Youth perform work of the masters

January 08, 2009|By CRYSTAL SCHELLE

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - In the 10 years that Mark McCoy has directed the Shepherd Preparatory Orchestra at Shepherd University, there have been a lot of changes.

It once was known as the Youth Orchestra, before it received its new name. And many of the faces of the students behind the instruments have continued to be replaced by newer ones. But one thing has remained the same: The ensemble offers professional orchestral experience to students from elementary through college age.

This year, the university has introduced the Shepherd Children's Chorus. The vocal ensemble gives younger students the opportunity for advanced vocal musical experience.

The Shepherd Children's Chorus will make its debut during a concert on Wednesday, Jan. 14, at Shepherd University. The concert will also celebrate the prep orchestra's anniversary.


McCoy, chair of the department of music, said currently the orchestra has about 60 wind and string students. Students must audition for a spot on the orchestra, and McCoy said there is "no dumbing down of music."

"Many times these students are performing what a professional orchestra would play," he said.

Some of McCoy's first students are still part of the group. He said he's had a "really talented group" since the beginning. He said he continues to get high-caliber students. "I am always grateful at the quality of students," he said.

The prep orchestra gives the students a chance to play alongside more accomplished musicians, McCoy said. He compared it to playing with the level of musicans at a All-County or All-State bands, but every week.

The Children's Chorus is under the direction of David Gonzol, assistant professor and director of music education at Shepherd. McCoy said the chorus includes male and female students from grades three to eight. The group has been meeting on Wednesdays since the beginning of the school year.

McCoy said Gonzol's background with childrens' choruses made him an excellent director for the chorus. McCoy said he's confident that the chorus will grow in size and reputation similar to the orchestra.

In addition to giving the public a concert performed by accomplished musicians, McCoy said he would like to show that young people can do positive things.

"You hear 'Kids these days' and there's always something negative attached," he said. "I want to turn that on its ear."

McCoy said the students probably listen to their iPods before they come to practice. "But they're playing the music of the masters."

If you go ...

WHAT: Shepherd Children's Chorus and Shepherd Preparatory Orchestra Concert

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 14

WHERE: Frank Arts Center, Shepherd University, Shepherds-town, W.Va.

COST: $5; free for Shepherd students and Friends of Music MAC cardholders

CONTACT: Call 304-876-5555 or go to

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