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Hillsdale Youth Symphony offers outlet for standouts

CITRUS PARK — When the baton is raised Dec. 19, 10 outstanding young musicians will raise their instruments and perform in harmony at the Hillsdale Youth Symphony Christmas Concert.

The event marks the second concert for the symphony, the brainchild of John Tracy, music pastor at Hillsdale Baptist Church and director of the Hills­dale Fine Arts Academy in Citrus Park.

Encouraged by his parents for as long as he can remember, Tracy learned to play several instruments. Today, he's an accomplished saxophonist, pianist, guitarist and conductor.

"I believe there's something inside every person that translates into a love of music," he said. "I've never met someone who says, 'I hate music.' "

Tracy, 30, said he first started thinking about a youth symphony about two years ago when he realized there was no such community group in the northern part of Tampa. He was especially impressed with two other youth orchestras and would have recommended high-performing students from the Fine Arts Academy to either, but one was in Clearwater and the other in south Tampa.

He also learned that when those two groups held auditions, hundreds of students would try out but only a very small percentage would be accepted. That often left some talented young musicians with no place to play.

High school symphonies provide some level of challenge for musicians, Tracy said, but because the classes are composed of students of all proficiencies, those who really excel are often lost and bored.

"What I wanted to do was take such serious musicians, give them a place to play in north Tampa, and an opportunity to play far more difficult pieces," Tracy said. "I wanted to play on an extremely different level."

Last year, Tracy put the word out to more than 100 local middle and high school bands and orchestras.

Rather than build an entire orchestra at once, he decided to begin with stringed instruments. Percussion, brass and wind instruments will be added next year.

The response, he said, was excellent, and auditions were held this summer.

Among those who won a seat is Pakapol Laosri, 17, a senior in the IB program at Hillsborough High School.

A highly accomplished cellist, Laosri performed professionally two years ago with the Siam Philharmonic Orchestra for the 60th anniversary celebration of Thailand's longest-reigning monarch.

Yet even with his stellar credentials, Laosri said he welcomed the opportunity to perform with the Hillsdale symphony.

"The bonding and joys of playing with the members of the Youth Symphony actually remind me of the maturity and passion I was exposed to with the Siam Philharmonic," he said. "Music is divine, international, and is a medium to express emotion and ideas, so I do not believe that individuals should be stubborn about playing music at any event or venue, or with any ensemble or orchestra."

The Dec. 19 performance will include one percussionist along with the symphony's 10 violin, viola and cello players.

The program includes Sleigh Ride, Christmas Day, Heart Wounds/The Last Spring, Air for Strings, Anniutka, and Fiddler's Jig (featuring a solo by symphony member Julie Jalbert). The concert is being held in the auditorium at Hillsdale Baptist, 6201 Ehrlich Road.

Auditions for new string players will be held in January. For more information, call 884-8250 or go to www.hillsdalefinearts

Contact Sheryl Kay at or call (813) 230-8788.

Hillsdale Youth Symphony offers outlet for standouts 12/11/08 [Last modified: Thursday, December 11, 2008 3:30am]
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