As an experienced violinist, Abby understands that opportunities to play music with a group are very limited. Three years ago, the 16-year-old Mooresville resident discovered the Cornelius Youth Orchestra.
When her high school dropped its orchestra program at the end of last school year, Abby’s appreciation for Cornelius Youth Orchestra climbed up the musical scale.
“This is one of the only places I get to play with a group,” she says. “And it’s nice to get to keep playing the violin.”
This year, Abby is playing with a group within a group. Her 11-year-old sister Lilly joined Cornelius Youth Orchestra and is being apprenticed on the trumpet by their father, Mike Goldstein, who also sits in on orchestra rehearsals.
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The Cornelius Youth Orchestra, which cultivates young musicians and encourages family involvement, recently began its 12th season and is experiencing a boon in popularity. The 65-piece orchestra, which is an increase of more than 10 from last year, squeezes into a music room at Bailey Middle School for rehearsal.
“We’re a teaching orchestra,” said Nanette Haraden Cornelius Youth Orchestra program director and yreasurer. “No auditions are required.”
Most of the musicians are between grades 4-12 but Cornelius Youth Orchestra has had players as young as 6. The orchestra, which has 501-3C nonprofit status, charges a $250 participation fee, but it provides financial scholarships as necessary.
Cornelius Youth Orchestra has string, woodwind, brass, and percussion sections. Including Haraden and her husband and conductor Bill Haraden, it has six professional instructors.
The orchestra performs four public concerts a year including those at Halloween and Christmas, a winter performance in February and a spring concert in May. It plays classical pieces and some that are more upbeat and fun for the musicians.
For a lot of its members, Cornelius Youth Orchestra provides more than the obvious outlet for their musical talents. It is an environment in which relationships between like-minded peers are a little easier to build.
Plenty of its musicians play in school bands but Cornelius Youth Orchestra draws a lot of home-school students, making it their only opportunity, or at least their first, to play with a group.
“I really like it because sometimes you don’t fit in at other places,” said Samuel, a 14-year-old violinist from Mooresville. “But here you always fit in. Sometimes there are kids at school that are kind of mean or are cool and they think you’re annoying but here they’re a lot more friendlier.”
Seventeen-year-old Alex began playing in a band at Cannon School in the fifth grade and he joined Cornelius Youth Orchestra around the same time. He didn’t choose to play viola as much as it was chosen for him.
“No one wanted to play viola,” he said, now a home-school student. “I was interested in music, I just wasn’t interested in viola because I didn’t know what it was.”
Over the last couple orchestra seasons, he has mentored a middle school violist. Alex sees it as a rehearsal for a career he wishes to pursue: music education.
“Since he is a young guy, it starts with the basics. He wasn’t taught how to hold his viola right so we taught him how to hold his viola right. We taught him how to use his bow right (and) knowing how to play things easier, like switching swings, shifting, most of the basics, nothing very fancy.”
The group is preparing for its Halloween concert 11 a.m. Oct. 28 on the Discovery Place Kids lawn in Huntersville. The orchestra will be joined by the Brawley Middle eighth-grade band.
In addition to playing some of the fun, spooky music, Samuel, the 14-year old violinist, enjoys some of the theatrics of playing at Halloween.
“At the first Halloween concert you get to wear a costume,” he said. “So it’s not some boring concert where you have to wear a suit or something.”
Joe Habina is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org