The Homer Youth String Orchestra Club is gearing up for their spring concert.
Lisa Schallock is the Music Director for the Orchestra.
“We have three cellos and our youngest cellist is only in first grade and we have two bases and two violas and ten violins maybe – first [grade] through senior in high school,” said Schallock.
15-year-old Ethan Benedetti, a Homer High School freshman, plays the viola.
“I’ve been doing it for so long I don’t really get nervous playing this instrument, but when I play any other instrument I feel nervous. I started playing this when I was seven years old. It’s fun playing it in a group setting, and I enjoy playing it well in front of an audience,” said Benedetti.
On the weekend of Feb. 27-29, 14 dedicated young musicians, aged 6 to 17, gathered at West Homer Elementary School for a workshop conducted by the Homer Youth String Orchestra Club (HYSOC). The popular instructor, Dr. Gail Johansen, director of Fairbanks Suzuki Institute, presented Master classes and clinics at all levels for the students.
Ignoring the smells of lunch filling Homer Middle School’s hallways, nine students gather daily around Tia Pietsch and keep their focus on the task at hand — becoming skilled violin and cello musicians and shaping themselves into the Homer Youth String Orchestra Club. With instruction from Pietsch, support from Homer Foundation, encouragement of Homer Middle School personnel and the commitment of the students’ parents, they are doing just that.
“These kids are amazing and fantastic to work with,” Pietsch said. “Everybody goes, ‘Oh, junior highers.’ But they’re great. They have great attitudes. Definitely, if we can give them these opportunities, they’ll be fantastic string players. And they like it. They obviously like it.”
The nine members of the orchestra club, all middle school-age, have been studying music for two to five years in spite of having had no consistent string instructor in the area and little hope of having it taught through the school district.