Nervous young musicians, heads bent over their instruments, tuned up before their debut performance on the Gallo Center for the Arts stage. An audience of mainly parents and grandparents settled in their seats and clicked cellphone pictures.
The house lights dimmed and, with a tap, tap by conductor Anne Martin, the first strains of “Blue Fire Fiddler” rang out and the Modesto Symphony Youth Orchestra’s first season performance was underway.
Saturday’s performance in the Mary Stuart Rogers Theater launched the organization’s 37th season, its first under the direction of Ryan Murray. The youth orchestra includes the Concert Orchestra beginning-to-intermediate group, whose musicians started off the concert. The Wind Ensemble and filled-by-audition Symphony Orchestra followed. The nearly 120 student musicians are from more than 40 public and private schools in the Central Valley, according to the Modesto Symphony Orchestra’s website.
Among those watching from the front rows were Joanne and Hank Adams, grandparents of second cellist Emily Morse in the Concert Orchestra. “It’s just a pleasure, an absolute pleasure,” Joanne Adams said as she eagerly awaited the performance.
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“She is being part of an ensemble, playing with a large group. It’s a tremendous challenge,” Adams said. But Emily, an eighth-grader, enjoys the Wednesday practices and looks forward to her time on stage, she said.
Twelve-year-old Osmany Caro got new clothes for his first concert, and had an extra lesson that morning to boost his confidence, said his mom, Miriam Caro. “He’s really excited, really excited,” she said. Osmany is a violinist in the Concert Orchestra. His sister, Odalys, 15, is in her second year with the orchestra and was calmer, Caro said. Odalys plays saxophone in the Wind Ensemble.
She likes the structure her children get with the musical groups, and the appreciation of music. “They get to work with a team, it teaches collaboration and discipline,” Caro said.
Sitting nearby, Kelly Villalobos said her daughter, Sabina Hills-Villalobos, works harder with a group. A six-year veteran, Sabina plays with the advanced Symphony Orchestra. “It’s a good avenue for her to practice her music,” Villalobos said. “She’s the first chair of the second violins, which is a pretty big thing for her. And she got there with practice, practice, practice.”
More practice lies ahead for the groups, whose musicians next take the stage in February.