Jacksonville Symphony Youth Orchestra

by Erin Thursby
Classical music is very much alive here in Jacksonville. While you can point to the renowned Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra and the organizations that bring us chamber music as a sign of that life, the real proof is in the young faces present both in the audience and on the stage.
The Jacksonville Symphony Youth Orchestra concerts held side by side with the regular Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra are some of the most popular. Youth orchestras across the country have been growing, so Jacksonville is part of a national trend. In fact, this June, the JSYO will even be hosting the Florida Youth Orchestra Festival for the first time.
The Jacksonville Symphony Youth Orchestra is coming up on 20 seasons (they’re in their 19th), and they’re more popular than they’ve ever been. Scott C. Gregg, Music Director & Principal Conductor of the JSYO, says that “the amount of kids that came out this past year was really extraordinary.” The JSYO has 270 members this year, 40 more than last year. Gregg speculates that the bump in students is due to “decreasing opportunities in schools, unfortunately.”
“It’s a very unique experience for talented kids to take part in,” says Gregg. “I liken it to a sports team: All the players have talent, but in order to successful you have to work together. We teach many of the same values and work ethic that sports teams do. It takes a lot of dedication, practice and preparation to hit the concert stage or the sports field on Friday night.”
The sports metaphor goes deeper than you’d think. When corporations consider moving to a city, besides the obvious business considerations, they also look for a symphony orchestra and a pro sports team.
Having the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra as the umbrella organization for the JSYO, says Gregg,“is really beneficial; we couldn’t do half the things we do without their participation.” Despite the logistical support they get from the adult Symphony, their financial support comes from other sources. At least half of the budget comes from the students’ tuition fees; the rest comes from fund-raising through their publication, The Measure, and generous donations.
The Youth Orchestra holds the seeds of culture in Jacksonville, some of which have come to fruition. Anthony Anurca, who played in the JSYO for several years in the late 90s, is now a full-time member of the JSO. Anurca, a Jacksonville DASOTA grad added. “I love showing youngsters what the Youth Symphony has done for me…after 20 years it instills that sense of discovery, like a light bulb goes on. We live in such an instant world, but playing with an orchestra, 60 people playing together, its a joint thing and it draws you in. When you’re in the moment and it’s clicking you all become one giant organism…it stimulates and intrigues. It also keeps me young.”
At the beginning, few of their students went on to make music their career, but, says Gregg, that has steadily grown over the years. More and more have gone on to music colleges and conservatories such as Julliard and the Manhattan School of Music. Some are playing in city orchestras, and others are on the chamber music circuit.
Gregg is proud of ex-students like Anurca, but, he says, “the point is to create well-rounded citizens. To make citizens that can appreciate art and carry that through their lives to influence the community.”
For more info. on the JSYO, go to www.jaxyouthorchestra.com/.

JSYO Concert Schedule

Publix Super Markets Charities JSYO Series – All concerts are held at Jacoby Symphony Hall, Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts.

Nov 13 at 5 pm 2011 Fall Concert featuring performances of: Gershwin – Porgy and Bess:
Symphonic Picture; Franck – D minor Symphony; Holst – “Mars” from The
Planets; Vaughan Williams – Overture to “The Wasps”; Brahms – Variations
on a Theme by Haydn

Dec 12 at 7 pm 2011 Holiday Concert, FREE CONCERT!

Mar 11 at 5 pm 2012 Spring Concert

Mar 12 at 6 pm 2012 Young Artists Competition Finals

May 4 2012 Major/Minor Gala Concert, Main concert starts at 8pm, Festival of Strings
starts at 6:30 pm

June 8-10 Florida Youth Orchestra Festival