Belles & Brass

By Gretchen Eichenberg

Waco Youth learn the importance of symphony in the community

Pictured: doug fitzjarrell /

The Waco Symphony Belles and Brass takes center stage this year at a special presentation and gala on Saturday, March 25, benefitting the local orchestra as it continues the search for a new music director/conductor.

The Belles and Brass will be presented at 7 p.m. at Midway High School’s Performing Arts Center. They will then be recognized at a black-tie gala at Ridgewood Country Club, featuring dinner and dancing to The Grooves, a party band from Austin.

“I’m hopeful this year’s new presentation and gala will be especially fun for the Belles and Brass and all who attend,” said Carolyn Bess, executive director of the Waco Symphony Association.

Symphony Belles and Brass are a group of high school juniors who participate in the Waco Symphony Council’s program for young women and men who have a love for music and a desire to be more involved in the community.

The program is intended for young women who are entering their sophomore year in highschool and young men entering their junior year in high school. Participants of the Belles and Brass program attend schools throughout Central Texas. The highlight of the program is the presentation of the junior class Belles and Brass at a spring concert, but with the conductor selection process still underway, a separate event was planned.

This season, the Symphony Association presents 23 Belles and 13 Brass. Forty-two sophomore Belles are already in place to be presented next year. Evey Ellis and Laura Pattillo are the Waco Symphony Association’s co-chairmen for the Belles and Brass.

“The Belles and Brass program introduces high school kids to cultural and leadership experiences, team building and the importance of a symphony in our community,” Ellis said. “It’s also an opportunity to make lifelong friendships with young people from all over central Texas.”

The Belles and Brass program is also a significant part of the Symphony’s annual fundraising efforts.

“While the primary purpose of the Belles and Brass program is to enhance the cultural experiences of the participants, it also serves as a fundraiser for the Waco Symphony,” Bess said. “We hope that it attracts parents, families and friends of those participating and encourages them to become patrons. By exposing the participants to symphonic music, our hope is that they become long-term supporters of the WSO or symphonies wherever they choose to live in the future.”

Giving young people the opportunity to experience live symphony orchestra concerts and to volunteer for the arts in the community can ignite an appreciation of music and develop their leadership skills, Bess said.

“Belles and Brass serve as ushers for our season concerts and interact with patrons of varied ages and backgrounds, ensuring that they have a positive experience,” Bess said. “I hope they enjoy participating and witnessing how the arts contribute to the quality of life in our community.”

The Junior Belles and Brass participated in a dining etiquette and manners seminar at Ridgewood Country Club, led by local etiquette consultant Sarah Aynesworth, who was trained and certified by the Protocol School of Washington, the Emily Post Institute and Etiquette and Leadership Institute. The participants learned tips and tricks for communicating and engaging with others.

“I am surprised to have enjoyed greeting people who are coming to watch a symphony, being someone who is partly shy,” said Vanguard junior Aidan Latino. “I have learned that eye contact is the best way to make a good first impression.”

In addition, participants enjoyed getting together with kids from other schools from around the area through a team building experience at the Baylor Ropes Course and a music appreciation seminar with Maya Johnson of the Baylor School of Music.

“It’s been fun getting to know kids from other schools and volunteering together,” said Vanguard junior Abby Civa. “I also love dressing up and I’m really excited about my symphony dress.”

Seasoned symphony supporter Margaret Brown created the Junior Belle program in 1965 to raise money for the Waco Symphony Orchestra and to provide a cultural experience for young women in their junior year of high school. It was also Brown’s hope to expand the Symphony’s audience by bringing in new families through the program, Carolyn Bess said.

In 1988, the Belle program was expanded to a two-year experience and sophomore girls were included so they could learn the ropes. In 1990, the Symphony Council introduced a similar program for young men in their junior year of high school.

Throughout the years, the Symphony Belle program has enhanced the leadership of the Board and the Symphony Council by bringing in fresh faces and new ideas from parents of participants and even from former Belles and Brass.

To be considered for the Belles and Brass program, a student’s parents or grandparents must purchase two sustainer-level tickets to the Waco Symphony Orchestra and join the Waco Symphony Council. Then, a Belle and Brass fee covers the costs of the seminars that the students are required to attend throughout the year, as well as the presentation and reception honoring the junior Belles and Brass.

The Waco Symphony Council will be taking nominations for the 2022-2023 Belles and Brass program beginning the first week of April. The nomination forms and applications will be posted on the Waco Symphony Council website at