Category Archives: News & Annoucements

Young musicians record ‘Blue Ice’ at Grewingk Glacier | Homer News

Among musicians, a corny old joke goes like this: “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” “Practice, practice, practice.” This August, a group of young string musicians made their own concert venue, the majestic setting of Grewingk Glacier in Kachemak Bay State Park. So how does one get there?

“Walk, walk, walk,” said Clyde Clemens, 8.

On one fine summer day, Clemens, his sister Sylvia, and other musicians from the Homer Youth String Orchestra did just that when they tromped along the Saddle Trail to the lake and glacier on the south shore of Kachemak Bay. Tourists who came upon them playing against a backdrop of a towering glacier might have been surprised to hear string music in the wilderness. A video shoot and a later studio recording has resulted in “Blue Ice,” the name of the video as well as an original composition by Homer musician John Bushell, also known as Johnny B.

Last week, Bushell released the video on YouTube. Next month, at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 14, at the Homer Public Library, the Homer Youth String Orchestra, or HYSOC, performs the live premiere of “Blue Ice.” A piano player who got his start in Alaska playing around the state on his piano from the back of a truck, Bushell also appeared on Tom Bodett’s radio show. For years he has entertained tourists with his “Rhythm of the North,” a multimedia concert.

“I keep advertising it as a celebration of the glacier, the Grewingk Glacier, and a celebration of young kids music, youth performing,” Bushell said.

“It was really exciting. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, something other musicians might not do,” said Rosy Kauffman, first violin for HYSOC. “It was really awesome.”

Bushell got the idea for “Blue Ice” after he had done a show in Washington and a woman asked him if Alaskans can see the effects of climate change.

“I was stunned. It made me think down in the Lower 48 with all the news going on, there are still people who don’t know,” Bushell said.

He had seen HYSOC perform at the Homer High School Commons and decided he would write a song about glaciers to be played by the orchestra. Bushell talked to Daniel Perry, the musical director of HYSOC.

“He got excited, That’s exactly what he wanted to do with his group — fun projects like that to inspire kids to get into more serious music,” Bushell said.

“The kids were really excited about this project,” said Kara Clemens, mother of Clyde and Sylvia and parent coordinator for HYSOC. “When Johnny B. brought it up, it was a no-brainer. Johnny is the enthusiast for all things music and youth, and it turns out he’s an environmental activist.”

In the summer, Perry works as a naturalist guide at Kachemak Bay Wilderness Lodge in China Poot Bay.

“He’s got a wonderful lifestyle. He really has mastered combining his love and passion for music and love and passion for the outdoors,” Clemens said. “He’s really into building a group cohesion. He’s a wonderful leader for our group.”

Perry said he jumped at the chance to take music outdoors.

“We’re always stuck as musicians, stuck inside doing these things,” he said.

Bushell applied for and got a grant from the Homer Foundation to pay for production expenses, including having sewers at NOMAR make backpack straps for the musical instrument cases. The video starts out with the musicians walking down the ramp at the Homer Harbor and to a Mako’s Water Taxi boat. They go across the bay and hike over tree roots and along the trail to Grewingk Glacier Lake. While the musicians played at the glacier as Bushell videotaped them, they later recorded the music individually and as a group in Bushell’s studio.

Perry helped arranged Bushell’s original music for strings, but the musicians also developed the music.

“What was amazing about this project was the kids took ownership of it,” Perry said. “They would say, ‘Let’s try a crescendo here. … It was really their project as well, not just hiking their basses over the Saddle Trail.”

Bushell shot the video with an iPhone. He also uses drone camera footage to show the immensity of the glacier and the small dots of the musicians on the shore. One take not used in the final video had the musicians in wetsuits standing in the cold lake playing their instruments, with Clyde Clemens sitting on a sturdy iceberg playing his cello. The video includes recordings of water trickling off the ice.

“It’s a celebration of all glaciers. That’s the whole climate-change theme. The glacier stands alone. It’s so beautiful. This video really shows off the Grewingk with its blue ice,” Bushell said.

The video also shows the recession of the glacier, using archival footage to show its retreat from near the shore in 1900 to when the lake formed in 1926 to the glacier pulling back a mile from the shore and now 3 miles.

A final scene shows the musicians turning around and bowing to the glacier. Bushell said he had done a scene of them performing with their backs to the glacier, and then suggested they turn around and bow.

“It made sense. That was what we were there for,” he said.

