Oboist Gabe Young is counting the days to an experience of a lifetime.
The 17-year-old Ashland High School junior has been selected to play with the Carnegie Hall 2013 National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America.
"When I first found out, I didn't believe it was real," Young said.
Young is one of 120 musicians from across the country between the ages of 16 and 19 who will take part in the tuition-free program. He will fly out June 30 for a two-week residency at Purchase College, State University of New York. Then they'll go on a world tour with renowned conductor Valery Gergiev to perform at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., St. Petersburg, Russia, Moscow and London.
Young knows the musical significance of the European cities he'll be visiting.
"They're very important cities," he said. "It'll be very cool to play in these historical places."
Young said he is eager to learn from people such as Elaine Douvas, principal oboist for the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in New York.
"She'll be coaching us oboists," he said.
He's also looking forward to learning from Gergiev and violinist Joshua Bell, who will be the guest soloist for the tour.
"It's going to be incredible to meet these musicians who have made it in music and are so incredibly well-known," he said.
For Young, this opportunity is the latest chapter in a life that is steeped in musical expression. When he's not playing soccer or earning his 4.0 GPA, he plays oboe and saxophone in a variety of bands with his father, siblings and peers.
"I played the saxophone since I was basically a toddler," he said.
When he was 9, he picked up a student-model oboe, and he has stuck with it ever since.
"I started taking lessons and joined the local youth symphony," he said. "Now it has become my primary instrument."
It's difficult for Young to estimate how much time he spends practicing oboe because of the time involved in making reeds for his instrument.
I practice oboe every day," he said. "I'd say on a daily basis it's anywhere from two to three, or even four hours a day."
It's all a labor of love for him.
"I enjoy it so much that it doesn't feel like work to me," he said.
Despite the time Young puts into his music, he makes it clear that he wouldn't be the musician he is without the help of his parents, teachers, friends and others.
"It would have been much harder without the constant support of everyone who's helped."
While he started his musical career by playing jazz, and he enjoys playing a variety of musical styles, for Young there's nothing that matches the magnitude of a large body of musicians working together in an orchestra.
"For me there is no greater form of corrective musical expression than a symphony orchestra," he said. "Everyone's working together to make this enormous musical sound."
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