Spooky Symphony Concert performed by Central Illinois Youth Symphony

Staff Writer
Chillicothe Times-Bulletin

Here's a different twist on Halloween for the family:  spooky music performed by a fully costumed orchestra (plus fun and games for the kids).  

The students of the Central Illinois Youth Symphony present an evening highlighting some of the most famous "haunted" music of all time, including "Phantom of the Opera", "Faust", and "Night on Bald Mountain" on Halloween evening, Oct. 31.

Parents are encouraged to bring the kids early at 6:30 p.m. for fun and games, including a costume contest.  The "haunted music" begins at 7 p.m.  Admission is free and is for all ages.  The Spooky Symphony event will be held at the CIYS facility at the corner of Sheridan Road and War Memorial Drive, 3601 N. Sheridan Road, Peoria, 61604.

This event is being presented by youth, for youth in the community, as a fun, alternative and safe way to wrap up the Halloween evening.  Free t-shirts will be given to all youth in attendance (until supplies run out).

The Central Illinois Youth Symphony (CIYS) is currently comprised of about 55 students, in grades 7 through 12, who have a passion for music and want to share their music with others.  The organization recently returned to Peoria to be closer to the community.  Located at 3601 N. Sheridan Road, the CIYS is housed at the former site of Great Central Insurance (corner of War Memorial Drive at Sheridan Road).  The youth symphony was able to move into the space due to the generosity of First Federated Church of Peoria, who currently owns the building and is developing it as their "Life Together" community center.

Besides music instruction, CIYS students engage with musicians on a regular basis, including collegiate faculty and renowned professionals.  Through master classes, career talks and sectional teaching, students are exposed to a variety of ideas that not only impact their playing skills, but also their future lives. 

In a recent visit to the youth symphony Charles Yang, Juilliard graduate and guest artist of the Peoria Symphony Orchestra, encouraged students to explore alternative music styles and at the same time be beacons for classical music, which he called "the underpinning of all music genres." 

Mentoring happens at all levels in CIYS, most recently for students interested in careers in conducting.  Richwoods High School Senior, LJ Alexandre-Strong, has been mentored for the past 2 years by Conductor Philip Rudd.  She made her conducting debut in 2012 with the CIYS Concert Orchestra, and is busy this year mapping out her path to a musical career.

While many CIYS students pursue careers in music, still many more launch successfully into careers in business, medicine, law and engineering.  As often pointed out by George Stelluto, Music Director of the Peoria Symphony Orchestra and collaborator with the CIYS, working at developing musical skill requires the same type of dedication and the same mental skills and perseverance as an athlete training for varsity and professional sports.  The payoff is that those same skills are applicable to success in all areas of life.

Due to its unique offerings, the CIYS programs attract students from a broad area of roughly 30 communities throughout the region, with some students traveling over 50 miles each way just to participate.  There are no school programs in Central Illinois which offer full symphony orchestra instruction to students, mainly due to budgetary cuts to arts programs in the schools. 

More than 150 students participate annually in the CIYS organization's four orchestras and eight instrumental and chamber ensembles.  To gain similar musical experiences, students would have to travel to Chicago or St. Louis, Missouri.  

Visit www.ciys.org to learn more about the Central Illinois Youth Symphony