Donovan O’Brien to Play with Youth Orchestra

Santa Rosa Technology Magnet School 6th grader and cellist Donovan O’Brien, 11, from PVSDYAA Orchestra, has successfully auditioned for the Conejo Valley Preparatory Orchestra.

Donovan, who also plays violin, piano, guitar and drums, started playing cello last year, after Mr. Rene Godina, the Strings/Orchestra director, let him try one out. He started taking private lessons once a week from Dr. Steven Custer, of the LA Philharmonic (now retired) and now takes lessons from Wendy Velasco of the New West Symphony.

Donovan O'Brien

According to Donovan’s mother, Shelley, Donovan was inspired to try cello by a group called “The Piano Guys”, a pianist and a cellist, who mix popular and classical music (you can see them on You tube). Asked how he would advise others who might think of auditioning, Donovan said: “Don’t get nervous, do your best and focus on the music. Don’t get stressed.” The reason it is worthwhile trying out for such an orchestra, he said, is because “it is awesome to get the real feel of a full orchestra and to know what it will be like when we are older, playing professionally.”

The Conejo Valley Youth Orchestra (CVYO) has three orchestras and a number of ensembles. The Preparatory Orchestra is the intermediate level orchestra, wherein “music with a higher degree of technical demand is selected,” and has generally 75-100 students. CVYO has over 250 student musicians ranging from five to twenty-one years old, and holds auditions annually in July and August. Donovan will attend rehearsals once a week, working up to performances at the Civic Arts Plaza in January and June.

You can find out when and where to hear the orchestra (and Donovan) play by going to their website,

Congratulations to Donovan for his achievement!

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