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Int’l. Youth Orchestra to make historic trip to Cuba

By Kevin Milliken, La Prensa Correspondent

The Toledo International Youth Orchestra (TIYO) is rehearsing feverishly while trying to raise funds for a June [2016] trip to Cuba. TIYO will be one of the first youth orchestras to go to the island nation since travel restrictions were eased last year.

Members of the media were given access to the group’s rehearsal at Toledo School for the Arts one evening last week to draw attention to the trip and fundraising efforts.

TIYO is an orchestra comprised of musicians, ages 12 to 21.  The musicians represent 13 schools in eleven school districts throughout Northwest Ohio and include musicians in both junior and senior high school. The mission of the youth orchestra is “bridging cultures through music.”

To achieve its mission, the youth orchestra welcomes musicians of all racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds. The orchestra’s repertoire includes music which represents cultures around the world.  TIYO performs at multicultural events throughout the community.

To make the Cuba trip possible, the youth orchestra needs to raise $150,000 for travel expenses and shipping instruments and musical equipment. While the youth orchestra is actively seeking corporate sponsors, individual donors can contribute though the crowd-funding website www.crowdrise.com. Donors will fund the fundraiser under the heading “Bridging Cultures Through Music.” Donations are tax-deductible, because the group is a 501(c) 3 nonprofit group.

 One of the most challenging obstacles for TIYO is funding transportation for large, delicate instruments. For previous trips, the group has rented large instruments, but musical instrument rental businesses don’t exist in Cuba.   

“Our biggest concern is transporting cellos, string basses, and percussion instruments,” said Jerome Walenc, one of three TIYO conductors. “Many of our students do not own the instruments they play, because they rent their instruments or borrow instruments from their school. Hard-shell protective cases are very expensive. These instruments cannot be handled like luggage, because it would risk damaging the instruments, so raising the money to cover these costs will be a high priority.”

All funds raised will be divided equally among all of the 56 students scheduled to make the trip. The goal is to ensure each musician can travel without any out-of-pocket costs. Another challenge is helping students whose families may struggle to afford the opportunity to travel. 

“Several of our students experience food and housing insecurity, and many of them are on the free or reduced lunch program,” said TIYO board president Dr. Elizabeth Athaide-Victor. “We don’t want any musician to be excluded from this extraordinary opportunity because they can’t afford to go. Just imagine how life-changing this trip could be for those kids.”

Among the high schools represented in TIYO are: Toledo School for the Arts (TSA); St. John’s Jesuit; St. Ursula Academy; Whitmer, Start, Lakota, and Southview high schools; Timberstone and Jefferson junior high schools; Fassett and Springfield middle schools; Maumee Valley Country Day School, and the University of Toledo. The students play stringed, brass, woodwind, and percussion instruments.

The featured selections for the Cuba trip represent an international musical repertoire, including music from Spain, Portugal, Latin America, England, Thailand, Italy, Russia, and the Middle East. There also will be U.S. patriotic and African-American spiritual selections. There will be well-recognized movie music, such as selections from Star Wars and Sleeping Beauty.

The Toledo International Youth Orchestra has previously traveled to:  Peru, China, Canada, Poland, Germany, Tanzania, Japan, England, Austria, Poland, and South Korea.
 

Copyright © 1989 to 2016 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 02/23/16 19:37:41 -0800.

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