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Profiles in Music

Ansley McNeese

Inspired to Aspire - Ansley
     As I am nearing the end of my degree work in music education at the University of Georgia, I can’t help but reflect on the moments and experiences that have gotten me to this point. I am extremely thankful for The Golden Isles Youth Orchestra. This organization presented me with countless opportunities to grow as both a musician and as a person. I have fond memories of making music with friends. 
     When I joined GIYO my freshman year of high school, there were so many new faces. It was such a welcoming environment and gave me the chance to make music with all kinds of people. I’m a clarinet player, and before GIYO, I had never even played with stringed instruments. It is truly special that there is an opportunity for students in this area to play in this kind of musical setting. 
     The Youth Orchestra also introduced me to people who made a huge impact on my life, including Kristen Spiridon. She was the clarinet instructor the first year I attended Summer Camp. I had never had a one-on-one clarinet lesson before, but then ended up taking private lessons from her. The private instruction made all the difference. She was especially helpful as I was preparing for college auditions. I am thankful for GIYO for connecting me to someone who greatly helped me to get to where I am today. After I graduate from UGA in May, I will be certified to teach K-12 music. 
   I can’t wait to be a music educator and inspire people in ways similar to how I was inspired during my time with GIYO. 

—Ansley McNeese, GIYO Alumna

Eunice Quartey & Truman Antah

From Ghana to Georgia State University

     It all began when their music teacher introduced them to strings in middle school. They showed so much interest and potential that the teacher informed me about GIYO. I was initially hesitant due to the cost, as then I was a single mother of five children coming from Ghana, West Africa. 
     However, with all your precious donations, and support of the businesses in our community, GIYO sponsored my children for their private lessons and camps with me paying little to nothing for their instruction. 
     GIYO gave my children an outlet to express themselves musically. Additionally, it helped them to be disciplined, and learn to multitask.  
    They played at GIYO events, weddings, parties, Christmas parties, and receptions. My oldest son went on to win second place double bass player in the state of Georgia.

     Today, with your continuous generous donations, I can proudly say that my oldest three children are in college with two of them double majoring in music—Eunice on viola and Truman on string bass—and they are also part of Georgia State University Orchestra.

     Please continue to donate to GIYO. Your continued support makes an impact in our community by contributing to the success of our youth, and our future leaders.

—Rosemary Burns, GIYO Parent

Shania Williams

All About That Bass: Setting the Harmonic Foundation
     Undoubtedly you have seen Shania Williams lugging her huge bass and playing with our Chamber Ensemble at local events, church functions, and weddings. Shania has been our Principal Bassist for the last two years. She started playing bass with the Glynn Middle School orchestra where she was spotted by GIYO and invited to take lessons with our instructor Todd Lockwood. She then joined the GIYO Symphonette String Orchestra and continued to develop her skills through lessons. In eighth grade, Shania auditioned and made the GIYO Philharmonia Orchestra, and has played all four years of her high school career. 
    Shania says she loved attending th
e GIYO summer camps, especially playing camp games with the other students. At Glynn Academy, she has played for and supported her school orchestra. Shania has also represented GIYO and her school at All-State auditions where she has made it to second round, even though she  says the auditions made her very nervous.
     As a senior, Shania has been a leader with the Glynn Academy Orchestra, helping younger students and even conducting a piece for their Christmas Concert. As part of the GIYO Leadership Team she has helped arrange events at summer camp. 
     Shania plans to attend college at either North Carolina A&T or Savannah State University where she will major in Actuarial Science. Her fondest memories of GIYO are playing with her smaller ensembles, especially the end-of-camp performances. We are so proud of all Shania has done during her many years with GIYO and wish her success after graduation! 

Veralynn Lee

String-on! Helps Students Launch Their Musical Journeys

     String-on! is GIYO’s fifth-grade outreach program that introduces students to instrumental music through week-long intensives hosted by area elementary schools. The program focuses on learning to play classical music on an orchestra string, typically a violin. Musical science concepts, such as sound velocity, vibration, pitch, wave, frequency, the Doppler Effect, amplitude, and sound pressure, are taught as part of this ears-on and hands-on experience. By exposing children to musical concepts and giving them the opportunity to create music themselves, the hope is they will engage in orchestra or band at the middle school level.

     GIYO General Manager Suzanne Morrison notes, “Many of our current orchestra students first connected with us through String-on! After the pandemic, it is exciting to be back in the elementary schools and see the students get excited about playing music.”

     Veralynn Lee, is an example of the impact String-on! can make. After participating in String-on! in elementary school, she is currently in Symphonette and plays in her middle school orchestra. Later this year she plans to audition for Philharmonia.

     As Veralynn says, “String On! taught me many important things. It taught me to practice and to try hard. It was my first time practicing with other people. It taught me to listen carefully, count and play with a group. It was great! I like how it made me think and be more confident when playing. String On! played a very important part in my life, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without it.”

José Dubón Tovar

Sharing A Passion For Music

José Dubón Tovar is the Music Director and Conductor of the Symphonette. Under the auspices of GIYO he also instructs GIYO’s String On! programs, directs the new 21-student orchestra at St. Frances Xavier Catholic School, and provides technical assistance to the Glynn Academy Orchestra. Sounds like a lot to keep up with, but for José music is the passion from which he teaches principles of performance and living.


