Parker Shenefelt and Rickey Dille give a thumbs-up for the snacks.
But snacks have a way of taking precedence when you know they’re waiting for you after rehearsal, especially when you’re 9, like Shenefeilt, or 11, like Dille.
Both are students at Westdale Heights Academic Magnet School. Morgan is an 8-year-old home school student.
And snacks aside, the students are preparing for their annual spring concert with the Kids’ Orchestra’s Honor Orchestra.
The performance is set for 4 p.m. Saturday in the Christian Life Fellowship Sanctuary, only steps away from the middle school auditorium and classes, where they’ve practiced.
The flutes, who practiced across the hall, were a little more serious than the clarinets. They talked about how they fell in love with the instrument the moment they heard it played.
“I love its beauty,” Maniquwa Holmes, a Brownfields Elementary School student, says.
Holmes was joined by fellow flutists, 9-year-old Asrielle Roberts and 10-year-old Gabrielle Clay, both Capitol Elementary School students; 11-year-old Sarah Bishop of Dufrocq Elementary School; and 9-year-old Eva Moran of Belfair Elementary School.
All are members of the Kids’ Orchestra’s Red Orchestra, made up of the program’s most advanced musicians.
“We also have a Green Orchestra for the intermediate students and the Orange Orchestra for beginners,” Director of Development Nicole Naquin Jackson says. “There are 775 kids from kindergarten through the fifth grade participating in the program, and 200 of the best musicians were chosen from this to play in the Honors Orchestra.”
Members of the Honors Orchestra range from fourth-year veterans who joined the program in its inaugural year, 2011, to students who started playing instruments last September.
“The Honors Orchestra is selected on ability and tiered into three groups,” Executive Director Jody Hanet says. “There are First Chair Orchestra, Second Chair Orchestra and Novice Orchestra. These will be the groups performing on Saturday.”
The Kids Choir will join them.
“It’s amazing what they can do,” Artistic Director Jovan Zivkovic says. “Most of the students in our beginner group began learning their instruments in September and played on stage in December.”
The Kids’ Orchestra has a staff of 75 professional instructors who teach students how to play specific instruments. Some are college students, like the clarinets’ teacher Schrieber, and others teach at high schools and colleges, like the flutes’ instructor, Suzanne Berkley, a professor at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond.
The program meets at 12 schools each week during the school year with the Kids’ Orchestra providing transportation.
“It costs us $1,000 for each child participating in the program,” Hanet says. “So many of them can’t afford the tuition, so we offer scholarships.”
The program raises money through donations, grants and help from foundations.
“And we have students coming to our program from outside the parish, some from Port Allen and Ascension Parish,” Zivkovic says. “So, you don’t have to go to school in East Baton Rouge Parish to be a part of the Kids’ Orchestra.”