Dayna Anderson vividly recalls playing with the Metropolis Youth Symphony in Australia during pre-Olympic ceremonies in 2000.
She was just 13 at the time, but she was concertmaster of the orchestra, second in command only to the director.
Now, at the tender age of 22, and even before she graduates from college, Anderson has been named concertmaster again. This time as a professional, for the Delaware Symphony Orchestra in Wilmington.
"I'm the youngest concertmaster they've ever had," says Anderson, an Arlington Heights native and Hersey High School graduate. "I'm so glad they took a chance on someone so young."
Officials with the Delaware Symphony say they were not aware of Anderson's age when she auditioned, since it was a blind process, with musicians playing behind a screen.
"We didn't know who she was or how old she was, but she had the best audition that day," says Lucinda Williams, Delaware Symphony executive director. "She is very talented and we think she will make a great addition to our orchestra."
Anderson will graduate next month from the Curtis Institute of Music in nearby Philadelphia. She returned home this week to audition for a seat with the Grant Park Symphony in their summer concert series.
"They have a great tradition and are a really good ensemble for musicians who don't have summer seasons with their orchestras," Anderson says. "Plus, it would be great to play somewhere near home.
"But the audition process is really intense," she adds. "You just don't know."
Anderson has been playing the violin since she was 4, when she studied with the Betty Haag Academy, now based in Buffalo Grove. From there, she moved to the Music Institute in Winnetka under Desiree Ruhstrat.
In a 2002 interview with the Daily Herald, Ruhstrat predicted Anderson would break into the professional ranks.
"Dayna most certainly has the potential to go as far as she wants to go," Ruhstrat said at the time. "She not only has all the technique, but the ability to really understand the music as well."
Looking back, Anderson credits her experiences in the Metropolis Youth Symphony, based in Arlington Heights, the Midwest Young Artists' orchestra, and even her one year in the Hersey High School orchestra, with planting the seed to continue.
"I loved orchestra and the camaraderie of it," Anderson says. "And I got the chance to see some wonderful cities."
Her touring began when she was 5, when she traveled with Haag's academy to Kazakhstan. She later accompanied that same group to the White House to play for first lady Barbara Bush.
As a student at Curtis, Anderson performed as a soloist at the Kennedy Center with the Washington Chamber Symphony, as winner of the "Viva Vivaldi" competition.
She also worked with conductors such as Christoph Eschenbach, Michael Tilson Thomas, and Otto Werner-Mueller, as a member of the Curtis Symphony Orchestra.
"I knew by the time I got to college that I wanted to do music professionally," Anderson says.
Curtis was the right place. Its stated mission is to train gifted young musicians for careers as performing artists, and provides full-tuition scholarships to all of its students, based on a rigorous audition.
Consequently, auditioning for the Grant Park Symphony, and making it to the final round this week, is nothing new for Anderson.
"It's always daunting, but it gets easier over the years," she says, sounding like a veteran far beyond her years. "There are always specific solos from the standard orchestra repertoire that you are required to play.
"You just have to go out there and play and hope you have the style and interpretation of the music they're looking for," she adds. "Usually, there are many rounds of auditions, so that's why with the Delaware Symphony, it was really exciting to get through every single round, and survive."
Anderson learned she had won the concertmaster position in late January, and already she has taken her seat with the orchestra in their last two concerts this season.
"We feel it a real privilege and responsibility for us to teach her how to take over the leadership of the orchestra," Williams adds.
"At the same time, it makes a great statement about our orchestra to have such a young person as concertmaster."