Young talent takes the stage at orchestra performance

The Alachua County Youth Orchestra will perform its annual Spring Concert on Sunday at University Auditorium. (Courtesy of the Alachua County Youth Orchestra)

Published: Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, April 24, 2013 at 1:48 p.m.

In a time when some teenagers are glued to their iPhones, iPads and iPods, other young people are working together to create art.


Alachua County Youth Orchestra

What: Countywide ensemble of classical musicians performs spring concert
When: 7 p.m. Sunday
Where: University Auditorium, 333 Newell Drive
Cost: Free

The Alachua County Youth Orchestra, which features 82 students from grades six to 12 in schools countywide, will perform its spring concert at 7 p.m. Sunday at University Auditorium.

The concert is free and open to the public and is one of two concerts performed annually by the ensemble.

The group, which features string, woodwind, brass and percussion instruments, will perform music from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera,” as well as selections from Johann Strauss, Vasily Kalinnikov and Edvard Grieg.

Gary Langford, conductor of the ensemble and former director of the University of Florida’s Marching Band and Jazz Band, says he enjoys working with the group because of their level of commitment and talent.

“It’s a great group of kids,” he says. “I’ve even got some little sixth-graders doing some wonderful stuff.”

Bailey-Michelle Collins, a homes-schooled high school sophomore, will be featured as a soloist at Sunday’s concert. A recent David Hubell Concerto Competition winner, Collins will perform Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A Minor with the ensemble and says the concerto stirs much feeling in listeners.

“The piece as a whole is something I always go back to when I’m feeling down,” she says. “The music gives me a unique feeling. As cheesy as it sounds, it makes me dream. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to share this feeling with an audience.”

Collins began playing piano at age 5 at the Gainesville Academy of Music and Art and has since won numerous awards at the local and state levels. She says the youth orchestra, of which her younger sister is also a member, is her first experience working with an ensemble.

“I’ll never forget the moment during our first rehearsal when they began to play the concerto’s opening theme. I immediately broke into a smile, because it felt so amazing just to hear the music in person, resonating all around me in textures so different from the usual piano,” she says. “The youth orchestra is a magnificent group of young musicians.”

The ensemble is the only orchestral opportunity for Alachua County high school students to perform with throughout the year. Besides the string program at Lincoln Middle, county schools don’t offer opportunities for students to hone their skills at the violin, viola, cello or double bass. Langford says his string players take private lessons to keep their playing sharp.

“The support of those giving local lessons is what keeps this orchestra going,” he says.

Langford says he hopes audiences appreciate the preparation that made this performance possible. The ensemble practices every Sunday night.

“I hope that they leave feeling joy,” he says, “and that they have heard a group of young people perform in a very mature musical way.”

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