• For more information about the Forsyth Youth Orchestra, visit www.forsythyouthorchestra.com.
• To purchase tickets to the FYO’s first concert, set for 4 p.m. May 19 at the Cumming Playhouse, go to www.playhousecumming.com or call (770) 781-9178. Tickets are $15.
Lee Keil sat up straight, bow in hand, focused and determined to hit all the right notes.
As the director moved her hands, Keil’s bow glided across the strings of the large bass cradled against his knees.
The Riverwatch Middle School seventh-grader is one of about 15 students from throughout the county taking part in the new Forsyth Youth Orchestra.
The group provides a chance for students who play string instruments to come together in a performance ensemble, as Forsyth County public schools’ band programs don’t include string instruments like the violin, viola, cello and bass.
For young musicians like Keil, the group provides an opportunity to grow their skills.
“I just enjoy playing good music and hearing how it sounds,” he said of why he likes being in the group. “I’m just becoming a better bass player all around.”
One of his fellow musicians, Rosa Westfall, a sophomore viola player from Forsyth Central High, agreed.
“Definitely with a group, it’s nice to hear everyone playing at once,” Westfall said. “There are a lot of skills that just playing solo pieces you don’t gain like you do playing in an ensemble.”
The orchestra, which includes musicians in elementary through high school, was the brainchild of Corina Brito, who began offering string lessons to local students after moving to Forsyth about six years ago.
A violinist originally from Brazil, Briot said she wanted to provide a musical group that would be open to any student in the county who plays a string instrument.
“This has been a dream of mine for several years,” she said. “When we moved here, I was really disheartened to find out that we don’t have a string program in the schools. So for the past three years, I’ve really been trying to start something here.”
Brito said when students reach a certain level in their musical study, they want to enter a group to gain the experience of performing with others. But that wasn’t easy for local string players.
“When my students reach the level of playing in an orchestra, they have to go all the way into [another] town,” she said. “Sometimes it’s Atlanta, sometimes Kennesaw, but it’s all very far for parents to have to drive during the week. So there’s always been a need for this kind of program here.”
This past fall Brito said she decided to contact the Forsyth County school system with her idea, which was well received.
“The head of the fine arts department … she was very open to the idea and very supportive,” Brito said. “We got the green light and we did auditions in January and started rehearsals in February.”
According to Brito, 15 of the 17 students who auditioned for the group made it. Under the direction of Brito and assistant director Julie Rosseter, they practice together for a couple of hours each Monday night.
They will get to experience their first live performance for an audience at 4 p.m. May 19 at the Cumming Playhouse.
“The Cumming Playhouse has opened their arms to us,” Brito said. “When we first contacted them they didn’t have any space for us [on their calendar]. But they made everything work and I’m so thankful for that.”
Antonio Alvarez, a sophomore at Lambert High who plays viola, is looking forward to the concert.
“It’s a special experience that you can’t have in any other situation,” he said of performing for a live audience. “I guess you could call it thrilling.
“Working on something and preparing something for a very long time and then being able to present it and have it be judged to a certain degree by people is great, especially when people enjoy it.”
Parents of the students seemed pleased to give them the opportunity to perform in their home county.
Inna Ryzhkov said her son, Mark, began playing violin when he was quite young.
“My husband is a musician … we’re a very musical family,” she said. “When Mark was 6, he asked if he could buy a violin himself.
“[The youth orchestra] is excellent. We do need to compliment Corina. She is very professional. She’s wonderful.”
Keil said both Brito and Rosseter make participating in the group a fun experience.
“[Brito] really knows how to explain things in a really interesting way,” he said. “And [Rosseter] is very nice. If you make a mistake, she won’t nag at you or anything.”
Brito hopes to continue growing the program.
From June 29 to July 4, she’ll hold a summer day camp for any string player in the county who can read music.
“We’ll prepare a show and … have a July Fourth concert in downtown Cumming,” she said. “Hopefully, we’ll make this a tradition.”
In the meantime, Brito said she’s been overwhelmed with community support.
“It has just been a wonderful, supportive endeavor and I’m just thrilled and looking forward to it growing, growing, growing."