Fauquier County Youth Orchestra making beautiful music

By Posted on Jul 22 2018 | By

Goal setting is the purview of seemingly every self-help book. Set your goals and it will motivate, create focus, jettison procrastination, produce results and lead to a better you. All lofty promises harnessed to hard work.

But set extraordinary goals and the unexpected may well become reality. In Fauquier County there is an individual who reaches for the stars; stars that may some day gift back to the community and the Nation the sound of music.

“It’s important for our generation to reach out and find the next Mozart, the next Beethoven. When you have a child that cannot reach that potential because of any reason whatsoever the next generation is going to lose out,” said Diana Traietta.

And Traietta, executive director of the Fauquier Youth Orchestra, doesn’t like losing. More importantly, she loves winning for the youth of the county; especially youth that may be disadvantaged for any number of reasons.

Traietta founded the orchestra six years ago; it completed its fifth successful season in June. Her day job is regional manager for Music and Arts in Frederick, MD, a nationwide chain that’s a music-everything hub offering sales, rentals, lessons and accessories.

In the course of her workday activities, Traietta discovered a segment of Fauquier County students who were not being musically served. There were many reasons including the lack of family income for instruments and lessons and conflicts with scheduling practices because some students were taking classes to improve their academic scores. Even sports created conflicts.

“I learned a large percentage of students wanted to participate in music but couldn’t because remediation classes were happening during orchestra practice,” said Traietta.
“Our program is designed to help students that for any reason can’t take orchestra in school.”

Her organization helps identify those students and make sure they have the same opportunities as any other child in the county to learn a band or orchestra instrument.

Research confirms that learning music improves academic life. It builds confidence, teamwork, language, arts and even math skills.

“Music is very special because it encompasses many disciplines and contributes to the educational growth of a student. When a child does not have an opportunity to learn music, it can lead to a breakdown in overall school performance,” said Traietta.

Joining the orchestra is a voluntary decision on the part of a student. The orchestra accepts any interested pupil without the use of an audition so every child who wants to learn an instrument has the means to accomplish it.

Financial support
For a small fee of $10 a week a young musician receives one hour of rehearsal at the Highland School. But an instrument is a must if music is to be created. “If a child cannot afford an instrument we will provide one for them. The support comes through the Gloria Faye Dingus Music Alliance, a non-profit organization created by Tim Dingus who owns Warrenton’s Drum and Strum Music Center,” said Traietta.

The orchestra’s four instructors are all talented musicians who devote 100 percent of their time to teaching students on a volunteer basis. Traietta establishes the rehearsal schedules at Highland School by working with public, private and homeschool networks.

“We offer three orchestra programs and a band; beginning, intermediate, advanced and a jazz band”. The orchestra holds performances throughout the year with an emphasis on a seasonal concert in December and an end-of-season performance in June.

Mark Wood Performs
Traietta led a fundraising effort this past year to bring in world-renowned and Emmy-winning composer electric violinist Mark Wood. Wood gained fame when he played with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, an American rock band noted for their driving, high energy performances. The Washington Post referred to them as “an arena-rock juggernaut”.

Wood worked with the band for two days teaching them how to perform better as a team and improving their musical skills. The orchestra then played with Wood in a gala performance of classic rock songs.

“The kids loved the rock aspect of the concert. They picked up a new genre of music they were not accustomed to playing. Many of the kids had never heard of Led Zeppelin, Police, Sting and others. He introduced them to a different time period of music. It was awesome,” Traietta said.

One of the students, Kendra Lyons, a 13-year-old from Broad Run was chosen to play first violin alongside Wood at the concluding concert. “I really like the orchestra. I play violin and have been going there for three years. Its opened more opportunities to grow over the years and that’s cool too,” said Lyons. “I think anyone thinking about would really like it.”

Kendra’s father Rick explains she’s not limited her performances to Highland School but has played at First Night Warrenton, for senior citizens groups and even a wedding. “I even travelled to New York. We competed in the Big Apple Music Festival. I’ll be playing again next year with the orchestra,” said Kenda Lyons.

Program structure
Currently the orchestra has 40 participating students but will range in size from 40 to 60 young musicians depending on the time of the year. The students span the fifth through the 12th grades.

What makes the program unique is students are not required or expected to sign up for a full season. “We understand that as much as music is important so is homework, studying and sports so we work really hard so the children can take part in our program but also in other after school activities too,” said Traietta.

As a result, some young musicians may play only during the fall while others sign up for the entire season.

It’s also not limited to just in-county children but encompasses the greater Fauquier area, including Prince William, Culpeper and Warren counties. All rehearsals take place at Highland School where the orchestra rents space.

Traietta is gearing up now for her sixth season and is welcoming children from throughout Virginia to join if circumstances permit.

“We believe every child should learn music and we arrange to give them that opportunity to do so. There should never be any reason that a family has to choose between putting food on the table or having their child learn a musical instrument.

“Unfortunately, some families have to make that choice and we want them to know we are here to help,” Traietta said.

The success of the program has led to plans to even further expand its geographic reach. “We are going to take the show on the road. We are going throughout the entire state identifying those counties that do not have a string program offered in their public schools. We will go in and create one.

“We are extremely proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish in five years and we’re excited about what we can accomplish as an organization over the next 100 years,” said Traietta.

But whether those goals result in the next Mozart or Ron Wood making beautiful music in the future, the true gift is the joy given to youngsters fortunate enough to have fallen under the musical spell of Diana Traietta and her supporting cast.


                                                        The instructors


Diana Traietta
Traietta is executive director of the FSO. She studied music education and violin performance at Marywood University in Scranton, Pennsylvania. She teaches all string instruments and performs with the Piedmont Symphony in Warrenton.

Laura O’Konski
O’Konski is co-director of the FSO and holds a bachelor’s degree in music education from George Mason University. She is also the director of the intermediate orchestra with the FSO.

Laura Morgan
Morgan is co-director of the FSO and holds a major in music education and viola performance from East Carolina University. She recently graduated with a masters in orchestral conducting.

Craig Dye
Dye is band director with the FSO and has taught and conducted bands for nearly three decades. He is also a free-lance trumpet artist and has performed with the Virginia Grand Military Band.

For additional information on the Fauquier Youth Orchestra visit http://www.fauquieryouthorchestra.org/ 


Published in the July 28, 2018 edition of the Fauquier Times.

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