Bushell composed and Perry arranged “Blue Ice” before the video session, and throughout June and July HYSOC practiced and refined the piece. For HYSOC, the studio recording marked the first time the musicians had done a recording.

“I think it’s cool to have that experience,” Clyde Clemens said.

“He feels like, wow, this is what real musicians do,” his mom said. “He’s 8 years old and already has this experience.”

“I learned you have to have a lot of patience with yourself to do things over and over,” Kauffman said. “It’s worth it. It’s a team building thing.”

Kauffman said she likes the feel of “Blue Ice.”

“It was very well done. It so fits the glacier. You can hear parts that are emulating the glacier, how majestic it is,” she said.

Clyde Clemens said he thought the music might help people understand climate change.

“It seems pretty clear. You can get the whole idea from the video. I think they’ll know it’s happening,” he said.

HYSOC was the brainchild of the late Homer musician Sally Kabisch, who wanted to place for her students to play. Lisa Whip and conductor Tia Pietsch founded HYSCO in the fall of 2004 after Kabisch died. Starting with five students, it has grown to 13, with students ages 8 to 16. Students have to be able to read music and usually need to take private lessons to join, Clemens said. A new music group at Paul Banks Elementary School, Preludes, now in first and second grades, is building a generation of string musicians that Perry said he hopes will make the Homer classical music community stronger.

Clyde Clemens has some advice for those new musicians.

“Keep practicing,” he said. “You should just keep playing.”

Reach Michael Armstrong at



“Blue Ice” Video

Music by Johnny B.

Producer and director, John Bushell

Daniel Perry, Conductor

Clyde Clemens, Avram Salzmann, cello

Lawson Alexson-Walls, Iris Downey, bass

Rosy Kauffman, Sylvia Clemens, Neviya Reed, Morgan Whiteside, violins

Theodore Hanley, viola

Drone images by John Bushell, Ash Churchill and Biyi Akinlude

Video editing by Biyi Akinlude

Audio editing assistance by Kevin Duff

Visit to watch the video.

Source: Young musicians record ‘Blue Ice’ at Grewingk Glacier – Oct. 12, 2017 | Homer News

HYSOC ready to rock — the strings | Homer Tribune

lined-upThe Friday night crowd at Paul Banks Elementary School were certainly feeling the music.
Children not yet old enough to walk were scooting closer to the music as the Homer Youth String Orchestra Club played for a crowd of art appreciators. The “Art Extravaganza” was one of the last chances to hear the orchestra under the direction of long-time artistic director and conductor, Lisa Schallock.
Schallock’s farewell concert Sunday, April 10th’s  3 p.m. spring concert in the Homer High Commons. Shallock said she is looking forward to the concert, as she knows her group won’t be “background music.”


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Source: HYSOC ready to rock — the strings | Homer Tribune

Youth Orchestra Preps for Spring Concert | KBBI

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.

Instruments in the Homer Elementary School music room where Homer Youth String Orchestra Club meets to practice.
Credit Photo by Daysha Eaton/KBBI

Freshman, Sammy Walker plays the Violin.

“It’s fun playing with them,” said Walker.

Homer High School freshman, 15-year-old Avram Salzmann plays the cello.

“I still get really scared,” Salzmann says, before performing.

“I’ve been doing it for a long time. I started when I was three-and-a-half. I like the groove of the music and the fact that you can like kind of dance to it while you’re playing,” said Salzmann.

Salzmann’s teacher, Schallock, is retiring this year. He says she’ll be missed.

“I want to thank Lisa for being our director, cause she’s retiring this year and she’s done an amazing job. She has a lot of patience with us even when we’re messing around,” said Salzmann.

The Homer Youth String Orchestra Club’s Spring Concert is scheduled for Sunday, April 10th at 3 p.m. in the Homer High School Commons. The concert is free and open to the public.

Source: Youth Orchestra Preps for Spring Concert | KBBI

Letters to the Editor – Nov. 18, 2015 | Homer Tribune

Amoroso thanks for support
The Kenai Peninsula Orchestra and the Homer Youth String Orchestra Club wish to thank the Homer Foundation and your Youth Advisory Council for your support. Both organizations have provided support by helping finance the purchase of music and special learning clinics for student musicians.

Just as important to the young musicians of HYSOC, the Homer Foundation has provided support through your appreciation of our musical skills by inviting us to provide music for your Annual Meeting last Wednesday evening. The ensemble and orchestral presentations were all well received and the musicians greatly appreciated having the opportunity to play for your meeting.

