In 2012, a group of third-graders who had never picked up an instrument before formed the Zachary school district’s first orchestra.

The children are now playing the bass, cello, viola and violin.

“Now in their third year of the program, the orchestra has gained a reputation for excellence,” said Amy Pan, professional violist and orchestra director.

Pan said the student-musicians have continued playing together and are now in the fifth grade at Copper Mill Elementary School in Zachary.

Pan, who was taught by Masao Kawasaki at the Juilliard School and Jerzy Kosmala from LSU, has a bachelor’s degree in music education, a master’s in curriculum and instruction, and is pursuing a doctorate in music education.

As a professional violist, Pan has performed in Quebec, Canada; Leipzig, Germany; Zagan, Poland; and Shanghai.

Her orchestras have been awarded sweepstakes awards from the Louisiana Music Educators Association’s State Festival.

On Dec. 4, the Copper Mill Elementary Performing Arts Department hosted a winter musical that included the band, choir and the orchestra students performing under the direction of Carla Murray, Brandon Blaylock and Pan, respectively.

The students played “Bohemian Stomp!,” “Ode to Joy” and “We Will Rock You” as orchestra pieces, and “Brandenburg Concerto No. 5” and “Perpetual Motion” as solo and ensemble pieces.

Last week, the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra’s Christian Aldridge, on violin; Grant Bedillion, viola; Caio Diniz, cello; Rafael Galvan-Herrera, violin; and Scott Miller, director of education, lent their musical expertise, coaching student-orchestra members for three days.

A string quartet performance by the members was held Dec. 9.

On Dec. 11, a string trio from the group, accompanied by the Zachary orchestra, performed “Por Una Cabeza” at Zachary Elementary. The performance was attended by family, friends and the community.

Pan said her goal is to continue the program to high school.