News from the Tennessee Valley Diversions

Tommy Davis directs the Decatur Youth Symphony during a performance at Cedar Ridge Middle School.
Daily file photos by Gary Cosby Jr.
Tommy Davis directs the Decatur Youth Symphony during a performance at Cedar Ridge Middle School.

Calling all young & talented musicians
Decatur Youth Symphony auditions next weekend

By Patrice Stewart · 340-2446

Wanted: Students who want to use or learn skills on violin, viola, cello, bass, woodwinds, brass and percussion.

The Decatur Youth Symphony is preparing for its fourth season by looking for fresh talent, forming new groups, adding a new assistant conductor and organizing a parent support group.

Auditions for the symphony will be next weekend, and specific times should be scheduled. Friday audition hours are 3:45 to 9:15 p.m., and Saturday hours are 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. To schedule an audition appointment, call the Huntsville Symphony School, 539-4818.

Young students with little experience, however, can join other groups to polish their skills first.

“We have three different levels of experience and take students at all ages,” said conductor Tommy Davis, who is assistant principal and former band director at Cedar Ridge Middle School.

“Last year we played for several local civic groups, as well as giving concerts, and we are looking forward to a great season and playing for even more this year,” he said. “We’ve already picked our music.”

Jacob Frank, who instructs young violinists in the third-grade violin program in schools, is being added as assistant conductor of the Decatur Youth Symphony.

Frank also will work with the new Apollo Strings group, which is being created as a class for students with no experience playing a string instrument. This comes after the success of the Solaris Strings group, which was formed last year for training.

Students coming out of the schools’ third-grade violin program can get more training through the Symphony School’s after-school lessons. Apollo and Solaris also will help with group training so students can get ready to play with the Youth Symphony.

Programs for all levels

Miracle Osborne, Olivia Johnson and Donna McDonald play the flute with the Decatur Youth Symphony. You can audition to be a part of the group next weekend.
Miracle Osborne, Olivia Johnson and Donna McDonald play the flute with the Decatur Youth Symphony. You can audition to be a part of the group next weekend.
Here are the Decatur Youth Symphony program’s three different levels for students of all abilities for 2007-08. They all meet in the band room at Cedar Ridge Middle School:

The new Apollo Strings, a beginning violin class for students with no experience and no audition needed. The group meets on Thursdays from 6 to 6:50 p.m. The activity fee is $45 per year (fees cover all instruction, materials, performances, field trips and other activities). Financial assistance is available to qualified students who demonstrate need. Call 340-2588.

Solaris Strings is open to students who have at least one year of experience playing a string instrument (violin, viola, cello or bass). This is a training string orchestra designed to prepare students for the Decatur Youth Symphony, and no audition is necessary. Technique and reading skills are emphasized. Solaris Strings meets Tuesdays from 5 to 5:50 p.m. The activity fee is $90 per year.

The Decatur Youth Symphony, open by audition only, is for students with at least two years of experience playing a string, woodwind, brass or percussion instrument. The Youth Symphony meets Tuesday evenings from 6 to 7:30 p.m. The activity fee is $125 per year.

“We need string, woodwind, brass and percussion players to audition,” Davis said. Hopefully, students will have their own instruments, he said, but they have some violas and cellos available for use.

The Youth Symphony would like to attract students who are in school marching bands’ brass and wind sections to play with the symphony after marching season is over.

The Youth Symphony program’s advisory committee operates under the board of directors of Decatur Parks and Recreation, just as youth ball leagues do.

“When we started the Youth Symphony several years ago, we expected about 10 to show up, but we got 20,” said Stan Belsky of Decatur, who is chairman of the Decatur Youth Symphony Advisory Committee.

“It’s grown from there and could hit 50 this year, and that’s a pretty good size symphony for a town this size,” said Belsky, who helped found the youth music group by working with the mayor and City Council. He is an emeritus trustee of the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra, and the Huntsville Symphony School provides instructors and other help in Decatur.

“The orchestra will play in front of about a thousand people during the year. The number of performances are increasing, and so will the number of rehearsals,” said Belsky.

Frank and Sheryl Hunter are strings coaches, and a brass and woodwind coach will be needed as the groups grow.

Belsky said they have received $15,000 a year from the city in the first few years but will be asking for $21,000 for the coming year to help fund the growth.

“We have organized a small chamber group to play for smaller groups in smaller venues and other groups to give kids more experience. All this has happened in the last three years, and now we want to take it to the next level,” said Belsky.

Last season the Decatur Youth Symphony gave fall and spring concerts, as well as playing at Delano Park’s rose garden, at the Huntsville Space & Rocket Center, and for groups including the Decatur Rotary Club, Music Club, City Council and Parks and Recreation advisory board.

Some field trips are planned, such as a visit to the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra during a dress rehearsal, and parents are needed to assist with these and other activities.

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