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1875 - Construction begins on San Fernando Railroad Tunnel [story]

For musically inclined high school students, a most rewarding adventure awaits – to perform with a full orchestra. This April, young musicians will be doing what they love best at the Performing Arts Center at College of the Canyons. They will perform with the Santa Clarita Valley Youth Orchestra or its beginner group, the Prelude Strings & Winds. To fine-tune this experience, students could get fine arts credits toward high school – if the SCVYO Foundation gets its petition granted.

Earlier this year, the Foundation appealed to the William S. Hart Union High School District to allow the credits earned with the SCVYO to be transferable to its students’ high school transcripts. If this is approved, the credit will go toward points needed for graduation and it also could help with college applications – as prospective higher education institutions can see these fine arts credit(s).

“I feel that getting the school district’s blessing is very important,” said Peggy Cannistraci, Chair of the SCVYO Foundation. “Our youth orchestra program is not only fun for the students, but it provides a valid musical education.” Paul Sherman, DMA, has been with the organization from its beginnings. He comments that the SCVYO and Prelude Strings were the starting points for many students who later went to renowned schools like Julliard, Harvard, MIT, USC and UCLA.

In fact, the SCVYO has been a vital force in the community for over 25 years and has attracted musicians ranging from those who participate for the pure pleasure to others who aim to become professionals. The orchestra has performed in venues ranging from Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, California to North London, England. Dr. Sherman, who serves as the organization’s Music Director, is a professor at Chapman University and a professional oboist who performs worldwide.

Damian Berdakin

He is assisted by two other professional musicians, Damian Berdakin (bass) and Julissa Bozman (violin). In addition, California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) graduate students in music share their knowledge with the SCVYO participants.
Many of the participants started at the tender age of 8 or 9 in the Prelude Strings and progressed to the orchestra. More than half of the SCVYO orchestra students are now in high school and both groups welcome newcomers to the next session, starting this summer. This July, the SCVYO will hold a two-week music program.

Paul Sherman

“Our orchestra program is unique. It’s really about the process rather than the competition,” Dr. Sherman said. “Every moment of the rehearsal is about learning something about music and finding out how to work with other people – getting along. All the students can’t compete for concert master. I’m not so interested in a challenge for chairs – it could turn students against each other. Instead, I go for quality and strength all the way through the orchestra. I move people around. So if you’re sitting next to someone not at your level, maybe I put you there to help the other person. Or maybe you’ll have a mentor sitting next to you. Graduate students from Cal Arts also do sectionals to help everyone build up their skills and take them as far as they can go musically.
“Orchestral playing is about an end result that is a pleasure to listen to,” he says. “That means we all have to work together for an end result. Just like the rest of life.”

Dr. Sherman adds that it would be a tremendous coup for the school district to agree to provide SCVYO students with credit for their participation in this high-profile music program. He encourages the community to attend the spring concert to listen and enjoy, and to learn more. The concert will be preceded by a Mexican dinner fundraiser. Tickets can be ordered and prepaid, and held at “will call” by contacting Sue Stanger, Executive Director, at sue@suestanger.com.

Concert date: April 21, 2012; 7:30 pm

Pre-concert dinner: 5 pm – 6:45 pm

Location: COC Performing Arts Center

For information, visit www.scvyo.org.


About Santa Clarita Valley Youth Orchestra

Founded over 25 years ago, the Santa Clarita Youth Orchestra Foundation oversees the Symphony of the Canyons, SCV Youth Orchestra, and the Prelude Strings & Winds. The different groups provide a wide variety of musical experiences – ranging from sectionals taught by graduate students from the California Institute of the Arts, to musical performances at community events, to appearances at renowned venues such as Disney Concert Hall. They have performed in Europe and in various cities in the United States. The SCVYO Alumni Association also offers former students the opportunity to stay involved in expanding the reach of the orchestra.


Laura Carlson is a member of the SCVYO board of directors.

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