Vermont Youth Orchestra

Even though the Vermont Youth Orchestra Association was one of 122 cultural organizations to receive a grant from the Vermont Humanities and the Vermont Arts Council this month, the organization still needs help getting back on its feet. 

Based at the Elley-Long Music Center at Saint Michael’s College in Colchester, VYOA is a music education program for students entering grades 3 through 12. 

In addition to its three orchestras -- the Vermont Youth Orchestra, Vermont Youth Philharmonia and Vermont Youth Strings -- VYOA also offers individual lessons, group training and summer camps.

VYOA’s grant totaled $7,500, with the stipulation that it be used for general operating expenses. VYOA Executive Director Rosina Cannizzaro said the money is being put towards staffing and programming for the fall. 

Funding for the grant came from the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020.

“The grant helps us for another month or another two weeks,” Cannizzaro said. 

Though VYOA was able to continue its lessons virtually during the pandemic, Cannizzaro said the organization took a hit financially because all of its concerts and performances were cancelled. 

“What we lost on was actually doing live performances,” she said. “So we lost all of that ticket income.”

In addition, VYOA wasn’t able to rent out the Elley-Long Music Center to the ensembles and organizations that use the space on a weekly or monthly basis. 

“I lost all of my rentals for March, April, May and June,” she said. “It was close to 98% of my earned rental income.” 

VYOA is trying to make up for lost finances through a variety of different fundraisers. The organization organized a fundraising campaign for alumni, held an online auction and put out a call for individual donations. 

“All of the people that were involved were very generous,” Cannizzaro said. “I mean that really helped set off losses.” 

Like many other small businesses and organizations, VYOA also acquired a Paycheck Protection Program loan from the Small Business Association. 

Cannizzaro said VYOA will especially need more funding because interest in its fall programming has increased. 

Auditions for the fall were conducted virtually in May, and Cannizzaro said that format made some students feel more comfortable. 

“We had kids who maybe wouldn’t have come in person and felt very comfortable doing an online audition,” she said. 

Students submitted videos of themselves performing a solo, a scale with arpeggio, and an orchestral excerpt. Accepted students will meet in small ensembles this fall, as opposed to meeting as larger orchestras. 

“We’re really excited about the fall and the orchestra members who’ve accepted their place,” she said. “Our numbers are really good.”

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