Going on 32 years, the Hill Country Youth Orchestra, originating in Kerrville but recently has been expanded to having an orchestra in Boerne and Fredericksburg, has offered young musicians the opportunity to create music for an audience and provides them with quality music education. The HCYO is said to be one of the only orchestras in the country that doesn’t charge tuition for their members.
“The important thing is that children and youth that may have never known they had talent are able to get an instrument in their hands and say, ‘Wow! I can do this, and it makes me really happy. It broadens their world. Studies are showing that instruments, specifically string instruments have beneficial effects on children.” says Lynda Ables, Founder and Chair Member of HCYO.
Free tuition is offered to all students and scholarships are available for private lessons, instrument rental, and String Camp. The opportunity for free tuition is due to the hard work of the HCYO staff as well as grants received from many organizations in the area including the “Suzuki Program”, funded by Mr. and Mrs. Bernard Rohe, the Cailloux Foundation, and an annual fundraising concert put on by Robert Earl Keen.
“We have a tremendous team on our board and everyone is so dedicated,” brags Kathleen Vincent, a chair member with HCYO, “We are also very fortunate to have our faculty. Their professional level is unbelievable. Patricia Lee is our Education Director for HCYO and is in charge of the orchestra program at KISD, and she is great, as well.”
Ables adds, “When you hear those kids play, it’s amazing. We have great teachers.”
Robert Earl Keen began his involvement in HCYO when his daughter decided she wanted to play with the orchestra. Even though his daughter has already graduated from Tivy High School, he still serves on the HCYO Board of Directors. The fundraising concerts he does, for the last ten years, features the young members of the orchestra playing at the Kathleen C. Cailloux Theater for the Performing Arts in Kerrville and all proceeds from the concert go to the Hill County Youth Orchestra.
“The thing that is so amazing to us is that Robert is just a tremendous performer, a professional, a gentleman, all the way across. No matter where he is in the country he talks about HCYO and the kids. He is an amazing advocate for us. The dedication he puts toward this fundraising event is just incredible. Robert tells everyone ‘this is about the kids,'” describes Vincent.
To prepare for the two annual public concerts the HCYO puts on, the young musicians are required to attend HCYO String Camp each year. This year there will be two camps in which students play four hours per day for the length of camp. The first camp will take place on August 7-10 and will end with a camp finale concert held at First United Methodist Church in Kerrville on August 10 at 11 AM. The second String Camp is set to happen from August 6-17 in Boerne and will be more focused on beginner string players.
“It’s amazing what happens that week. Our students come in a little rusty, and by the end of the week they are able to put on a free concert,” mentions Ables.
This year, the HCYO Concert Season will run from September until April, holding two free concerts open to the public. The dates of the upcoming performances will be announced in the future.
If your child is interested in playing in the Hill Country Youth Orchestra, you are encouraged to email Matt Evans, Executive Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Musicians wanting to join the orchestra will need to go through an audition process to determine their skill level. Younger children who may not be ready to perform quite yet should attend lessons to prepare them for when they are at the skill level to join the orchestra.
For additional information about the Hill Country Youth Orchestra or to register for String Camp, please visit HCYO’s website by clicking here.