An Epic employee, an English teacher and a retired Department of Natural Resources writer walk into the orchestra room at Verona Area High School.
This isn’t a setup of a joke – it’s a description of just a few of the members in the newly created Verona Area Community Orchestra.
“It’s a good mix,” Leyla Sayner, one of three conductors for the Verona Area Community Orchestra, said.
It’s been in the works for a few years, Sayner told the Press a few weeks into the group’s existence in August. She said she and several others had been talking about starting a group in Verona for three or four years.
Verona has a community band, Sayner said, which has been successful in serving as an outlet for people who play wind and percussion instruments. But it’s been lacking a non-auditioned group for people who play string instruments.
Because all three of the conductors are teachers, Sayner (who taught music education for 38 years) said bringing the group together took a little longer as a result of their time constraints.
“We saw a clear need in the county for a real community orchestra,” she said. “One that’s a non-auditioned group where people could self-select and have a once a week musical experience for a couple of hours.”
The group practices Wednesdays in the Verona Area High School orchestra room. The orchestra consists of around 40 members, with a decent mix of string instruments, Sayner said.
For this first year, it’ll only be string instruments so the basic orchestra can be established, but in future years, Sayner and the other conductors, Kay Black and Scott Vandermuese, hope to add in wind instruments.
The music played will be upper high school level, because many of the players haven’t picked up their string instruments since their final concerts as high school seniors, she said.
The group expects to have their first concert in January.
“(The pieces) are tricky in different ways, so that if people are strong rhythmically, they can be comfortable in one place, or if their ear is strong, they can be comfortable in another,” Sanyer said. “The muscle memory all comes back, but with it comes the skill they had attained.”
During their first practice Aug. 21, the group got through almost all of the music, just missing the most difficult piece. For the most part, people seemed like they were having fun, Sayner said, attributing that partly to a lack of competitiveness often seen in high school settings.
In a high school orchestra, there’s pressure to be a leader in a top-down organizational style, Sayner said. In contrast, with the Verona Area Community Orchestra, people show up just to play because they enjoy it.
“When you’re an adult … and you just know you want to play, you’re sort of just motivated to do it in a different way,” she said. “It’s more exciting just to see what you can do and challenge yourself, instead of being pushed.”