The goal of the St. Augustine Youth Orchestra (SAYO) is to provide a quality music program for local youth who wish to explore and expand their musical skills and artistry. SAYO is committed to fostering musicianship for students and providing musical education as well as performance opportunities. SAYO is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and is made up of students 7-18 years old who play orchestral instruments. Rehearsals start in August and take place Wednesday afternoons 3:30 pm to 5:00 pm at Good News Church (I-95 and World Golf Parkway). SAYO has two formal concerts a year, and performs at several local events. SAYO is privileged to have a team of professional conductors and coaches that guide the young musicians with quality musical instruction, improving their skills and maintaining high standards. Students will be exposed to various orchestral literature. They will improve musical skills in weekly rehearsals and sectionals with professional musicians and conductors. There will be chamber music opportunities as well as performances in several concerts each year. SAYO is committed to foster musicianship for students, providing musical education as well as performance opportunities.  SAYO seeks to encourage young players to develop their talents and seek a future in professional music. Many local musicians and organizations have offered their enthusiastic support including the Basilica Cathedral of St. Augustine, members of the St. Augustine Orchestra, the St. Augustine Jazz Society, Play It Forward, St. Augustine Music Connection and Sterry Piano Company. Intermediate to advanced students through college level are encouraged to contact at:[email protected].


As parents, we all have to make choices and set limits on the number of activities our children are involved in. Nevertheless, how many times have you talked to parents who want to give their children as much exposure to as many activities as possible, and then simply end up chauffeuring them all over town every afternoon, evening, and weekend?  That begs the question, “how should we evaluate what fits best for our children and will benefit them the most?” Let me offer some reasons why learning and participating in music should be at the top of that list.

  1. Music is a lifetime skill. Once a person learns an instrument or to sing, that becomes a skill a person can use throughout their lifetime.  I’ve spoken with many adults who have expressed regrets about never learning music or giving up as a child…and now wishing they could play an instrument.  Conversely, those who study music as children will develop a set of skills that they can use throughout their lives, i.e., college, adulthood and into old age.  Whether one decides to play/teach professionally or simply for pleasure after high school, e.g., college marching band, community band, musical theater, church, etc.; music is a set of skills that one can call upon at any stage in life.
  2. Music develops cognitive and fine motor skills.  Music really is cognitive, i.e., you have to learn to read the notes, interpret the music itself, and develop the fine motor skills needed for fluidity.  Have you ever heard it said that music is all about math and relationships?  It’s true! Tempo, key signatures, chords, dynamics, and time signatures are just some of the many terms and aspects of music a student must learn.  Did you also know that music students must also learn the language of music?  For instance, tempo markings are normally described in Latin, e.g., Allegro Moderator, Andante.  French and German terms are also used regularly as well, particularly in Classical-era music. Did I mention intonation?  That means actively listening so that your tone production matches everyone else?   In music we often equate this to “ear-training,” but it really comes down to a higher order cognitive skill – which can be learned!
  3. Music promotes discipline, teamwork, and time management.  It takes discipline to practice an instrument and team work to participate in an ensemble.  Not only must you develop personal expertise on your instrument or with your voice; but, you must also develop a sense of teamwork within an ensemble or as an accompanist.  In other words, it’s not just about me!  It means stretching yourself to listen to others and developing a sense of what the entire ensemble is trying accomplish.  Time management also comes into play as students also have to learn how to allocate time for practicing and to be prompt for rehearsals.  Clearly this type of discipline is directly transferrable to work in the adult world and life, in general.
  4. Fosters a sense of personal enjoyment and creativity.  Simply put, music gladdens the heart and brings forth an innate sense of enjoyment, satisfaction and appreciation that can’t be duplicated.  Moreover, it provides an outlet for creativity that provides a sense of personal fulfillment, no matter the age or skill level of the musician.  This may simply be listening to your beginning student learning a piece and when he/she has mastered it, proudly announcing it to you and expecting you to listen to them.  Or, it may be an advancing student who has written their first short piece, variation, or jazz improvisation, and then sharing it with you.   How can you not be impressed!

Convinced?  Do you need to reprioritize your children’s activities? Why not join us in the St. Augustine Youth Orchestra?  We’re all about developing children’s talents and helping them attain the skills to become successful musicians. We rehearse on Wednesday afternoons from 3:30-5:00 starting August 24th.  You can email me directly at [email protected] with your questions. Musically yours, Stephen Marr, Artistic Director St. Augustine Youth Orchestra (SAYO) August 9, 2016