Arts and Entertainment

Musicians show their pluck

How her son was going to get to Benaroya Hall was not the problem for Priscilla Jones, because everyone knows that: practice, practice, practice.

The problem was how to get the young cellist to practice, practice, practice.

For Jones, as for many families with budding string players, the newly formed Bainbridge Island Youth Orchestra has given that daily drudgery a new purpose.

“A lot of parents come up to me and say, ‘my son or daughter used to not like to practice, but now they jump right in!’” she says.

Jody Jacobs, whose daughters Meghan, age 14, and Theresa, age 11, are violinists in the orchestra, agrees. “My daughter Meghan would come home and the first thing she would practice was her orchestra pieces. She’s very enthusiastic about them.”

It may not be Benaroya – or Carnegie Hall – but the Bainbridge Alliance Church should be filled with just as much energy when the young musicians perform in the orchestra’s first concert on Monday night.

The youth orchestra was formed this summer to fill a striking gap in music education on the island: the lack of a string program in area schools.

“In fifth grade, the kids go into band. We thought it didn’t make sense to ask (young string players) to switch instruments like that,” says Jones, a cello teacher on the island.

New residents, like the Jacobs, faced a tougher challenge. When the family arrived on Bainbridge in December, Jacobs discovered that the one private teacher of Suzuki violin - the teaching method her daughters had followed for seven years - was fully booked, and that there was no orchestra in the school in which her daughters could play. “All the doors were shut in my face,” she says.

“I was very surprised that there was nothing in school,” says her daughter Meghan. “I’m used to the band/orchestra structure, with a bigger orchestra than band. But then my mom helped get one started – that’s something she’s always doing, starting things.”

Jacobs acknowledges that the setback led to new opportunities. She contacted “almost everyone that had something to do with string music on the island,” and met other parents who were similarly frustrated.

Jacobs joined the Orchestra Support Committee, which last May organized a string concert by young players from all over the island. “We hoped we could get a string program started in the schools,” Jones says. “But when that didn’t happen, we decided to put together a private organization.”

What emerged was the Bainbridge Island Youth Orchestra, which is actually two ensembles: a 20-member senior orchestra for students who already play at a high level and who sight-read well, and an 18-member junior orchestra for students just learning their instruments.

The parents recruited Gary Anderson and Diane Lange, both experienced music educators – and the concertmaster and assistant concertmaster of the Bainbridge Island Orchestra – to lead the group.

The orchestra has bloomed under their leadership, says Jacobs, who is the Music Outreach Director for the BIYO. “Diane is very nurturing, and Gary is really into kids feeling the music. They’ve been wonderful.”

The experience has been rewarding for the young string players, as well. “I like being with a bunch of people playing music,” says Meghan, a first violinist in the senior orchestra. “And it’s helped me become a better music reader.

“And I’ve made lots of friends.”

The orchestra is an invaluable opportunity to play together, says Jones, the group’s vice president. “It is important to have friends that play an instrument. Kids latch on to that peer experience.”

Jones hopes the success of the youth orchestra will attract new participants and pave the way for a string program in the schools. “People think that if the schools do it, then it’s important – part of our culture.

“We don’t have that yet, but we have this.”

Theresa Jacobs, in the third violin/viola section, also looks forward to the day the district has a string program.

“I hope it starts in the school and I can show my friends what I do,” she says.


The BIYO performs its debut concert at 7:30 Dec. 3 at Bainbridge Alliance Church. Admission is free; refreshments will follow the performance. For information, contact Jody Jacobs at 855-9426.

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