussion lessons is that I was too short to play timpani traditionally. I had to stand because my feet could not reach the pedals of the timpani while sitting on a stool. I had to perform Respighi’s “Pines of Rome: Finale” standing!

3. How would you describe the role of the percussion in an orchestra?

Percussion’s role in the orchestra is often equated to being a second conductor. The importance of keeping time and rhythm with the maestro is essential. The ensemble tends to follow the percussionists, so it is important that the percussionists are following the conductor. Along with time and rhythm, percussionists also contribute many different colors to the orchestra, from the delicate, sweet triangle and glockenspiel, to the deep, resonant bass drum and gong.

4. What’s your favorite thing about Philadelphia?

What has become one of my favorite things about Philadelphia is its arts and culture richness. I enjoy the array of art and history museums, performance venues — the Kimmel Center for Performing Arts being one of my favorites, and performance artists in the parks.

5. Do you have any hidden talents?

A hidden talent of mine is that I am a published poet. I have been writing poetry since the age of eight and have been published with the Haiku Society of America.

6. What are you currently reading? 

I am currently reading Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo and Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

Percussionist Sydney Charlene Vance
Joseph V. Labolito
Percussionist Sydney Charlene Vance

7. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

In five years, I see myself studying music performance and science in a conservatory or university. Performing as a solo marimbist for local venues would be exciting!

8. What was an experience with a teacher or peer that impacted your music education?

"Sydney, do you enjoy playing timpani? Then I need to hear you enjoy playing timpani!"

This quote impacted my music education, not just on timpani, but marimba as well. During an orchestral rehearsal at the Philadelphia International Music Festival summer camp, Maestro Louis Scaglione said these words to me. I now approach every piece with love, always going back to why I started to play percussion. Thank you, Maestro!

9. Who have been the greatest champions of your career so far?

My greatest champions of my career have been my parents and my private teachers. My Father and Mother always attend my performances, drive me to rehearsals and lessons, and support me in everything music! My favorite part of a performance is seeing my parents in the audience. My private teachers have been instrumental in providing honest critiques and encouragement. Their support means the world to me!

10. Do you have any tips for people just getting started on an instrument?

My two top tips for getting started on an instrument are 1.) know that your age does not matter. Everyone can learn to play an instrument. The hardest part is taking that first lesson. And, 2.) Have fun! Remember why you wanted to play that instrument.

Sydney's Recommended Playlist:

Lydia Veilleux has worked in music education and arts administration for the past 20 years, and has taught students of all ages in various community settings. As WRTI's Education & Outreach Manager, she oversees educational partnerships, sponsorships, events, and coverage.