There has always been something special about the young musicians in San Bernardino. Throughout my life, the schools I attended encouraged me to go into the performing arts, and there are many opportunities for students to learn about it in the school district.
When I was in elementary school, I went to choir practice once a week while my friends went to practice their instruments. All the middle schools in the district have orchestras and bands that students can take part in, as well as most of the high schools. Most parents in San Bernardino can’t afford to pay for private lessons, but our schools provide students with an opportunity to grow as musicians.
Thanks to these opportunities, many young musicians, along with myself, have been guided towards a path to a career in music. My passion started in middle school when I was put into a beginning orchestra class. I continued playing upright bass all throughout high school and am planning to pursue music performance in college.
The particular organization that really stands out in San Bernardino is the Symphonie Jeunesse Orchestra (SJO). The youth orchestra, established in 2007, gives students ages 12-18 an opportunity to be part of a professional ensemble. They have performed community concerts and even toured with David Archuleta. They have also won auditions to perform at Disney California Adventure for eight years consecutively.
In 2013, San Bernardino County was cut from the list of regions eligible to audition for California Adventure’s Community Arts Showcase, however, due to the orchestra’s impeccable reputation, they are allowed to audition annually as long as they continue getting accepted consecutively.
An interview with SJO’s director Michele Tacchia:
How do you think SJO makes a positive impact on San Bernardino?
Tacchia: The impact that SJO has had, and continues to have on San Bernardino is that over the nine years since its inception, it has provided a high-quality orchestral experience for string students, ages 12 to 19 to play in professional theater houses, to play for service organizations, hospitals, universities, art exhibitions, Women of Distinction Awards, schools and to train with professional string players to advance their level of achievement. The orchestra has become a “jewel-in-the-crown” of this city.
You’ve been to many places in your musical career; so taking that into account, is there anything special about the young musicians in San Bernardino specifically?
Tacchia: The young musicians in San Bernardino clearly want a quality organization that they can be a proud part of. They are extremely dedicated. They willingly give of their time each Saturday for rehearsal purposes. They are not children of privilege and most do not have the benefit of private instruction on their instruments. They have a true desire to be a part of something so valuable to them on their journey.
What do you hope students gain from being in SJO, or being involved in music in general?
I hope that the students who participate in SJO or any other quality musical endeavor take with them a lifelong love of music and memories, of playing in an ensemble, (whether for enjoyment or as a profession), and to become supporters of arts organizations in each of their futures.
Contrary to the stigma many people have stereotyped San Bernardino with, a rich culture of artistry exists at the heart of our city. The San Bernardino Symphony Orchestra, the longest running professional symphony in Southern California, has performed concerts at the California Theatre of Performing Arts for 88 seasons and counting. The youth is actively involved in the music scene by volunteering at the theater through the “Debs and Red Tie Guys” organization, where they answer questions and usher guests to their seats during events. Additionally, the Symphony gives a free, educational concert for K-12 music students at the theater downtown once a year.
Photos by Jeremiah Garache.