Peter and Meredith McCook (1976, 2005)

Father and Daughter Alumni

1976 graduate, Peter McCook
2005 graduate, Meredith McCook

Life After GDYO, with Peter and Meredith McCook

Peter and Meredith McCook

Peter McCook was a charter member of the Greater Dallas Youth Orchestra. And his daughter Meredith is now a cellist with the Kansas City Symphony. Their experiences in GDYO were different but both feel strongly about its positive impact!

Q&A with Peter and Meredith

Peter, What is your GDYO story?

First, as a charter member circa 1972-76, both auditions and rehearsals were held in the orchestra/band hall at St. Mark’s School of Texas under the baton of its Orchestra Director Yves L’Hel’Goual’ch, who was my mentor and cello teacher.

At that time, there was only one ensemble orchestra, and I fondly recall playing Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite and Saint-Saen’s Marche Militaire Francaise, as well as songs from the musical Fiddler on the Roof.

Early concerts were held at both St. Mark’s (Boys) and Hockaday (Girls) and also at either Richfield or Easthaven Community Colleges shortly after they opened. We also played in support of TACA and Dallas Ballet, and several times at area senior care facilities. The most memorable of them was when we traveled by bus to the old historic Baker Hotel in Mineral Wells with its reputed healing waters, perhaps GDYO’s very first tour abroad! Was a proud recipient of the Jerry Wertheimer Award named (I believe for a French horn player who tragically left us much too soon).

Peter, if you stayed involved in music after GDYO, how/what did you do?

Did participate in my college’s orchestra, but found I also enjoyed playing a variety of less serious music genres, including pop, country, folk and bluegrass. Studies replaced practice, and by the end of 4 years, playing was replaced by the reality of finding a career with an undergraduate degree in government.

Would you tell us a little about what you do now, Peter?

Moved to Tyler from Dallas after graduating, and have worked in the oil and gas industry for over 35 years, for both major and independent companies, and for my family business in real estate, oil and gas royalties, and investments.

As a charter member, alum and parent, it was certainly a wonderful bonus to attend not only concerts in the Meyerson, but also many of the Sunday evening rehearsals in the Sammons Center, to hear just how high the bar had risen over 30 years! Of course, this story would not be complete if I did not include Meredith, a second generation cellist, for it was during her 3 or 4 years in GDYO that she really set her sights on getting into music as a career, while attending public schools in East Texas.

So, Meredith, what is YOUR GDYO Story?

I played cello with GDYO from 2002-2005 and it definitely was a major part of the reason why I decided to pursue music in school and eventually as a career. My dad actually played cello when he was in high school with GDYO when it was first getting started as an organization, so this was part of the reason that I initially auditioned for it.

I know a few young musicians drive quite a ways to get to GDYO Sunday night rehearsals, and I was part of that group – driving 2 hours from Tyler every week to get to rehearsals.

Before playing with GDYO, I had very minimal experience playing with a full symphony orchestra, and it was totally eye-opening and life changing to be a part of an organization with such a strong level of playing and comradery. I thought that it was really cool to be able to meet other young musicians my age that were just as interested in classical music as I was, and being able to play in the Meyerson Symphony Hall was incredible. It was also amazing to be able to work with Maestro Giangiulio and many fantastic sectional coaches from the Dallas Symphony and other well respected musicians in the Dallas area. I was able to go on the GDYO European tour to Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic in 2004, and this was my first time to spend an extended period of time out of the US. That was also an amazing experience that I will never forget.

What have you been up to since leaving GDYO?

After finishing high school playing with GDYO in 2005, I pursued a Music Performance Bachelor’s degree at Northwestern University, and eventually finished undergraduate at the University of North Texas. After that, I completed my Master’s in Music degree at Manhattan School of Music in New York.

After school I had the fantastic opportunity to play with the New World Symphony in Miami under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas from 2011-2015. Many of my musical experiences with this orchestra reminded me of the wonderful passion which I initially experienced with GDYO.

After countless hours of practicing and traveling to over 20 different cities to take professional orchestra auditions, I was fortunate to be able to join the Kansas City Symphony as a section cellist in the fall of 2015, and recently received tenure here in Kansas City. I have also been playing as Assistant Principal Cello with the Britt Festival in Oregon since 2015.

Looking back on your college experience, what is one piece of advice that you would give to a student pursuing a music degree?

If I could give any advice to young students pursuing a music degree (other than practicing), make sure that you find time to learn as much as you can. Although it is absolutely necessary to put the time and dedication into practicing and schoolwork, make sure that you play lots of chamber music and remember that many of your classmates will potentially be friends and colleagues that you will know for years to come. Take advantage of as many opportunities as you can to play for other musicians (students and teachers), and don’t be afraid of going out to your local coffee shop and playing a little solo Bach.

Another thing I have learned after music school is that you should be extremely receptive to being able to do many different things as a musician. Don’t limit yourself by saying “I want to be a soloist” or “I want to be an orchestra musician” etc. because you never know what opportunities can come to you. It is not always the most talented people that succeed, but it is those who truly have a passion and drive to achieve what they are looking for.

I am forever grateful to the Greater Dallas Youth Orchestra and Maestro Giangulio for providing me with many unforgettable musical experiences, as well as to my parents for supporting me and spending so many hours on the road getting to my Sunday cello lessons and GDYO rehearsals in Dallas.