By T. Jensen Lacey

With their new and permanent location at 809 Nichols Avenue, the Baldwin County Youth Orchestra (BCYO) is tuning up for its spring concert. Planned for May 7th, this concert with its theme of “Classical Favorites” will be held at 7:00 pm at Foley Civic Center

This concert promises to be the best, especially since its MC is beloved Foley Mayor, Ralph Hellmich. For those who don’t think they can make that concert, the BCYO will perform at OWA in Foley on April 20th, 2-5:30 p.m.

The maestro of the BCYO is Leroy Hughes, who began the program with Mrs. Linda Abercrombie in 2011. Mr. Hughes’ daughter, Jessica, was taking violin lessons, and both Mrs. Abercrombie and Mr. Hughes saw a real need for a community youth orchestra to build and sustain strings education in Baldwin County.   

“There was and still is not any formal strings education in the public school system,” Hughes said, “and most of the orchestral string students in the community had never performed with a full orchestra. This was our main motivation to begin the BCYO.”   

The program which began with 15 students and a handful of borrowed instruments, has now grown to more than 100 students annually. Young musicians range in age from 9 to adults of all ages and levels of experience. 

The BCYO recently received a grant from Impact 100 Baldwin County, a philanthropic organization in Fairhope that supports non-profit groups. In addition, the BCYO has recently been awarded college scholarship funds by the Cromeans Foundation and will begin this year with an annual presentation of funds to college-bound seniors involved in the BCYO.  

The different groups a prospective student can join are varied. Students can play in the BCYO, which is the organization’s most advanced, and for this level, an audition or referral by a band director is required. A student with at least one year of playing experience can take part in the Baldwin Winds Ensemble. For those with musical interests but no experience, Beginning Band would offer them a good start.

There are strings classes for beginners, mid-level (or “Intermezzo”), and advanced (or “allegro”) students. There are even classes for homeschooled students; the school offers guitar and choir classes for these students. Finally, for mature students, the school has classes called Baldwin Adult Strings, which Hughes describes as an ensemble “for more laid-back adults.”

For those aspiring musicians who are too busy during the school year to participate in any of the aforementioned programs, Hughes offers summer camps. The first is Summer Band Camp, held in mid-June; students need to have at least a year of playing experience. 

The second is Strings Camp, held the last week of July. This camp welcomes all musicians with advanced experience in playing the violin, cello, viola, and bass. There is even a Beginning Strings Camp the first week of August for those students wanting to learn to play. Some instruments are available for use during each camp week.

For those students whose musical instruments are their voices, the Youth Chorus offers an outlet for those talents. In this regard, May 17th will see a showcase of these talented singers at the Youth Chorus Performance at 7 p.m., Redeemer Church, Daphne, Alabama.

If you want to encourage musicians and support the work of BCYO, Hughes offers several sponsorship levels from becoming a Philharmonic Patron for as little as $100 to joining the Maestro’s Circle for a contribution of $5,000 or more. Donations go toward purchasing musical instruments, sponsoring summer camp students needing scholarships, and maintaining the building on Nichols Avenue.

For more information about Hughes’ BCYO, see the website BCYOrchestra or search Baldwin County Youth Orchestra on Facebook. Reach BCYO by telephone at  (251) 279-0848.

Mar 27, 2024
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