Youth, Community Orchestras strike chord with musicians

Roxallanne Medley, left, directs the Whidbey Island Youth Orchestra during a weekly practice.   - Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times
Roxallanne Medley, left, directs the Whidbey Island Youth Orchestra during a weekly practice.
— image credit: Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times

The Whidbey Island Youth Orchestra and Whidbey Island Community Orchestra is proof of the island’s music culture.

Every Thursday night, musicians of all ages and abilities come together at the Whidbey Evangelical Free Church in Greenbank for their weekly rehearsal during their season, which runs from the end of September through mid-May.

The Community Orchestra is composed of string, brass and woodwind musicians, in addition to a percussionist. Members range from 15-years-old to well into their 60s and the players hail from all over the island.

From down the hall it’s hard to tell that the sweet sound of string instruments is coming from none other than the Youth Orchestra, composed of budding musicians ages 9 to 17. Roxallanne Medley, formerly a violinist for the Seattle Symphony, directs the Youth String Orchestra. After 16 years with the Seattle Symphony, Medley taught at Coupeville Elementary and now teaches privately, in addition to being the concertmaster for the Saratoga Chamber Orchestra.

Although the two groups practice separately they will join together for a couple of songs during their concerts.

The Thursday night practices are a great way for the musically inclined to hone their skills, show off talent and mix with others.

Dale Stirling, orchestra manager and tuba player, enjoys the chance to perform for an audience.

“This is the first time I’ve played in an orchestra and I’ve always wanted the opportunity,” said Stirling.

Now in its second season, the groups will host several upcoming free concerts, which are open to the public. Their first concert of this season will feature a variety of music from classical, folk and rock, including works from J.S Bach, Anton Dvorak and Ritchie Valens. The show is on Nov. 21 at 7 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalists Congregation Church, 20103 Highway 525, just north of Freeland.

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