By Laura L. Carlson
For the first time in its 25-year history, the Santa Clarita Valley Youth Orchestra is self-supporting. The SCVYO has overcome incredible odds to thrive in tough times. State budget cuts at College of the Canyons, where the orchestra was partially funded, threatened to close the curtains for the final time on the budding musicians. Instead, concerned community members and the SCVYO Board—with help from COC’s Music Department—took quick action to upstage the cuts, letting the music play on.
It hasn’t been an easy path for the orchestra. The SCVYO has been on a financial roller-coaster ride, awaiting word on state budget cuts—particularly over the past few years. Thanks to private donations and grants received in 2010-11, the orchestra was able to raise enough money to become self-supporting this year. When the government funding was cut completely for the youth orchestra and the beginning strings group (the Prelude Strings) in January, eleventh-hour negotiations of the SCVYO Board helped to find a place for practices—at the local community college. COC generously offered space for the two groups to continue at low cost.
On a high note, the budget cuts did not affect the advanced musicians—Symphony of the Canyons. The cuts were for the two supporting groups the SCVYO and the Prelude Strings. Fortunately, the community college is able to continue supporting the Symphony, which is a class that offers transferable Fine Arts credits.
“For 25 years, College of the Canyons played an important role in building this orchestra,” says Peggy Cannistraci, Chair of the SCVYO Foundation. “Now we’re restructured to be self-supporting, and continue to have the overwhelming encouragement of people from these institutions. They strongly believe in our mission to bring high-quality music education to this community and beyond.”
Indeed, the Orchestra has been known over the years for its exceptional music training. Its current director, Paul Sherman, DMA, is a professional musician and also is a professor of music at Chapman College. Dr. Sherman, who has been with the SCVYO from its beginnings, says 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.
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The Prelude Strings and Youth Orchestra now have 22 and 36 students enrolled respectively, and are still accepting additional participants. Dr. Sherman adds that the program benefits students whether or not they go on to major in music.
“We attract cream-of-the-crop students, and all these smart kids feed off of each other’s energy,” says Dr. Sherman. “It’s an opportunity for like-minded people to be together. Whether you become a professional musician or you’re just in it for the joy of music, it can also help develop each student’s confidence, focus and self-discipline.” He points out that it has enhanced many of the students’ college applications and even helped some win scholarships for college.
In addition to an investment in their future, the orchestra offers students a lot for their fees:
- Salaries for directors, all with graduate degrees (2 Masters of Music and 1 Doctor of Music)
with 45 years of combined music teaching experience.
- Weekly master classes with CalArts graduate students
- Occasional master classes with professional musicians
- Performances in the College of the Canyons Performing Arts Center
- Room rentals
- Instruments for loan
- Music purchases and access to private music library
“Music is extremely important to the education of young people, for mental acuity and cultural awareness,” comments Dr. Sherman. “The SCVYO provides one of the best music education programs in Los Angeles.”
To learn more, visit www.scvyo.org. ………………………………………………………………………………
Founded over 25 years ago, the Santa Clarita Youth Orchestra Foundation oversees the Symphony of the Canyons, SCV Youth Orchestra, and the Prelude Strings. The different groups provide a wide range 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.