Finding their groove: Youth orchestra students move into next phase of learning in Oklahoma

Young students involved with the inaugural El Sistema Oklahoma youth orchestra continue to fine-tune their musical abilities as they move into the next phase of the program.
by Carla Hinton Modified: January 4, 2014 at 8:04 pm •  Published: January 6, 2014

Gatewood Elementary School third-grader Malachi Lewis said he was drawn to the tuba because of its size.

“It looked interesting to play and it was big,” said Malachi, 8.

Izzabella Truong-Richardson, 9, a Gatewood fourth-grader, said she has so much fun learning to play the bass that she's hardly aware of time.

“It only feels like five minutes when you're playing, but it's really 45 minutes,” she said. “It's awesome.”

And Kaiser Elementary School fourth-grader Jason Ngo said he loves to move the bow back and forth as he plays the viola.

“It's inspiring and it's helping me learn,” Jason said of the music that springs from the stringed instrument.

These and other students participating in the El Sistema Oklahoma youth orchestra are finding their groove.

As the inaugural music program starts its second semester Monday, the youths continue to fine-tune their abilities, and leaders are planning more public concerts and appearances for them.

“We are very excited to welcome the students back. It will be fun to see the progress they made as most took their instruments home for the first time over the holiday break,” said Cathy Busey, a member of St. Luke's United Methodist Church. Busey and her husband, Phil, provided the funding to start the program.

El Sistema Oklahoma provides free orchestral music training to a group of students in third through sixth grades from six Oklahoma City public schools: Sequoyah, Linwood, Gatewood, Kaiser, Putnam Heights and Cleveland.

The program, which started in August, is a ministry of St. Luke's United Methodist Church, in partnership with Oklahoma City University and the Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools.

More than music

The youth orchestra held a mini concert for the students' parents just before fall break, and the event included an opportunity for some of the parents to get an impromptu music lesson from their children.

The orchestra's first public concert was in December at St. Luke's, 222 NW 15, filling the church's fellowship hall with the sounds of a whimsical Christmas medley and other songs.

“What we are seeing, what we are experiencing, is our future,” Jose Luis Hernandez-Estrada, the program's first executive director, said during the concert.

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by Carla Hinton
Religion Editor
Carla Hinton, an Oklahoma City native, joined The Oklahoman in 1986 as a National Society of Newspaper Editors minority intern. She began reporting full-time for The Oklahoman two years later and has served as a beat writer covering a wide...
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