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Donated instruments ‘life-changing’ to orchestra youth

Posted on July 20, 2021

Updated on July 29, 2021

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Dan McHugh, membership director at The Classical Station, opens an instrument case for Executive Director LaSaundra Booth and Hannah Booth.

Amber Revels-Stocks | The Wake Weekly

Dan McHugh, membership director at The Classical Station, opens an instrument case for Executive Director LaSaundra Booth and Hannah Booth.

Lydia, left, and Hannah Booth examine a French horn donated to the Wake Forest Community Youth Orchestra by listeners of The Classical Station.

Amber Revels-Stocks | The Wake Weekly

Lydia, left, and Hannah Booth examine a French horn donated to the Wake Forest Community Youth Orchestra by listeners of The Classical Station.

Executive Director LaSaundra Booth, right, helps Hannah Booth, center, open a trombone case while Tabitha Booth looks on.

Amber Revels-Stocks | The Wake Weekly

Executive Director LaSaundra Booth, right, helps Hannah Booth, center, open a trombone case while Tabitha Booth looks on.

Board Member Grey Shelton, right, shows a euphonium to her son, Ayden, who had never seen one before. Executive Director LaSaundra Booth, center, explains the instrument with the help of Board Member Sheila Brown, left, and Dan McHugh, membership director of The Classical Station.

Amber Revels-Stocks | the Wake Weekly

Board Member Grey Shelton, right, shows a euphonium to her son, Ayden, who had never seen one before. Executive Director LaSaundra Booth, center, explains the instrument with the help of Board Member Sheila Brown, left, and Dan McHugh, membership director of The Classical Station.

Dan McHugh, membership director at The Classical Station, opens an instrument case for Executive Director LaSaundra Booth and Hannah Booth.

Amber Revels-Stocks | The Wake Weekly

Dan McHugh, membership director at The Classical Station, opens an instrument case for Executive Director LaSaundra Booth and Hannah Booth.

Lydia, left, and Hannah Booth examine a French horn donated to the Wake Forest Community Youth Orchestra by listeners of The Classical Station.

Amber Revels-Stocks | The Wake Weekly

Lydia, left, and Hannah Booth examine a French horn donated to the Wake Forest Community Youth Orchestra by listeners of The Classical Station.

Lydia, left, and Hannah Booth examine a French horn donated to the Wake Forest Community Youth Orchestra by listeners of The Classical Station.
Executive Director LaSaundra Booth, right, helps Hannah Booth, center, open a trombone case while Tabitha Booth looks on.
Board Member Grey Shelton, right, shows a euphonium to her son, Ayden, who had never seen one before. Executive Director LaSaundra Booth, center, explains the instrument with the help of Board Member Sheila Brown, left, and Dan McHugh, membership director of The Classical Station.
Dan McHugh, membership director at The Classical Station, opens an instrument case for Executive Director LaSaundra Booth and Hannah Booth.

arevels@wakeweekly.com

WAKE FOREST — There will soon be some very happy musicians in Wake Forest.

The Wake Forest Community Youth Orchestra received several donated instruments from WCPE, The Classical Station’s instrument drive.

“Every single instrument is a student’s life being changed,” said LaSaundra Booth, founder and executive director of the orchestra. “Research shows that students that participate in instrumental music, not just orchestra, have higher standardized test scores. They have higher student achievement, and student achievement is a top priority, especially in the wake of this pandemic.”

The community youth orchestra started in response to the cutting of music programs in the Wake County Public School System.

Booth was the orchestra director at Wake Forest Middle School at that time. In three years there, she grew the school’s music program from seven students to 70. Most of them used the school’s instruments and couldn’t travel to Raleigh to participate in orchestra.

Then, the program was cut.

“I said, ‘There has to be a way for our students to continue,’” Booth remembers. “‘If the public schools won’t do something about this, then I will take $2,000 out of my own account, and I will establish a community youth orchestra program for our students.’”

She started the community youth orchestra 2014 with three students. Now, Booth has over 350 students across rural communities in Wake, Franklin and Vance counties.

“We’re not going to turn anybody away,” Booth said. “We start pre-K through 12 grade. Nobody has to have experience. If they don’t have experience, they can still come and join us. ... We have space for everyone.”

The organization tries to remove every barrier it can, offering tuition assistance scholarships. Since the youth orchestra focuses on kids in rural and underserved communities, it isn’t eligible for funding from the city of Raleigh.

It relies on community partners, such as the United Arts Council of Raleigh and Wake County and individual music lovers. The youth orchestra also provides instruments for kids whose families can’t afford them.

That’s where the WCPE Education Fund stepped in.

“Deborah Proctor’s our general manager and part of her mission for starting the station is to make classical music available to everyone,” said Dan McHugh, the station’s membership director. “With the education fund, that was the next step to make sure we could focus on music education for young people in our community, which we thought was really important. That’s something we’re doing not only with the grants but now through donating instruments.”

The Classical Station put out requests for its listeners to donate instruments that they didn’t use anymore. The station received violins, violas, trombones and even a euphonium. The kids had never seen a euphonium before, and Booth had to explain what it was.

“We need to grow people who are interested in” classical music, McHugh said. “The young people who play will hopefully continue to listen to it and maybe go on to major in it and be the next performers in the orchestras we listen to.”

The Classical Station’s listeners will enable the orchestra to add several kids from its waiting list, but Booth said they still need more instruments.

“Our highest need right now is violas,” she said. “Violins are the most popular, but we get so many requests for viola. We actually have a student on the waitlist right now.”

The instruments don’t have to be in great condition. The youth orchestra gets damaged instruments fixed, so students can use them. The orchestra’s adult staff or volunteers will even come and pick them up, Booth said.

“I’m very excited about this,” said Ayden Shelton, a 13-year-old cello player. “There are a ton of people who are still in the dark. This is something to bring them to the light. ... The music we have is epic.”

Shelton learned to play cello through the youth orchestra, which he’s participated in for six years.

“It’s a great way to make friends. It’s a great way to open your music talent, if you have any,” Shelton said. “I’m not very social often, but getting to play cello has helped me make friends.”

Even if a kid doesn’t play an instrument yet, Hannah Booth, 9, of Wake Forest, recommends they look into the orchestra.

“Try your first class to see if you like it or not,” said Hannah, a violin player and Booth’s daughter. “They probably will (like it) because my mom is always encouraging people. Even if kids hit the wrong note, she lets them try again and tells them they can do it until they do it beautifully.”

Aryanna Brown, another violin player, agrees.

“It’s a really great learning environment because everybody is so encouraging,” said Brown, 13. “The music we play, it is amazing. I love it.”

To learn more about the Wake Forest Community Youth Orchestra or to donate instruments, visit http://www.wfcyo.org.

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