Peninsula Youth Orchestra hits right note with youngsters

February 19, 2014 

The Peninsula Youth Orchestra Association held a stirring winter concert Jan. 26 at the Milton Boyd Auditorium at Peninsula High School. It played to a full house of enthusiastic music lovers. You shoulda been there!

Our kids looked and performed as seasoned professionals. It was hard to believe they were anything less. So much so that the audience stayed long after the performance to revel in chats with the musicians over cookies and soft beverages.

Rebecca Rambo of PYO’s youth group gave a brief introduction to Benjamin Britton’s “Simple Symphony” and announced the group’s dedication of the symphony’s third movement, “Sentimental Saraband,” to the late Mrs. Andrea Bryant.

Rambo, a junior at Gig Harbor High School, has played violin for eight years. She joined the orchestra because she wanted to be able to do what she loves: playing music with other people who love it, too.

“It gives me an opportunity to give back to the community,” Rambo said. “The atmosphere is fun and welcoming, and, although I just moved to Washington this summer, I found myself very comfortable with the orchestra.”

Carter Stevens, a third-grader at Discovery Elementary, plays bass in the orchestra. His sister plays violin with the PYO. When he saw a picture of a bass, “it looked like fun.”

Stevens has been playing in the orchestra for four months.

“Thanks to Mrs. Epperson, I can now read music,” he said.

Ally Fetters, a seventh-grader who is home schooled, said she plays violin in the PYO because she’s always wanted to play a string instrument.

“From the first, I knew I would love learning from Mrs. (Karla) Epperson,” Fetters said. “She makes learning both easy and fun. I love PYO and plan to continue there.”

Leah Meyer, first-chair cellist, is a sophomore at Gig Harbor High School who plays in the PYO for the musical experience.

“The orchestras are filled with fun-loving people, and the conductors are more than superb at what they do,” Meyer said. “They know how to make our music sound fantastic.”

Meyer plays other instruments, too. She’s in Gig Harbor High’s wind symphony and jazz band. She performed in the regional solo and ensemble contest last year on both the cello and alto saxophone, and she placed first on saxophone and qualified for the state competition.

“Music is something I’ll never veer away from,” she said. “It’s a large chunk of my life, and it always will be.”

Epperson, the director of the Debut and Encore orchestras, said PYO offers students an opportunity to learn to play violin, viola, cello or bass.

“We meet weekly after school on Tuesday and Thursday for beginners through sixth grade, and once a week on Thursday for junior- or senior-high students,” she said.

PYO started in 1998 and has grown to include more than 100 students. They come from Tacoma, University Place, Wauna, Olalla, Port Orchard, Bremerton, Lakebay, Manchester, Shelton and Gig Harbor, Epperson said.

“PYO’s four orchestras offer the opportunity to progress and experience the true delight of being a member of an orchestra,” she said.

Ian Bailey, a fourth-grade home-school student, plays violin in PYO. He said his mom wants him to play an instrument, “and it’s more fun to play in an orchestra than to just play songs at home.”

Bailey’s brother, Elliott, a second-grade home-school student, also plays violin in PYO.

“I really like to play with other people because it sounds awesome,” he said. “My favorite song to play is ‘Small Overture.’ ”

Madison Marggraf, a seventh-grader at Marcus Whitman Junior High in Port Orchard, plays cello.

“I enjoy learning about music every Thursday,” Marggraf said. “PYO is a great environment where you can learn new things and improve your skills. The instructors are amazing. They always are patient and will support you the best they can. My skills have improved greatly from when I first started. That’s why I love PYO!”

Taija PerryCook, a seventh-grade home-school student, has been playing with PYO since September 2012.

“Every ‘minuet’ of it has been worth it,” PerryCook said. “The lesson plan is great, songs are challenging yet fun to play, and the staff is absolutely wonderful. I never want to stop learning how to play the viola.

“Viola is at the perfect place between cello and violin; you get a bit of both worlds,” PerryCook said. “We started small, not using a bow, just plucking and playing songs one or two lines long. It didn’t seem fun at first, but Karla Epperson made it fun and guided us through to more complicated pieces. You wouldn’t believe the quick progress of the individuals and the group all together.”

PerryCook said one of the hardest parts about joining an orchestra is learning another language.

“It seemed impossible, but Mrs. Epperson teaches a wonderfully simple and direct way,” PerryCook said. “I truly recommend joining the PYO.”

Oh, to be young again!

PYO accepts new members who play a string instrument. For more information, call PYO Executive Director Ric Hallock at 253-534-5384.

Hugh McMillan is a longtime freelance writer for The Peninsula Gateway. He can be reached at 253-884-3319 or by email at hmcmnp1000@

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