In his own words:

     “People say that music has the ability to heal a person mentally and spiritually. For me, music, whether teaching or performing, is much more than that. Music is a way of living that has shaped my life and made me a better human being.

     Music is the key to bringing people together and changing lives. Music teaches discipline, courage, and belief in one’s self. It also teaches teamwork and how to be more sensitive. Music is a good investment because it levels the playing field, and when you feed students’ enthusiasm, you never know when somebody is going to bloom.

     Music is about sharing something you love and have worked hard to attain. It is a way for me to escape reality and enter the world of my imagination through the different tempos, dynamics, pitch, rhythm, melody, timbre, texture, and harmony. As I grew up to be the person I am today, my music grew with me. Looking back at it now, I would never want to change a single thing.

     My mother, Maria Adelina Dubón Tovar, was my role model. She loved to sing beautiful Spanish melodies and she told me that I had found my calling. She said, “Keep your music and one day leave this country and go to the highest level of education in music,” meaning a doctoral degree. She told me stories about her music life. My mother was illiterate, but in music she had perfect pitch.

     In 1980, I went to visit the Victoriano López School of Music in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, one of the most prestigious institutes for music in the country for high school students. I watched and listened, mesmerized for 30 minutes by a student— his name was Carlos Bardales—who was playing the violoncello. That was the moment of divine intervention. I enrolled at the Victoriano López School of Music to learn classical music and practice my cello.

     In the fall of 1985, my high school chamber orchestra toured Atlanta and Columbus, Georgia. From this tour I got a full scholarship to study music at Columbus State University in fall 1986. I received a bachelor’s degree in instrumental performance in violoncello in 1993, and in 1994, a bachelor’s in music education, both from Columbus State University. In 2002 I earned my master’s of music in instrumental conducting from Georgia State University in Atlanta. I am currently working to finish my doctorate in music, orchestral instrumental conducting, from the University of South Carolina.

     I am living the dream my mother had for me, and hope to give that same life-changing opportunity to someone else by paying it forward and giving back.”

Lucie Tracy cropped.jpg

Helping Students Find Their Musical Voice

     Lucie Tracy first picked up a violin at age eight. She was in primary school in Wales and given a musical aptitude test which she passed. The instructor who gave the test played the violin as a demonstration, and she immediately fell in love with it. It was all part of a peripatetic music education system where music was highly valued. As Lucy explains, “The Welsh really value the performing arts—’land of poets and singers’ are lyrics in the Welsh nation anthem—and they prioritize a great deal of funding for lessons in schools, as well as all kinds of orchestral opportunities."

     She was pulled out of class weekly for lessons, and as she progressed began working with local county and regional youth orchestras. At 17 she auditioned for the Youth Orchestra of Wales which she notes is the longest standing youth orchestra in the world. Lucy continued her music education by attending City University of London that has a music program associated with Guildhall School of Music & Drama, one of the premiere conservatories in Britain. Studying under Professor Mark Knight, Lucy found a champion of her goal to pursue music therapy, which is a much different track than most of his students. While at university, she also worked at a children’s hospital in order to immerse herself in the environment she wanted to work in. “I would do lunches with the children and talk with them,” Lucie recalls.

     In 1998 she began her master’s program in Music Therapy at Cambridge Anglia Ruskin University, though not before taking a 10-week trip to Thailand where she met her husband Josh, who is from Seattle, Washington. After a bit of back and forth over the next couple of years, her degree complete and her U.S. visa finalized, the couple settled in Seattle where Lucie taught music in private schools and after starting her family—she has three children each with their own musical talents—offered private lessons in the evenings. Lucie herself began performing again in 2010 when she joined the Everett Philharmonic Orchestra. 

     Today Lucie is working with Camden County Schools to bring music back into the schools. She is coordinating with Camden County School District’s new Fine Arts Director, Dr. Day, and others to bring the String-On program back to the county. She is also the Philarmonia Coordinator/Music Librarian/Lessons Coordinator for GIYO.

     “Music isn’t as prolific in schools here in the U.S. as it is in Britain,” Lucie explains. “I look back and have so much appreciation for what was gifted to me. This is what inspires me to be a part of GIYO—to help provide opportunity for music learning and orchestral playing to students in an underserved community.” 

     Reflecting back on her music therapy roots, she says the point of it is, “To provide a way to express yourself nonverbally, which hinges on the idea that everyone has the inherent right and ability to do so. This now extends to my teaching.”

     Passion and practice are what Lucie wants to see from her students during lessons. For those who want to pursue, learn and enjoy music, she wants to ensure they have access to that right. Her only criteria are that the students are willing to work hard and commit to the journey of learning, and she will help them “find their voice.”

     “Music makes you a part of a community, a place of belonging, and some kids never find that space,” Lucie says. “By investing in the arts, we are investing in the future, offering students a chance to build community, discover and build skill sets which can socially impact people in a very positive way. GIYO is an example of an opportunity to be immersed in and experience orchestra and repertoire that really can be life changing.”

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