Courtesy of PAHS
Screech. Screech! This is a common sound before the start of an orchestra rehearsal. String instruments often sound squeaky and screechy as they tune. However, these sounds are becoming fewer as not many string players are participating in the ensemble.
Every year, there are fewer string players joining, and that is a huge problem. Without that screech, it feels like something is missing.
The Gabriel Youth Orchestra is a part of the Gabriel Chamber Ensemble, composed of Simon Maurer and Agnès Maurer. It’s open to aspiring musicians grades seven to twelve who want to play challenging classical music. Students from all over Schuylkill County join.
An orchestra is mostly made up string instruments including violins, violas, cellos. Trumpets, alto saxophones, clarinets, flutes, trombones, tubas, French horns, percussion, and piano are a part of it too. In order to play in the orchestra, students need to audition in October.
The orchestra’s director is Mr. John Shoener, a graduate of Pottsville. At rehearsal, he makes it his goal to keep the students relaxed while playing.
“Orchestra is a place where students can broaden their musical horizons by playing in an ensemble that is unique. Students are used to playing in bands or choirs, but orchestras are unique because they are not offered in schools in Schuylkill County. We get together once a week and make beautiful music together. Orchestras also give us the chance to perform music that we might not typically perform, such as music by Bach, Mozart or Beethoven. The main benefits for students are that orchestra gives them an outlet to perform outside of school. These students want to better themselves, which benefits their high school ensembles,” Shoener said.
Every Wednesday from 5:30 to 7:00 pm, the orchestra meets for a rehearsal. The orchestra has three concerts: a Christmas concert, a concert for the fourth graders and a Spring concert. Students who missed the chance to sign up in September can sign up in March.
“I joined the orchestra because I wanted to step out of my comfort zone and improve my musicianship through playing various pieces in an orchestral setting. It has been both an overwhelming and immensely gratifying investment, as anything worth doing is. I throughly enjoy playing and look forward to my first performance with these wonderfully talented people,” said homeschooled junior Ian Powell.
The orchestra provides friendships along with difficult music to play. Talking to students within their instrument section creates new bonds.
“The Gabriel Youth Orchestra is really fun; it’s always great to have more opportunities to play my trumpet with cool people,” said sophomore Evan Vidal.
Interested students can reach Mr. John Shoener via email at [email protected]. The orchestra performs on December 13 for the fourth graders, December 22 for their Winter concert and April 26 for their Spring Concert.