• Dear School Board Members,

    First off, thank you so much for all that you do. I hear so many wonderful things from parents about our wonderful district!

    I also want to thank you for your support of the Flagler Youth Orchestra. Nine years ago we lived in another county and my daughter told me she wanted to play the violin. I didn't know anyone that played string instruments and I figured they were expensive. But within months we moved to Flagler county and I was so excited when I went to a school event that showed all of the programs available. That is where I met Cheryl Tristam and fell in love with the program.

    Since then I have had six children in the program (three have been in for that whole nine years) and three more eagerly awaiting the age they can join. To say I am grateful and amazed would be an understatement. From the first day we have been blessed with kind, knowledgeable teachers who truly want to instill in the children a love of music. And Cheryl Tristam is nothing short of a miracle worker. She coordinates everything yet still knows all the children by name and most of the parents.

    My children have gotten a solid musical background that has helped them go on to learn cello, guitar, piano, drums, bass, banjo, mandolin, ukulele and voice. We have even started a family band because we all love music so much. It has helped forge strong family relationships with a healthy outlet.

    In addition to music, FYO also helps my children learn teamwork, responsibility, kindness, and has helped my older children through serving the younger children in orchestra. My two oldest volunteer with Ms. Cheryl and love it. The oldest sees Ms. Sue's love for teaching and has said "I can see myself teaching music because of her."

    Within these wonderful nine years and many more years to come, there will be so many other blessings and gifts that my family has and will receive. Amazing programs like this keep Flagler county school far above the pack. Thank you again for your support. You are blessing so many children. At first I thought it was so great for my kids to receive music instruction - I did not expect the program to actually help shape my children's schooling years.

    Thank you,
    Mindy Hoffmann
    Proud FYO Mom

  • Now that I've grown into an adult, I'd like to formally thank El Gervasio for being such a significant and positive influence on my life. I took private violin lessons from El beginning when I was only 5 years old and continued for roughly 10 years. In addition to seeing her every Thursday night for a lesson in Suzuki Violin, which began with a pizza-box cut-out with my feet traced in first-position and second-position (I still have it!) and evolved into something that taught me life lessons far beyond the scope of music technique and theory.

    Two lessons, in addition to a profound appreciation for music, that I vividly remember learning were:

    --If you want to get something done right, you have to put your concentration bubble on. A technique I have used repeatedly outside of my music.

    --Prejudice can sneak up on you if you're not careful and it can unintentionally hurt the ones you love if you're not careful. I recall that a few of us, fifth grade or so, were going to be strolling minstrels at a fireman's convention. I remember gloating that I wasn't nervous about the performance because the audience was made up of all firemen who probably wouldn't know if I played a couple wrong notes. El immediately reminded me that before she taught music, she was a registered nurse and went to similar conventions. I remember feeling slightly foolish and consciously learning how character cannot be judged by appearance ever. Today, I am a Rate Analyst for a small water utility company; I attend lots of conventions just like the firemen's convention, and have over 22 years of experience playing music. I was forever changed for the better the day she taught me that lesson, and the thought of those firemen will continue to chase any fleeting prejudice thoughts from my head.

    Additionally, a result of El's involvement with the school orchestra, I made several friends who I am still close with today. We spent lots of time together at rehearsals and at school, bonding through the many events laid out before us by the seemingly anonymous adults. Looking back, I understand that we were the start-up kids in an under-funded public school orchestra who were a part of something magnificent and who never really appreciated the extreme amount of work that made it all possible. Now that I've helped start a not for profit theater company and have had some experience in renting venues, coordinating performances, and writing grants, I feel very touched to have had someone put so much loving effort into my future without ever asking for anything in return.

    After El and I parted ways, I continued to play violin through high-school, college, and into today. Although I studied Physics in college, I played electric violin in several blues, jazz, and bluegrass groups, and made most of my closest friends through music. I expanded my love for music into operatic voice, small group ensembles, choir, barbershop quartets, and now play the mandolin, piano, and have begun to learn the ukelele. On days when my commute home from work is atrocious, and I am stuck in Los Angeles traffic for what seems to be an eternity, I come home, rattle off a couple of concertos from my old Suzuki books, work hard on a new Mendellsohn concerto I'm learning; suddenly the stress of the day just melts away.

    So I'll end with, "Thank You", from the bottom of my soul, to El Gervasio for giving me a gift that keeps on giving, and for putting in all the extra effort to ensure my childhood was rich with art and culture. I was overjoyed to learn that the kids in the Flagler Youth Orchestra were having a similar experience to mine, I will gladly testify that the impact is significant and extremely positive down the road.

    Thanks again.

    Your loving student,

    Eric J. Wright

  • As parents and residents of Palm Coast for more than 23 years, we want you to know how our family has been impacted by FYO.

    Our oldest daughter Annabel is 12, and has just completed her fourth year with FYO. She has flourished in the program, dedicating hours to practice at home, and this year progressed to the Harmony Chamber Orchestra. Due to her obvious commitment and dedication, we recently invested in a "concert" violin, after renting instruments for years. Annabel admires her peers in the program and is continually inspired by her dedicated, talented instructors. She shares her talent with others at church events, educational events, a sporting event, and recently at a nursing home.

    Our middle daughter, Betsy is 9 and finished her second year with the orchestra. We are so proud of her artistic accomplishments. As a shy, quite student, having the ability to read music and play violin in the "orchestra" setting has given her confidence....she is a part of something bigger than herself. Her performance skills have improved significantly and she is looking forward to advancing in the FYO. She shared this past week that she has her eye on the "first chair" position!

    Our youngest daughter Chloe has been anticipating being a part of FYO for several years. (She is eligible to join the program in the fall as a third grader.) She was recently measured for her instrument and last week, came home with a violin. Her sisters have begun giving her advice and instruction and when they practice, Chloe pulls out her instrument. She is counting the weeks until she's a member of FYO herself.

    We appreciate FYO more than words can ever express. Without FYO, it would not be possible for the girls to have music lessons. This program is invaluable to the community, and the hundreds of families it serves.

    Margaret Baker

  • Tristan started with the FYO in September '12. While he thought is sounded "cool" to play violin, he didn't realize the work that went into it. He didn't make it through the first year, because he just didn't want to practice. After several talks about commitment, both to his fellow orchestra members and topersonal improvement, Tristan started lessons over the summer.

    When the FYO season started this past fall, Tristan decided he was going to put in the necessary work. Since September, he has practiced at least 5 days each week, but usually 6. He's excited to learn new pieces and to progress in the orchestra. We recently upgraded to a better violin, and he's thrilled with the sound!! As we've reached the end of this year's season, I'm amazed at the growth I see in my son. He's excited about music, he wants to improve and has committed to doing so, and is overcoming his insecurities about being in front of people.

    Without the FYO, I think he'd still be quitting things that were difficult, instead of finding the desire to improve himself.

    Christina Armstrong