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Learning the ropes

The LaGrange Symphony Orchestra is stringing together two youth orchestra camps this week. Educational Outreach Director Celeste Myall said the orchestra is holding the Strings Attached and Ovation camps for the third year to get the children ready for when rehearsal for the youth orchestra starts at beginning of the school year.

The Strings Attached camp is for beginners who are usually in the third to fifth grade. Ovation is run for the younger beginners and those with more than one year’s experience.

“Strings Attached is a program that is afterschool at Franklin Forest Elementary, Hillcrest Elementary and Hollis Hand Elementary. These students take an hour a week, and then they play in the youth orchestra concerts. The way we start them every summer is with a camp,” Myall said.

The symphony started the youth orchestra symphony after funding for it was cut from the public schools in LaGrange in 2008.

“When the recession came, the school system took strings out of the public schools, so there hasn’t been strings in schools for a while, and we’re been trying to build it up,” she said. “In the fall of 2012, at our concert, we had 37 string players on the stage. By last spring we had 123.”

Myall said she is surprised at how quickly the youth program has taken off.

“The Strings Attached has really been successful,” she said. “We’ve held on to almost all of our students.”

Executive director Raylene Carter said having the symphony in LaGrange that also does programs for youth is unique.

“We’re one of the smallest cities in America with a professional orchestra, so Lagrange is kind of unique, but it’s kind of unusual to have a town of this size that has these kinds of programs in it.”

Ovation runs in the morning from 8:45 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. while Strings Attached runs from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. from Monday to Thursday. The two camps will have a joint concert at the Callaway auditorium at 11 a.m. on Friday. This year, they are performing Christmas music, Carter said.

“The theme is a holiday theme, so it’s all Christmas and holiday this week. Because it’s so hot and warm, we wanted them to have a holiday in July,” she said.

Carter said the orchestra is teaching their participants not only music, but also necessary life skills.

“We believe that music is an important thread in life and helps, particularly when you’re younger, learning the things you have to be good at music teaches you how to be good at life,” she said. “It teaches you discipline, it teaches you teamwork. It teaches you depending on each other because you’re not playing solos in camp, you’re playing together as a group.”