When Pinellas Youth Symphony members take the stage today, they will be following a long line of student musicians who have come before them.
The organization turns 50 during next year's season, said executive director Jane Hine. "We started in 1958 with one orchestra and we now have six."
Four of the orchestras will perform traditional classical music and holiday favorites today at the group's annual holiday orchestra concert at the Palladium Theater in St. Petersburg. The concert has been a local holiday tradition for as long as Hine can remember.
PYS serves about 200 students throughout the Tampa Bay area who get together each Sunday from September to May for rehearsals with professional musicians and educators. Over the course of the school year, the group gives performances at venues like the Mahaffey Theater, SPC Music Center and Ruth Eckerd Hall, where PYS holds rehearsals.
The symphony offers instruction, practice and a chance to perform publicly.
"In our philosophy, we really try to nurture the love of music in the kids, nurture the kids and help them enjoy the joy of performing," Hine said.
Summer Ceraolo-O'Donnell, 15, started playing the violin at age 5 with lessons at PYS. "When I was little, we played at Ruth Eckerd Hall and I thought it was amazing, because I went to see shows there when I was a little kid and (then) we actually got to perform on the main stage," she said.
Countryside High School, where Summer attends, doesn't offer a violin program, so she's able to stay up with her craft through PYS rehearsals and performances.
Percussionist Hannah Neman said her teachers at John Hopkins Middle School and the Pinellas County Center for the Arts at Gibbs High School helped prepare her for the level of training at PYS. "The musicianship is amazing. They've worked with Florida orchestra members, other orchestra members, music schools," Neman said.
IF YOU GO
The Pinellas Youth Symphony will perform traditional classical music and holiday favorites at 2 p.m. today at the Palladium Theater, 253 Fifth Ave. N, St. Petersburg. Tickets are $7 for adults, free for students and children. For information on PYS, call 438-3149 or go to the PYS Web site at http://pysmusic.org/.