The East Texas Youth Orchestra, which was formed 60 years ago, offers members experience with a broad spectrum of music and gives the public the opportunity to attend four free concerts each year.
Music that the orchestra performs ranges from the classical period in the 1700's through the romantic music of the 1800's and early 1900's up to contemporary, 21st century music, Dr. Gene Moon, the conductor, said.
"Musicians need to experience all different kinds of music; it's important for us to offer that through the youth orchestra," Moon said.
This is Rebecca Crosman's second year in the orchestra. A flute player, Miss Crosman, 16, who attends Chapel Hill High School, said, "It's really fun just getting to play all the different orchestra pieces and getting to meet other people my age with the same passion."
Johannah Carmona, 15, a ninth-grader at T.K. Gorman School, who plays the viola, said, "I love it. Dr. Moon is one of the best conductors I've ever worked with and I feel like whenever I'm with him I learn so much."
The orchestra's board asked Moon to serve as director here in addition to being director of the Stephen F. Austin State University orchestra in Nacogdoches.
The East Texas Youth Orchestra was known as the Tyler Youth Orchestra until Moon took the podium in Tyler this past May.
"There's nothing wrong with the name Tyler Youth Orchestra, (but) we want to try to attract students from all over. We wanted to give it a name that a student and parent from any area in East Texas can call their own," Moon said.
Moon drives to Tyler for Sunday afternoon rehearsals and occasional concerts of the East Texas Youth Orchestra.
"I am adamantly passionate about music education in our youth," Moon said. "My success as a college orchestra director is directly impacted by the success of our high school and secondary music education programs, so I want to do everything and anything possible on my end to make an impact upon music education of our youth."
He added, "When the East Texas Youth Orchestra approached me about taking the podium, I thought this is exactly what I want to do to effect change upon our youth."
The orchestra consists of "a very talented group of students," Moon said.
It has experienced large growth — a year ago the orchestra had approximately 25 members and now has about 60 to 65.
Youngsters audition to become a member. The membership consists of high school students and advanced junior high students as well as college students and accepts students up to age 21.
The members are predominantly from Tyler, with others from areas spread all over the region and as far away as Nacogdoches and Longview.
The East Texas Youth Orchestra offers members a "full orchestra experience" by combining string players, brass and percussion players unlike most school instrumental programs which have separate string and band programs, Moon said.
"The literature you study in a full orchestra is vastly different from band literature and string orchestra literature," he said.
"I encourage instrumental students to be a part of this because it makes an impact upon their personal lives, shaping their personal character," Moon said. "East Texas Youth Orchestra makes students stronger musicians and when they become stronger musicians, they are able to contribute to their school programs much more and they are also able to prepare for their own futures more."
Caleb Bowers, 16, of Robert E. Lee High School, joined the orchestra about six months ago. He enjoys playing traditional type music that's not heard as much these days.
Ken Knight, 13, of T. K. Gorman School, has been playing cello in the orchestra three years.
"I like how nice everybody is and you get to know other people who also play music," he said. "I've learned a lot of new music that I haven't played before."
Newcomer Jonathan Barena, 18, a senior at Lee High School, who plays the French horn, recently joined the orchestra out of a desire to gain a broader knowledge about music.
Gorman student and saxophone player William Kariampuzha, 14, "I joined last fall because I wanted to get a full orchestra experience. My instrument is a band instrument and an orchestra has a whole different repertoire of music. I get a better feel of all the music that's out there. I've definitely improved as a musician."