At that meeting, the Homer Foundation paid special tribute to one of their founding members, Mary Epperson. KPO wishes to add our thanks to Mary for her life-long support of orchestral performance on the Kenai Peninsula. She demonstrated this once again by donating the $250 charitable gift she won at the meeting to KPO.

With the support of individuals and organizations like you, we plan to continue to provide enriched educational opportunities and cultural experiences to the Kenai Peninsula community through the study and performance of the orchestral arts.

Linda Reinhart

Source: Letters to the Editor – Nov. 18, 2015 | Homer Tribune

Young musicians show their talent | Homer News

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.

This splendid opportunity to advance their skills was generously supported by the Homer Foundation through its Willow Fund, a donor-advised fund, and the Music Education Fund in Memory of Renda Horn, a field of interest fund.

HYSOC members and their parents and supporters wish to acknowledge and to thank Homer Foundation and its administered funds for this support.

In Homer, orchestra is not currently available through the public school system, so students who wish to learn the stringed instruments must find alternate means to pursue that interest. HYSOC, with the help of generous donors like The Homer Foundation, offers these students the opportunity to experience the thrill of performing orchestral music together.

The next performance of this talented group will be on Sunday, April 19, at 3 p.m. at the Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center in Homer. Admission is free and all are invited to hear some truly splendid music.

Linda Reinhart, secretary

Homer Youth String Orchestra Club

Source: Young musicians show their talent | Homer News

Youth Orchestra to play with symphony | Homer Tribune

Youth Orchestra to play with symphony

By Cindy Tapia
Homer Tribune

“We are here to stay,” said Lisa Whip, of the Homer Youth String Orchestra Club. Whip is the parent organizer and visionary for the Homer Youth String Orchestra Club, which started three years ago to provide local Homer youth with orchestral opportunities.
The Homer Youth String Orchestra is a group of students that were determined to keep playing their string instruments through high school. The group has grown with the tremendous support of the area music teachers,  parents, staff at the public schools and the community of Homer, Whip said.
The students are excited for the upcoming event with the Anchorage Youth Symphony on Sunday, where they will be playing an arrangement of the Finale of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 2. Tchaikovsky nicknamed this symphony the “Little Russian,” and used a Ukrainian folksong as the basis of this shining, exciting last movement.
“It gives them good experience,” said Whip, “and the chance to play with kids with more expertise is very inspirational for them.”
The students will be playing at 2 p.m. with the Anchorage Youth Symphony, a group that has toured from Great Britain to New Zealand. The performance will be directed by Anchorage Youth Symphony Music Director/Conductor Linn Weeda.
The Anchorage Youth Symphony comprises high-school-age students in the community in and around Anchorage. Students can gain membership in the group through annual auditions. There are about 85 members in the orchestra.
The Homer Youth String Orchestra Club is a nonprofit organization under the auspices of the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra, which is the musical branch of Pier One Theatre. Five students were originally committed when the program was organized, but by the time everything got underway, four more students joined the ranks.
Over the years, the club as grown to 17 members, with ages ranging from 11 to 16. Tia Pietsch, the current music director for the club, designed a specific program to accentuate the talents and abilities of the original nine string players.
“The kids in the orchestra have astounded me with their ability to learn pieces quickly. I ordered about eight pieces for them in September; they had them nearly memorized by October. I selected another seven pieces in January that are more difficult and venture into new styles (jazz/fiddle/movie music). The most difficult piece is probably Folk Tune Air and Fiddler’s Fury,” said Pietsch. “This piece is challenging for its idiomatic fiddle bowings and wicked-fast tempo.”
The club currently has three cellos, two violas, one bass and 10 violins.
“People always joke with me about teaching violin/orchestra… ‘How can you stand the scratching?’ I don’t think these kids have ever ‘scratched,’” Pietsch said. “They really play beautifully. It has been really great to see them develop technically and musically over the last three years.”
All of the students are actively involved with the club in one way or another.
“Without the kids, the group would not even be alive,” Whip said. “Of course, they run into obstacles, but they have been able to overcome them. Now that the kids are older, they have taken over jobs like making posters and writing to the paper with ‘thank yous.’ The kids definitely feel a lot of ownership.”
In addition to meeting several times a week at Homer High School, Homer Middle School and once a week through Community Schools, in order to be in the club, each of the students must work with a private teacher. The area teachers are Michael and Lisa Schallock, Heidi Senungetuk and Tia Pietsch.
The future plans for Homer’s Youth String Orchestra Club are to keep growing. “Our goal has always been to grow into a full youth orchestra—we are on our way,” Whip said, adding that they were looking forward to a performance at the Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center for Earth Day on April 21, and a spring concert sometime in May.
Whip recommended this week’s concert to any musician, child to adult. She said she hopes the entire community will take the opportunity to attend.
“It will be pretty inspiring, ” she said.
Piestch agrees.
“This should be an incredible concert and everyone should make an effort to attend the event—it’s quality (Anchorage Youth Symphony), it’s affordable (free), and it’s classical music (good for the brain, right?) What better way to spend a Sunday afternoon?” she said.

