Peninsula Youth Orchestra Joins Soundscapes

Soundscapes Assumes Management of the 60-year-old Orchestra Group

Soundscapes and Peninsula Youth Orchestra have joined to form a comprehensive music education program that will benefit students on the Peninsula from first grade through age 25. At a virtual meeting on July 11, the Board of Directors of PYO formally turned management of its program over to Soundscapes, allowing both programs to now be led by Soundscapes’ professional administrative and artistic staff. 

PYO is a community orchestra for young musicians up to age 25. Local musician Elizabeth Chapman started a youth string orchestra in 1960, and by the end of the decade, it had expanded to a full symphony orchestra under the name PYO. PYO now consists of four performance groups: a wind band and a string orchestra for less experienced musicians, and a chamber orchestra and a full symphony orchestra for more experience musicians. PYO has been a volunteer-led organization with a small Board of Directors, made up primarily of parents of student musicians. 

Soundscapes is a nonprofit organization that develops critical life skills in students from first through twelfth grade in Newport News using high quality music education and frequent performance opportunities. Under normal circumstances, the organization partners with Newport News Public Schools to provide after-school music education at Carver Elementary School and Greenwood Elementary School, and also provides summer programming. Since March, Soundscapes has provided virtual music education programming for its students. 

Four years ago, Soundscapes and the PYO formed a partnership, where PYO provided music education and performance opportunities for Soundscapes’ older, more advanced students, and Soundscapes provided transportation, musical instruments, and tuition for their students who joined PYO. Not long after the partnership with Soundscapes started, the PYO Board realized their organization was floundering. 

“Unfortunately, we found ourselves struggling to stay afloat,” explains Sandra Hood, who was president of the PYO Board of Directors until Saturday. 

Since then, the organizations have been in conversation about what role Soundscapes could play in keeping PYO alive. The unplanned hiatus due to COVID-19 was a breaking point for PYO, and the Board came to Soundscapes in April with an urgent message: The PYO Board had voted to end operations, and if Soundscapes was unable to assume management, PYO would close its doors permanently. 

“PYO and Soundscapes have been musical partners for four years. The missions of our respective organizations mutually support each other,” Hood says. “We sincerely hope that under the skilled guidance and with the financial support of Soundscapes, PYO would grow to serve the community as envisioned.” 

Rey Ramirez, Program Director and Co-Founder of Soundscapes, sees the new partnership as mutually beneficial. “Not only are we keeping an important community institution alive planning for its growth, we are also now able to serve our older students with a program directly under the Soundscapes umbrella.” 

Although both programs are currently on hiatus from in-person meetings, Soundscapes plans to include current PYO students in its virtual programming starting in the fall and to run a PYO chamber orchestra group in February. 

As Ramirez explains, “We’ll stay virtual as long as we need to, but as soon as it’s safe, we’re eager to get back to in-person music making with ALL of the Soundscapes and PYO students.”

Have questions?

Contact Program Director Rey Ramirez at rramirez@soundscapeshr.org

Interested in joining Peninsula Youth Orchestra?

Please complete the interest form HERE.