San Marcos Youth Strings fills musical gaps

San Marcos Youth Strings gets it together for a November rehearsal/Becky Tico

San Marcos Youth Strings is making merry for the holiday season with two performances in December. A good thing, too, considering the state of the San Marcos Youth Orchestra from whose ashes this new string effort sprung like a phoenix.

The 20-member community service group has a public concert scheduled for 4:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 2 at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido Lyric Courtyard in conjunction with the Winter Wonderland Festival. The 13th annual festival is free ti attend that day from 3 p.m. to 8p.m. and features “real snow,””Santa,” reindeer, crafts, food trucks and a light show,

The group also holds a private concert for the residents of of Brookdale Senior Living in San Marcos, according to parent Monique Ricardo, whose 15-year-old son Andre, a sophomore at Classical  Academy Online High School in Escondido.

Andre Ricardo string it along/SMYS

“Their mission is to provide the kids of San Marcos with free instruction on strings instruments — violins and cellos — along with opportunities to perform for the public,” Ricardo said.

“The group rehearses at Gateway Community Church,” Ricardo continued. “Andre is the president, lead teacher and conductor and his vice president is Claire Lewis, who also oversees teaching and conducting. Irene Chang is secretary and Taylor Quach is treasurer.”

The youthful strings is serving as an additional outlet for San Marcos-area teenaged musicians whose decade-long San Marcos Youth Orchestra faces challenges from city of San Marcos officials.

The kid-run orchestra had been providing free violin and cello lessons to a few dozen kids annually. High school students who went through the orchestra protocol were instructors.

In September, San Marcos officials said the youth orchestra needed to fulfill additional requirements to be eligible to practice at the San Marcos Community Center. those included a “background-checked” adult supervisor present, signed liability wavers fir participants, and “low-cost minimal insurance” of $100 annually, which the city would help arrange.

Parents, including those who organized the youth orchestra in 2007, said San Marcos should provide insurance and services since it was the San Marcos Youth Commission that helped initiate the project.

San Marcos officials countered that the project wasn’t intended to continue indefinitely and a check of community groups using city officials that began in 2014 showed the youth orchestra was considered an independent business not in compliance with city site usage requirements.

The orchestra has been in limbo ever since with kids allowed to come to Friday practices through next spring, but no performance apparently scheduled.

San Marcos Youth Orchestra in happier (2015) days/Facebook

The last posting on the group’s Facebook page dated Sept 11 said:

“Dear supporters of SMYO,Unfortunately, SMYO has taken a turn in direction this year. We have been told by the San Marcos Community Center to be commercialized for “liability” release purposes. By monetizing the program, the city can enroll more students in SMYO with advertising to enroll more students and increase revenue.

On 9/11/2017, students and parents of SMYO stood at the podium to speak with the San Marcos City Council Members, to either keep or drop this non-profit organization.

-Thanks to the San Marcos City Youth Commission for an opportunity to present SMYO
-Thanks to Councilman Orlando for attending as an audience
-Thanks to guest speakers for telling what SMYO has given back the communities
-Thanks to parent speakers for delivering heartfelt messages
-Thanks to students for breaking your silence and pleading the City to keep SMYO project
-Thanks to SD Union Tribune newspaper reporter for commemorating this moment in SMYO’s future

The San Marcos City Youth Commission adjourned the meeting without voting and shall resume next month to decide the future of SMYO. Therefore, no SMYO until further notice.

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