Classical and pops music aficionados call the East Valley Youth Symphony one of the region’s hidden gems.
More than 80 young people between ages 8 and 20 – nearly half from Gilbert – comprise the orchestra, which was founded in 2006 by a group of conductors and music lovers who saw the need for advanced students to use their musical skills in a setting that would both challenge and enhance their abilities.
Consisting of two strings-only orchestras and one symphony orchestra, the nonprofit encourages the growth of its musicians on both a personal and performance level and is led by professional conductors and supported by a team of volunteers,
The leadership is diverse and skilled.
Cindy H. Petty is artistic director and conductor of the symphony orchestra – the advanced group made up largely of high school students with Jon Gomez as the wind specialist.
Robert R. Nichols conducts the chamber orchestra, consisting of musicians in eighth and ninth grade, while Richelle Shultz is the conductor of the Concert Orchestra, largely made up of musicians in sixth through eighth grades.
Sheryl S. Frey is the string specialist for the chamber and concert groups.
The organization is directed by a board of volunteers, mostly parents of the musicians, with Edwin Reyes serving as the president of the group.
“The caliber of the musicians is very high, evidenced by the fact that they had nine students recently audition and successfully achieve the opportunity to join the Arizona All-Regional Festival Orchestra,” said Karen Simonson.
Simonson started volunteering when her granddaughter, the youngest member of the symphony, began playing.
She’s also impressed by the number of volunteers, including many from Mesa, and the board.
“This is like a second job to most of them, without pay,” she said of the board members.
“The president works in the insurance business, another manages a Starbucks, one helps run a landscape business, another works for an event company and others are full time busy mothers,” she said, adding:
“They cross duty lines to help each other. Why? Well, because we love what music brings to the lives of our children and we want to help make the East Valley Youth Symphony the best it can be for our children, and in my case, my grandchildren.”
While the group has a concert at 7 p.m. March 4 at the Higley Center for the Performing Arts, Recker and Pecos roads, Gilbert, it also has a unique fundraiser planned. Tickets are $5 at the door for the Higley concert.
The young musicians also are conducting a private “play-a-thon” 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. at Mission Community Church, 4450 E. Elliot Road, Gilbert. Each musician is raising $200 in pledges with the goal of raising $15,000.
Each of the three groups will play separately in a marathon five hours together, breaking only for lunch, before all three will come together for a mini concert at 3:30 p.m. that the public can attend.
People who want to support the young musicians can go to evysaz.org and make a pledge.