News Column

Striking a new note

July 17, 2014

By Bethany Leggett, The Brunswick News, Ga.

July 17--The times, they are a changin' for youth musicians in the Golden Isles.

With a new name and new director, the Golden Isles Youth Orchestra is ready to showcase the talents of some faculty and orchestra members that have spent the past week at group's summer music camp. The free performance tonight, entitled "An Evening at Music Camp," is the first glimpse of the new season for the musical society, formerly known as the Coastal Youth Symphony. The 7 p.m. concert at Southeast Georgia Conference Center on the campus of the College of Coastal Georgia in Brunswick won't include a full orchestra, but rather showcase a mixture of faculty from camp and the advanced students in small ensembles that will perform pieces for winds, brass and strings. A range of pieces have been selected, from Italian Baroque composer Antonio Vivaldi to contemporary American composer John Williams.

The evening will also provide a sampling of what the youth musicians have learned during camp this week and show the importance of continuing musical training through the summer, said Suzanne Morrison, incoming general manager of the Golden Isles Youth Orchestra.

"We want to let people see how wonderful and important summer camps are for the kids and also see the talent of the faculty who has been teaching all week," Morrison said.

The name isn't the only thing that's changed since the May concert that ended last season. The orchestra, which changed its name during the application process to become a nonprofit, is now being led by Jorge PeÃ帶 after Maestro Luis Haza retired as musical director.

PeÃ帶, a violist for the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra for 18 years and general manager last year for the Coastal Symphony of Georgia, has spent this week at summer camp working with the advanced students. He's excited about the future of the orchestra, but there are some holes to fill in, particularly replacing the 17 seniors who graduated this past spring.

"The kids really sound good, and they know we are all in the same boat together. We lost a large group of seniors last year, and, of course, you can hear a void, particularly in our strings program. There is a lot we need to do, but I can see what needs to happen, and the kids can do it. They are working very hard," PeÃ帶 said.

One of the reasons for mixing faculty with students in tonight's performance is to motivate the students to keep advancing their musical skills, he said.

"(Tonight's) concert will focus on the great faculty we have brought to our camp this year. And it will also be a motivator to push the kids to play to the level of the faculty. We have spent a very short period of time, just a few days, but they have already made tremendous improvements," PeÃ帶 said.

Peter Dutilly, viola and violin instructor, will be one of several faculty to perform this evening. He hopes the concert can show all the hard work that goes on and the talent that exists right here on Georgia's coast.

"Camp can be pretty intense, especially for the older kids. It's like a crash course for students who basically have a week to learn individual skills, music theory, how to play in small ensembles and then in a large orchestra," said Dutilly, who came up from Florida for the camp.

This is the second year Dutilly has been part of the Golden Isles camp, and he said he is confident in the future of the program.

"The camp's larger than last year, and I see a higher level of involvement from the students and their parents. There's a lot of enthusiasm here for orchestral training," he said.

That close mentorship between the faculty and students has also been mirrored daily throughout the camp by orchestra interns and the Symphonettes, or beginners at camp.

Some of the interns will perform tonight and hope they can show those first starting out what can happen in a short time if they stick with their musical training.

"It's important to know that classical music isn't dead. There are still kids that are very interested in playing this style if they only had the support. That's why camps like this are so important," said Yelena Sakara, violinist.

Sakara, a 20-year-old musician from Jacksonville, is working on a piece for tonight's performance with other interns from camp including Mamie Lue Small, a 19-year-old violist from Savannah. Small echoed Sakara's sentiments regarding youth interest in classical music.

"If kids are given the chance, they can learn so much. We've spent a lot of our time at camp keeping the kids musically entertained and different ways to practice. Sometimes, practice can be repetitive because you are working on the same music but we can show them how to focus on different skills. And this concert is a way to show that we are on fire for music," Small said.

Piper McInall, a 18-year-old from Jacksonville, has already see a marked improvement with the kids she has worked with this week, and that makes her excited for the future of classical music.

"They are learning that classical music can be fun," she said.

Intern Jenissa Gordon says the camaraderie that a camp atmosphere has created this week will carry forward through the orchestra season and beyond. She met Sakara, Small and McInall just this week but through practicing, they sound as if they have been playing together for much longer.

"We talk to the kids about partner chemistry and learning how to play together. They can fall back on this and form friendships that continue on," Gordon said.

PeÃ帶's eye is on the future and that includes getting younger musicians interested in classical music.

"I hope the word gets out that kids hear about what we offer and that this camp can lure them to classical music and our orchestra," PeÃ帶 added. "We want to inspire the youth because it trickles down to the rest of the community in one way or another."

After tonight's concert, some of those beginners in the Symphonettes camp division will get their own chance to perform for friends and family Friday morning. Then, on Saturday, the orchestra will hold auditions for the new concert season, with many of the summer campers planning to play the pieces they've worked on all week, Morrison said.

-- Lifestyle Editor Bethany Leggett writes about lifestyle topics. Contact her at, or at 265-8320, ext. 316.

Hear them

"An Evening at Music Camp," featuring members and instructors of The Golden Isles Youth Orchestra, will be at 7 p.m. at the Southeast Georgia Conference Center on the College of Coastal Georgia'sBrunswick campus. Admission is free.


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