Lakeshore Report

Youth Orchestra Meets Musical Need for Teens

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March 21, 2014 — Stretching, tuning, and practicing.

It is a Sunday afternoon ritual for members of one musical group who meet weekly to practice their passion.

“I think the community and the youth orchestra really contributes to practice because it’s pretty much like a team sport. You want to be there for your team, do the best you can, give as much as you can to the group.”

Sixteen-year-old Alisha Dziarski is a member of the Northwest Indiana Symphony Youth Orchestra.

The group is comprised of students from Lake, Porter, Newton, Jasper and La Porte counties.

They pluck and pitch different instruments but share a common work ethic.

Marilyn: “constantly; every waking moment, some of them practice constantly. The students are extremely dedicated to their music. They are the students that cannot get enough. They practice all the time.”
“A lot; like, every day. I do not like to call it practicing I call it just playing,” says viola player Maxwell Moore. “When I think of like working for something but it is not really work. It’s just something I like to do.”

“I think it’s a great way for youth to kind of gain important life skills really, like leadership qualities and perseverance,” Dziarski says.

Conductor Phillip Bauman says his students arrive with a shared drive.

“There’s a great deal of passion in young people,” he says. “There is this desire to learn — to want to do better [and] to really do their best. Working with adults, you may get a somewhat more refined product at the end of it all, but many times it’s kind of hard to get them motivated in a rehearsal situation. The thing I really enjoy about the young people is their enthusiasm for coming to the rehearsals every week and doing their best and really putting it all out there.”

Working for hours to learn the notes of Beethoven, Strauss and Vivaldi is all by choice.

Each student applies and auditions for the orchestra starting as young as 7th grade and sometimes remaining until they are 21-years-old.

Manager Marilyn Stuckert says the orchestra meets a musical need in the community. “It gives them an opportunity to work with other students of a high-quality caliber,” she says. “Some schools don’t have orchestras, and so, there are students who don’t even play in school orchestras that get an opportunity to play with us.”

A 2015 federal budget request from the Obama administration to Congress released earlier this month shows a drop in funding for the “Arts in Education” budget line in recent years.

The $25 million requested for 2015 is down from nearly $40 million dollars in 2010.

A cut in education appropriations can mean no encore for some school arts programs. Stuckert says about one-third of the groups’s 71 students come from schools without orchestras.

Maxwell is a freshman at Merrillville High school where statistics show more than half of students receive a free or reduced lunch.

Time spent playing classical tunes now can quiet some inequalities.
A study from the Americans for the Arts shows students with high levels of arts involvement are less likely to drop out of high school, have better workforce opportunities and higher test scores.

“I think everyone in our orchestra goes to college,” Bauman says. “Not everybody may major in music, but there is that ethic to go on and further themselves. [I am] proud to give students an opportunity for themselves to grow.”

“If you’re in here, the music gets increasingly harder,” Moore says. “This would have terrified me a year ago. I do not even know what I would do, but — after awhile — it just gets easier. I love it. It’s the one thing that makes you put the electronics down.”

Here at least, the message of being well-rounded is on pitch.

The orchestra is preparing to play at an international music festival in Europe in June.

By: Hilary Powell

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