Youth orchestra plays for a cause

Christmas concert will benefit the Gathering Inn
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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Placer County Youth Orchestra’s conductor Wayland Whitney taps his baton on his music stand to quiet the musicians and get their attention.

“I think we’re playing a couple different speeds there,” he says. “Again, please.”

They attempt the measure a second time before once again stopping abruptly. Artistic Director Margie Hartung offers some advice.

“Listen to each other and pull yourself together,” Hartung says. “Try to make yourselves one unit.”

The orchestra is working out the kinks on the song “Christmas at the Movies” during rehearsal Wednesday evening at Olympus Junior High School in Roseville. They want to perfect the song — after all, they’ll soon perform the piece as part of a very special concert.

The orchestra will perform its “All I Want for Christmas” show Tuesday, Dec. 6, at Valley Springs Presbyterian Church. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Gathering Inn, a nonprofit organization that provides food and shelter for local homeless people.

“It is wonderful to have the youth participate in giving back to those in need,” says Gathering Inn Director Suzi deFosset. “(We’re) experiencing an explosion of families with children. These funds will be used to help the families with children that are staying at the Gathering Inn.”

Flutist Breanna Daley, of Penryn, will participate in her first concert with the ensemble since joining a few months ago. The 13-year-old says she’s glad the money will help the homeless.

“It makes me feel good that people will get food for Christmas,” Daley says.

The inaugural benefit concert in 2009 raised money for the Sarcoma Foundation of America in honor of orchestra member and Roseville resident Annina Hanlon, who had osteosarcoma, an aggressive form of cancer, in her leg.

Last year, the group performed for Nevaeh’s Hope, a Christian organization in Rocklin for pregnant women without housing.

“We thought (the Gathering Inn) would be a really good one because the idea is to serve our community,” Hartung says.

During Wednesday’s rehearsal, the orchestra runs through a selection of holiday songs — “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee,” “Birthday of a King,” “A Most Wonderful Christmas,” “Babes in Toyland.”

As they play music at the concert, the Northern California Children’s Chorus and dancers from Ballet Rejoice will also perform.

Placer County Youth Orchestra formed in 2008 and usually between 40 and 50 students in sixth grade through college comprise the group. They typically practice once a week and hold three concerts during the season, which runs from October through May.

Matthew Staley, 17, of Granite Bay, has played violin since he was 5 years old. He served as the orchestra’s concertmaster last year. He took some time off from the group and recently rejoined with the intention of performing in the Christmas show.

He says he’s excited about using the concert to benefit the Gathering Inn.

“It gives more purpose to the music,” Staley says. “You’re not just playing, you’re helping someone in a tangible way.”

Sena Christian can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at SenaC_RsvPT.


Placer County Youth Orchestra presents “All I Want for Christmas”
Benefit concert for the Gathering Inn
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 6
Where: Valley Springs Presbyterian Church, 2401 Olympus Drive in Roseville
Cost: Suggested donation of $7 for adults. Free 10 and under.