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Source: Youth Orchestra to play with symphony | Homer Tribune

Youth string together beginning orchestra

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.

Pietsch, who grew up in Homer, knows that situation only too well.

“I played violin as a student, but there were no outlets (for performing) other than my own private playing,” said Pietsch, whose interest in music led to a bachelor of arts degree in music from Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Ore. She will complete a master’s degree in music education from the University of Oregon this year.

Parent Lisa Whip was inspired by Sally Kabisch, her children’s original string instructor who died last summer, to ensure that these young musicians’ interest in music continued. Drawing on Kabisch’s expertise in organizing grassroots efforts, Whip contacted Bill Searle, the HMS band instructor, Mark Robinson, the school’s choir director, and Glen Szymoniak, the HMS principal, about the possibility of forming an orchestra club. The response was encouraging.

“Glen (Szymoniak) signed on the dotted line,” Whip said. “He was really supportive. Without him, we wouldn’t have done this.”

Also supportive was the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra, through which the club has gained nonprofit status. “And we got a grant from the Homer Foundation in the late summer for $950,” Whip said. That financial support was used to purchase necessary materials, such as music stands.

Whip also approached Pietsch who, with her husband Joel, established the Harbor School of Music in Homer in 2003. “She said yes, and then we knew we could do it,” Whip said of the cornerstone in the club’s foundation.

The students — six girls and three boys playing seven violins and two cellos — meet for 45 minutes, five days a week, at Homer Middle School.

“I have them there every day,” Pietsch said. “And attendance is the best indicator of their interest.”

In December, the orchestra debuted at the HMS Christmas concert. “Bill (Searle) said, ‘We’re breaking tradition tonight,'” Whip said of Searle’s introduction of the orchestra. “Us parents had never heard them play. And it was a total hit.”

The students also performed both days of the Nutcracker Faire in December. With instrument cases open for donations, they raised $175 each day. And that led to numerous requests for other performances.

“We had to turn some down,” Whip said of the overwhelming interest. Their next performance will be at Bunnell Street Gallery on April 17.

The club’s vision for the future includes weekly string instruction offered through Community School and eventually growing into a full youth orchestra.

Pietsch, who privately teaches younger violin students and is open to teaching a Community School class, said, “If we can keep this program strong, it will be something (the youngsters) can look forward to doing. … It is only going to get better. I’m excited.”

On Wednesday, the Homer Youth String Orchestra Club is sponsoring a concert by the Sitka Music Festival, featuring Paul Rosenthal, Sungmi Im, Ik-Kwan Bae, Marcus Thompson and Armen Ksajikian, playing chamber works for string and piano. It will be held at 7 p.m. at Mariner Theatre. “This is our big fund raiser,” Whip said. Money raised will help purchase orchestra chairs. Tickets are being sold at Etude Music Studio, Homer Council on the Arts and the Homer Bookstore, and are $12 for adults, $10 for Pier One Theatre Raven’s Club members, $9 for seniors, $5 for students and $25 for families.

On the same day, the club is inviting young string instrument players with two years of experience to participate in a workshop with the Sitka Music Festival players. It will be held from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. at Homer Middle School.

“The kids are fortunate to get to spend time with the performers,” Pietsch said. “In places where music is accessible and music education runs rampant, workshops like this are common. As they progress, they turn into masters’ classes. So this is an important thing for them to do, to participate at this level.”

Cost to participate in the workshop is $5.

Enthusiastic about the orchestra club’s formation and the impact it is having, Whip said, “It is making a difference. Now, it is a way of life for our kids. Violin is something they do every day.”

“It’s a community thing,” Pietsch said of the widespread support the program has received. “We’ve got to do it for the kids. This is doing it for the right reason.”

Source: Youth string together beginning orchestra | Homer News