Belles & Brass

By Gretchen Eichenberg

Community Service & Classical Music

Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 64, in E minor — featuring 16-year-old violin prodigy Fiona Shea — will commence at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 19, at Waco Hall. Shea is the grand-prize winner of the Juanita Miller Concerto Competition and first-prize winner of the Schmidbauer Young Artist Competition. She was selected as concertmaster of the 2015 Texas Music Educators Association All-State Orchestra.

Following the concert, a presentation of the Waco Symphony Council’s 2016 Belles and Brass will highlight a group of Waco youth interested in music and community service. This season the council presents 39 Belles and 26 Brass. A reception honoring the Belles and Brass will take place after the concert.

Symphony Belles and Brass are a group of high schoolers 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 high school and young men entering their junior year. Participants of program attend schools throughout Central Texas.

Loryn Hairston and Mosie Holley are the co-chairs for the Belles and Brass.

“The Belles and Brass program promotes leadership, music appreciation, service and etiquette with several events throughout the year,” Hairston said. “Our participants had the opportunity to usher a symphony concert, gain musical knowledge through an appreciation class, bond with new and old friends at the ropes course and enjoy a formal dining experience at the etiquette luncheon.”

The season began in September with an orientation at First Baptist Woodway for all Belles and Brass and their parents, followed by a music appreciation and symphony etiquette seminar. The seminar was held on the campus of Vanguard College Preparatory School, under the instruction of Dr. Alfredo Colman, a professor in the Baylor School of Music. In October, the group participated in the Baylor Challenge Course, a ropes course at Eastland Lakes, where the students bonded and learned to support each other. Earlier this year the Belles and Brass participated in a dining etiquette and manners seminar led by local etiquette consultant Sarah Aynesworth, who was trained and certified by The Protocol School of Washington, The Emily Post Institute and the Etiquette and Leadership Institute.

Susan Taylor, executive director of the Waco Symphony Association, believes exposing young people to a live symphony orchestra is one of the most valuable things a community can do for them. When serving as ushers for season concerts, they get to experience firsthand how the arts impact and enhance the quality of life in Waco. Throughout the years the Symphony Belles program has enriched 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.

“The Symphony Belles and Brass program has taught me a lot about the symphony itself, which is something I knew next to nothing about previously,” said Catherine Holley, junior at Vanguard. “My newfound appreciation for the symphony will be something I can take with me throughout life, and it will make me a more diverse individual.”

Midway High School junior Matthew Sumrall found himself reunited with old friends from his childhood through the Belles and Brass program.

“I enjoyed the fellowship of old and new friends,” Sumrall said. “I also enjoyed listening to the symphonies.”

Scott DuPuy, Waco High junior and cellist in his school’s varsity orchestra, agreed.

“I’ve really enjoyed meeting new people from all over Waco,” DuPuy said. “Getting to attend a Yo-Yo Ma concert and being of service before the show was really neat as well. We handed out programs, helped people to their seats and directed people around the performance hall.”

Sara Hairston, junior at Reicher Catholic High School, is looking forward to the big night.

“I can’t wait for the presentation ball and to wear a huge ball gown,” she said.

Long-time symphony supporter Margaret Brown created the Junior Belles 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. In 1988, the Belles program was expanded to a two-year experience, and sophomore girls were included. In 1990, the symphony council introduced a similar program for young men in their junior year of high school. The Symphony Belles program has enhanced the leadership of the board and the Waco Symphony Council by bringing in fresh faces and new ideas from parents of participants and even from former Belles.

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. A 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 2016-2017 Belles and Brass program, beginning the first week of April. Nomination forms and applications will be posted on the Waco Symphony Council website at

On April 14, the Waco Symphony Orchestra presents Franklin Cohen, principal clarinet of the Cleveland Orchestra for 40 years. He is the first clarinetist to win the grand prize at the ARD International Munich Competition. Cohen will be playing Mozart’s Concerto for Clarinet & Orchestra, K. 622, in A minor. For tickets, call 754-0851.