A great opportunity for kids: the Hernando Youth Orchestra

Weeki Wachee - With the cutbacks that public schools are making to music programs, kids are more dependent on the community to provide musical opportunities. One of these opportunities is the Hernando Youth Orchestra. The Youth Orchestra rehearses Sunday afternoons from 3:30pm to 5:00pm at The Heather Community Center, 9100 Nakoma Way, Weeki Wachee, FL. Parents and visitors are welcome at practices.

The orchestra is managed by Ellen Paul Executive Director. She provided a brief history on the orchestra which was founded in the summer of 2007 by Roland Hanneman (John St. John). Ellen estimates that in the short time that the orchestra has been in existence, 200 kids have come through the doors. The youth orchestra has 45 members and 4 adult musician mentors. While I was there they had two new members join.

One of the musical mentors is Benny De Niro, who is a cousin of Robert De Niro and looks remarkably like him. Benny plays the violin. Alan Breihauet is the conductor and mentors the pianist.

Fifteen year old John Boyle is a senior member of the orchestra. He has been in the orchestra since he was seven. He plays several instruments and is leaving the orchestra to go to college after this year. His family is deeply involved with the orchestra, as his five siblings are also members.

John finds that he has “improved as a musician by being a member of the orchestra.” He explained, “It makes practice more interesting, since you are around other people.” He also noted that the orchestra has grown considerably since they moved to their new location in the Heathers about a year ago. John is one of four members of the youth Orchestra that are also part of the Hernando Symphony Orchestra. The Hernando Symphony Orchestra presents a concert series of three performances between the months of December and April.

Those who are part of the orchestra see it as a great opportunity to give back to the community. The orchestra puts on concerts for the senior communities. The members of the orchestra also earn community service hours. The Orchestra is comprised of musicians from five to twenty one years old. Many of the members leave when they go away to college.

Their next performances are December 12th at the Nativity Lutheran Church and December 20th at the Atria Evergreen Woods, an assisted living facility. They recently played at the Salishan, Timber Pines, and the YMCA. They also play at the Earth day concert in the Pines.

The orchestra relies on donations to keep providing this service for the children. Most of the donations they receive are donated musical instruments that people no longer need. They are a non-profit and can provide tax deductible receipts. The instruments may be loaned to kids in the symphony for them to use, exchanged for other instruments, or sold to support the youth orchestra. The orchestra is funded by grants and the generosity of individual sponsors.

The orchestra has big plans for the future. The new location has allowed them to grow. They are planning to start a string quartet to allow them play smaller venues. The orchestra also offers music lessons for the cello, violin, and guitar. The lessons are usually offered before the orchestra rehearsals on Sunday.

This orchestra is an excellent activity for kids. It will teach them concentration and discipline. Additionally the experience will look great on their college applications.

The Hernando Youth Orchestra can be contacted at (352) 544-8105 or visit their web site http://www.hernandoyouthorchestra.org/. You can also see some members of the youth orchestra perform at the Hernando Symphony Orchestra http://www.hernandosymphony.com/.

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