Youth Orchestras President Calls on Community for Help

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A Call to Action in Support of Youth Orchestras of Prince William

THE DRAMATIC CONCLUSION: Youth Orchestras of Prince William is a crown jewel, an artistic institution in this region … and it is in trouble. It has endured seasons of leadership and financial challenges that have threatened its existence. “We can save it. We MUST save it.” says Sheyna Burt ESQ., Board President of Youth Orchestras of Prince William.  Burt is presenting the community with this challenge:

YOPW has been a critical part of the development of thousands of our children and with your support, it will serve thousands more. As you are able, 1) encourage the musically inclined children you know to audition for YOPW, and 2) financially support YOPW’s scholarship program. If you will stand with YOPW there is no limit to what we can accomplish for our kids.

MY STORY: Having learned to play the violin in the Prince William County Public School System’s fifth-grade strings program, I had limited familiarity with large ensemble playing. The first time I played in a full orchestra was a revelation. String musicians playing with winds, brass, and percussion? How do those instruments even work?!? AND THE SOUND WE WERE ABLE TO MAKE TOGETHER … it changed my life forever.

It happened at Youth Orchestras of Prince William.

My name is Sheyna Burt and nearly thirty years after joining YOPW, I still am an amateur violinist. Playing in full orchestras isn’t as shocking as it was during my YOPW days (admittedly, the mechanics of winds, brass, and percussion remain a mystery to me), but being part of a symphony orchestra is no less impactful now. I learned how to play in large ensembles in YOPW and that skill very literally has taken me around the world with performances throughout the United States and in Canada, France, Germany, South Africa, Thailand, and just once, in Texas.

I know that I am not unique in this. I know that YOPW and other similar youth-focused arts organizations have shaped the lives of you, your siblings, your children, their children. I’m guessing that these programs hold a special place in your hearts. I’m guessing that if these programs needed you, you would be there for them.

Almost three decades after I first met YOPW I have been asked to oversee its renaissance. I can only do this with your help.

THE CALL TO ACTION: YOPW has good bones. We have three orchestras, ready to engage students at different levels of development. We have a stellar staff of music directors with years of experience as performers, conductors, and pedagogues. We have a freshly overhauled administrative infrastructure. We have opportunities at exciting performance venues. YOPW has the raw stuff to succeed.

The financial realities of our times threaten YOPW’s ability to do good. YOPW’s budget is lean and free of extravagances. The set tuition is in line with other similarly-situated youth orchestras in the region. YOPW carefully utilizes volunteers and is as frugal as possible without compromising quality.

Too many of our children and families, however, never even consider participating in YOPW because they believe that they cannot afford to participate.

This is heartbreaking. Our kids are being forced to pass on the chance to study and perform with YOPW not because of lack of interest or ability, but because of perceived financial obstacles. YOPW has produced Grammy award winners and professional musicians, but it more regularly produces well-rounded students who appreciate the arts and who take away from the program the critical thinking and problem-solving skills that help them to succeed in the workforce. These students learn how to communicate effectively and how to work alone and in group settings. And don’t get me started on the science of how music positively impacts the developing brains of children ….

You and I can fix this.

First, encourage the young instrumentalists in your lives to audition for YOPW. The process is very low-stress: The students should video record themselves performing two scales (two or three octaves each) and one minute of either a solo or orchestral excerpt. On or before September 30th, that video should be emailed to Sheyna Burt, YOPW Board President, at [email protected] We are ready to welcome musicians from every part of the orchestra: violin, viola, cello, bass, French horn, trumpet, trombone, tuba, flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, timpani, and general percussion.

Second, consider donating in support of the YOPW scholarship fund. Because I specialize in bold moves, I am writing to invite you to help me implement a bold plan. I would like to fund at least twenty-six full YOPW tuition scholarships this season. There are a few ways that you can join the fray:

 For a three-year pledge of $20,000/year (totaling $60,000, the first donation due in September of 2019), you will fund twenty-six full scholarships each season and YOPW will dedicate during the pledge period the entire scholarship program to you or the person or company you designate.

 For a one-time donation of $15,000, you will fund nineteen scholarships and YOPW will dedicate the Youth Symphony Orchestra Conductors’ Baton to you or the person or company you designate.

 For a one-time donation of $10,000, you will fund thirteen scholarships and YOPW will dedicate a Youth Symphony Orchestra principal chair to you or the person or company you designate.

 More modest donations towards the scholarship program are welcome and encouraged. All such donors will be acknowledged in YOPW’s concert programs.

I hope you will join me in spreading the good news of YOPW performance opportunities and also help me to remove financial barriers between our kids and the chance to play with fantastic ensembles. The arts can open up the whole world to our children, but the arts can only exist with our support.



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