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Orchestra poised to play

The youth ensemble readies a program of Bach, Handel.

On the rehearsal floor and in board meetings, the Bainbridge Island Youth Orchestra is poised for its next opus.

“Passion goes a long way,” board president Priscilla Jones said.

In existence since 2001, the BIYO has comprised roughly 40 students at any given time ranging from ages 8 to 18.

They play as two arms – the more experienced, generally high-school-age students in the Senior Orchestra and the younger or less experienced players in the Chamber Sinfonietta.

The group’s upcoming concert of Handel and Bach was selected by conductors Reid Blickenstaff and George Ramsey, but Jones has a sneaking suspicion some of the orchestra members’ preferences came into play, too.

When they came to auditions this past September – and each orchestra does set a minimum bar for sight reading and playing ability – each prospective player filled out an information card that at the bottom asked, “Is there anything you’d like us to know?”

Jones says the open-ended question can encompass anything, even “I have a cut finger today.” But at least one student simply wrote “I love Bach.”

“That may have had something to do with it,” Jones said.

This inclusive mindset has guided the orchestra’s board as well, which consists of parents of players engaged in what she describes as a “loving volunteer effort” borne out of a commitment to the kids and what they get out of their music.

“As president,” she said, “I try to help guide the organization and try to help them stay organized. And I end up managing quite a bit.

“But everyone has dual jobs. That’s one of the things we’re working on and to trying to improve on, to try to make it not so much a working board.”

The BIYO recently took advantage of a windfall from the City of Bainbridge Island, which gave the orchestra $2,000 for organizational planning.

While Jones points out that the dollar amount might not seem monumental, it meant a great deal to the orchestra, which used the funds toward two board retreats dedicated to organizational strengthening, strategic planning, and the development of a mission statement: “BIYO fosters musicianshhip and cameraderie within the community through education and performance.”

“We’re just so very proud to have agreed upon those words,” Jones said. “It’s going to give us the direction in the next year after we make our work plan.”

Jones, a cellist and cello teacher, said she recently began reading Oliver Sacks’ “Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain,” which chronicles the dramatic ways in which music can help brain-damaged individuals organize their thoughts and motions in order to better cope with the world in large and small ways.

The book, recommended by the parent of one of the orchestra members, resonated completely.

“It’s just showing me that there’s an element of human ability that’s in the arts and in music. And what I got from this book is that...there’s something about music that progresses humanity,” she said. “Otherwise, why would music be included in our evolution?”

Next up, the BIYO preps for a collaboration with the North Kitsap Choir, for which the board and conductors are hoping to add more experienced wind musicians. Following that will be an April pairing with the Bainbridge Symphony Orchestra.

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