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Symphony launches youth orchestra

It won’t be long before some of the county’s young musicians will have the opportunity to play for the Pioneer Valley Symphony Youth Orchestra.

A collaboration of Pioneer Valley Symphony, Greenfield Public Schools and Artspace Community Arts Center, the youth orchestra will be the first connected with PVS in its 74-year history, said Anna Wetherby, a 20-year member of the orchestra and its personnel manager.

The youth orchestra, whose members will come from Franklin County and beyond, will begin its inaugural season in the fall, with PVS Assistant Conductor Jonathan Brennand conducting.

“Jonathan is fantastic with children,” said Wetherby. “He has worked with many young musicians.”

Brennand recently conducted the Massachusetts Music Educators Association Western District Senior Orchestra.

Wetherby said with the youth orchestra comes the opportunity for growth of PVS and of the community.

“This has been in the works for five years,” she said.

“Educational programs are the cornerstone of the Pioneer Valley Symphony’s mission,” she said. “Artspace has been developing young string and wind players in Franklin County and beyond for numerous years, mostly with Strings for Kids, a completely free violin and cello program offered in the Greenfield Public School system and in School Union 38,” said Wetherby, who taught the program for Artspace for several years.

Wetherby said with so many schools cutting, or entirely eliminating, funds for music education from their budgets, there are few local opportunities for young musicians to play symphonic music together in high school.

“This will give them that place,” said Wetherby. “Jonathan, our current president and our past president are all really looking forward to this — they are so excited.”

She said whether members of the youth orchestra move on to play for PVS someday, move out of the area to play for some other orchestra, or decide not to continue to play later in life, the hope is that the experience they get in the youth orchestra will give young musicians a lifelong appreciation of classical music.

Wetherby said recent studies show that playing an instrument expands brain activity.

“The responsibilities of learning one’s part and becoming a contributing member of an orchestra also are important to a youngster’s development,” she said

PVS will hold auditions for strings, woodwinds and brass on May 11 in Amherst (time and place will be announced on PVS’s Web site) and May 12 at Artspace on Mill Street in Greenfield (time will be announced on the website, which will be regularly updated).

Auditions for percussionists will be held May 8 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Most Holy Redeemer Church in Hadley, and May 10 from 3:30 to 5 p.m. at Greenfield Middle School on Federal Street in Greenfield.

Young musicians, ages 11 to 20, must register online to audition:

“Once musicians start registering, we’ll have a better sense of who is interested,” said Wetherby.

Also, visit the Web site for more information and for updates.

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