Youngsters put classic touches on the season

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By Amy Ryffel-Kragh

Jack Frost’s Southern cousin has put an occasional nip in the air, turkey leftovers are long gone, and the holiday season is officially in full swing. Now it’s time for sounds of the season to fill the air.

After weeks of practice, the Ocala Youth Symphony is ready to present its annual holiday concert. The Dec.7 musical event will be at Central Florida Community College. The 90-minute performance is composed of holiday and classical music, and a mix of numbers. “We do all kinds of stuff,” director Cindy Robertson said.

The 47 musicians of the Ocala Youth Symphony, which range in age from about nine to adulthood, practice weekly at First Christian Church. In addition to the holiday concert, the group has played at the Marion County Public Library and the Appleton Museum. They have about six to eight public performances each season, including the spring concert.

The youth symphony was started about 10 years by Robertson and Ken Blanchard, the assistant director. A couple years earlier, she and Blanchard, who both have musical backgrounds, started discussing ideas for activities that they could have for children in the community. The two teamed up together and in August 1999, the first auditions for the Ocala Youth Symphony were held.

To be in the orchestra the musicians must already know how to play an instrument and read music, because the group plays advanced level compositions. And each August, local musicians audition for the Ocala Youth Symphony and hope to earn a spot in the group.

For musician and flute player Aubrey Grier this will be her first holiday concert with the symphony and she is looking forward to the performance. Grier, an eighth grader who plays in her school band at Howard Middle, auditioned for the Ocala Youth Symphony after wanting something a little more challenging than her school band.

In addition students, Alden Cooper has been with the symphony for approximately the last seven years. However, unlike Grier, Cooper is not a student, nor is she considered a youth – she’s actually a teacher. The cello player is one two adults in the orchestra. “It’s a lot of fun,” said the Dunnellon Middle School teacher, “I just really love it here. The kids are great.”

About the Symphony

The Ocala Youth Symphony is a nonprofit organization which is funded by parents and contributors in the community. The group purchases the music and extra instruments for the concerts. They also cover the cost for certain events when space needs to be rented. For instance, a three-hour rental CFCC is about an $1,100 expense. “It’s costly,” Robertson said.

The Ocala Youth Symphony holiday concert on Dec. 7 at 3 p.m. is free to the public. It will be at CFCC in the Fine Arts auditorium. For more information about the Ocala Youth Symphony, visit www.ocalayouthsymphony.org.

Contact Amy Ryffel-Kragh at 854-3986 or e-mail akragh@newsrlsmc.com.