Alumni Play On: Norma Zehner, 1972

Since its founding in 1956, Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra has impacted the lives of thousands of young musicians. Many of those young people pursued music as a career and have become professional musicians who play around the world. We are excited to share stories of some of these alumni with you in our 2018 Alumni Play On series.

Norma Zehner recently retired as a section violist in the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra after 46 years. She was in Music For Youth (MFY) from 1967-1972. She feels she learned so much about music from her conductors, Bernard Stepner and Bernard Rubenstein, and had fun playing with other kids who were also passionate about music. Norma had the opportunity to tour Yugoslavia and Switzerland with her fellow musicians in MFY.

Norma’s most memorable MFY experience was the audition process. She auditioned on violin and thought she did so poorly that she came out crying; but, she was placed into the middle level orchestra! She then switched to viola and auditioned her way to principal violist of the top orchestra.

Speaking to her professional experience: “The biggest challenge as a professional was the steep learning curve in the beginning—all that new repertoire coming at me every week—sometimes every day! Being a professional musician is what I’ve always wanted to do. It was great being surrounded by it every day. One gets to experience great colleagues, soloists, conductors, and music up close. The best thing about music is that it takes you, the musician, and the audience, through the full range of emotions.”

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