By MEGAN HUSSEY
For more than a decade, the Hernando Youth Orchestra has introduced the young people of this area to the joys of music. Now the orchestra that serves Hernando County needs its support, to keep the music playing throughout the community.
A youth orchestra that allows the young people of this area to develop and showcase their musical talents, the HYO–lead under the direction of conductor John St. John–is a non-profit agency that features young musicians ages 5-21.
“HYO is a 501(c)3 charitable organization. Its size swells and shrinks each year, but currently, HYO has about 30 young musicians in its ranks,” said Ellen Paul, executive director of the Hernando Youth Orchestra. “HYO plays regularly at assisted living facilities and nursing homes as well as Art in the Park and other public venues. Participating musicians earn community service hours for their efforts as well as gain proficiency in their instruments.”
The orchestra costs nothing to join, and performs free of charge for the community–also performing at Homeowners Associations, the Brooksville Town Hall Christmas celebration, Stage West Playhouse and Om Center in Spring Hill, and various community events throughout the year. And while HYO is temporarily suspending public performances due to COVID-19, students are still rehearsing individually and honing their craft. And in some cases, members are in need of musical instruments that will help them develop their craft.
“Hernando Youth Orchestra (HYO) is seeking unwanted musical instruments for area school-aged children musicians,” said Ellen Paul, executive director of the Hernando Youth Orchestra. “We do not accept organs or upright pianos but will accept most other instruments.”
The orchestra, which features string instruments like violins and cellos (the orchestra even features a string quartet, for which an audition is required), flutes and other woodwind instruments, pianos and percussion instruments, also provides free of charge instrument and sheet music loans and low-cost music lessons for participants.
“The cost of purchasing—or renting—an instrument can be too much for many families,” said Paul. “That’s when HYO steps in. We match requests with the instruments in our “lending library” and can often satisfy the request.”
Instruments are lent to the students at no cost, with only one condition in place.
“We simply ask that the student musician play with HYO,” said Paul. “And at such time as they leave us, that they return the instrument so the next deserving student musician can have it.”
Aside from fostering a love of music, orchestra participation can offer additional long-term benefits for student musicians.
“A number of our young musicians have won college scholarships due to their mastery of these instruments, thus helping to reduce the cost of their college education,” said Paul.
The orchestra also is accepting cash donations, Paul said.
“If you don’t have an instrument to donate, but would like to help, please send a donation to HYO, P.O. Box 623, Brooksville, Florida 34605,” she said. “Your gift will help refurbish donated instruments, and buy sheet music, music stands, and uniform shirts for the musicians.”
And in the long run, said Paul, these young musicians get so much more.
“They learn skills for a lifetime,” she said, “including working on a team, concentration, and persistence.”
To arrange an instrument donation to the Hernando Youth Orchestra, call 352-600-9555.