Youth Orchestra Formed

by Donna McCollum

In East Texas schools, there are bands and choirs, but no orchestras. Even though many children take violin and other string instrument lessons, they've had no outlet to perform until now.

Stephen F. Austin State University adjunct music professor Dr. Evgeni Raychev took it upon himself to form and conduct the much wanted orchestra. Raychev explains that when he hears classical music, time stands still, even if the performers are youngsters ranging in age from 10 to 15.

If music stops time, then volunteering hours of his time is no sacrifice. "We've got so much potential here, so many young talents. I cannot but take advantage of it," said Raychev.

The Bulgarian comes to SFA with an impressive music background. He's adopted a cause. For years, there have been dreams for a youth orchestra.

First violinist Fahad Awan, 15, said, "You can be around other players, learn from each other, and get to have a good time." Parker Andrews, 14, who plays just down from his friend agrees. "It's really fun. You get to play as a group. It's more of a group experience."

The orchestra has grown together. For Raychev, it's a return to youth. "It's been a long time since I was that age. It's all coming back to me -- what I felt, how I approached music when I was their age," said Raychev.

He's also reminded of the importance of patience. When the group is playing a bit too loud in a portion of the music where softness is needed, Raychev causes laughter when he says, "When I do this, play soft," as he comically lowers his head.

That appeals to the youngest member, 10-year-old Rebecca Russell. "He's really nice. He doesn't get mad easily. He's very calm."

The East Texas Youth Orchestra will perform Thursday night at 7:00 p.m. in SFA's Cole Concert Hall. They want to give listeners a moment when time stands still.