Students from local schools to perform in Mid Maine Youth Orchestra concerts

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The Mid Maine Youth Orchestra is made up of 41 students from schools in western and central Maine. Here, conductor Andrew J. Forster leads the students during a rehearsal at Bjorn Auditorium. Performances will be 7 p.m. March 2 at Messalonski High School in Oakland and 3 p.m. March 4 at Bjorn Auditorium, Mt. Blue Campus, in Farmington. (Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser)

By Pam Harnden, Livermore Falls Advertiser

FARMINGTON — Mid Maine Youth Orchestra, which is gearing up for its 34th concert season, has connections to its very first season.

MMYO was founded by Dennis Hayes and Karen McCann, former music teachers at Mt. Blue High School.

Auditions for middle and high school students are held in October. Those selected have a couple of rehearsals, then break for two months.

In January, twice weekly rehearsals resume. One is held at Mt. Blue, the other at Messalonski High School in Oakland.

The Mid Maine Youth Orchestra is made up of 41 students from schools in western and central Maine. Here, conductor Andrew J. Forster leads the students during a rehearsal at Bjorn Auditorium. Performances will be 7 p.m. March 2 at Messalonski High School in Oakland and 3 p.m. March 4 at Bjorn Auditorium, Mt. Blue Campus, in Farmington. (Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser)

Concerts will be held at Messalonski’s Performing Arts Center at 7 p.m., Friday March 2 and at Mt. Blue’s Bjorn Auditorium, 3 p.m., Sunday, March 4. Admission is free, but donations are accepted to cover some costs. Advertising opportunities are available.

MMYO Music Director Andrew J. Forster performed in MMYO’s first season while a student at Mt. Blue. He is a music teacher at Messalonski and was a sectional leader, directing the wind and percussion sections, under the founders.

When they retired in 2005, Forster took over.

Last year Kathleen Pike of Jay became MMYO manager. Her husband, Joel Pike, is a Mt. Blue graduate who also performed in the orchestra’s first year.

Their daughter, Mt. Blue student Hallie Pike, plays clarinet in MMYO.

MMYO is now in its 34th season. At least two of the musicians this year are the second generation to participate. Seen at left is clarinetist Hallie Pike whose father, Joel Pike, performed in MMYO’s first season. Hallie attends Mt. Blue High School and lives in Jay. (Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser)

Kathleen Pike said at least one other student this year had a parent in the program. Next year there could be several second generation students.

Daniel Keller is Associate Conductor. Before retiring, he directed the string program at Waterville High School.

Forty-one students, grades seven through twelve, from twenty-two communities and fourteen schools throughout western and central Maine were chosen for MMYO this year.

Forster said musical selections are based on what matches with the students and instruments. He and Keller try to find pieces that feature all sections of the orchestra. This year percussion will be featured in one piece as other selections are light on that section.

During upcoming Mid Maine Youth Orchestra concerts, the percussion section will be featured in one selection. From left are Deklan Thurston, Messalonski High School; Marshall Dugal, Erskine Academy; Ian Berry, Mt. Blue High School and MMYO Conductor Andrew J. Forster. (Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser)

Forster said all of the sending schools have really fine music programs. Schools with string programs don’t always have exposure to other instruments.

“MMYO is a fantastic marriage of all the instruments. It enriches the individual music programs. It wouldn’t exist without those programs and their music teachers,” Forster said.

Forster splits his duties with Keller. They oversee auditions, music selection and where each student will sit in the orchestra.

“The string section is the motor of the orchestra; it’s the largest section,” Keller said.

Kathleen Pike said MMYO gives students more exposure to their peers. Several participate in robotics, ski teams or other school activities.

MMYO is preparing for its 34th concert season which will include concerts in Oakland and Farmington. Part of the brass section is seen during a rehearsal at Bjorn Auditorium, Mt. Blue Campus, Farmington. (Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser)

“They’re a well-rounded group,” she said. “MMYO has existed this long due to parental involvement and their dedication to the program.”

Seventeen MMYO students participated in the recently held Kennebec Valley Music Festival. Nineteen high school students are going to the All-State Music Festival, held at the UMaine Orono campus, in May.

“Over half of MMYO’s students were chosen for other audition-only festivals,” Pike said.

For more information call Pike, 207- 897-5815, visit www.midmaineyouthorchestra.com or follow on Facebook, www.facebook.com/midmaineyouthorchestra.

pharnden@sunmediagroup.net