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Off the Street & On the Stage: Gifford Youth Orchestra Celebrates 16 Years

Tania Ortega-Cowan

In 2003, the nonprofit Gifford Youth Orchestra was formed, and now, 16 years later…

CB: We have 61 children enrolled.

That is Dr. Crystal Bujol…

CB: and I am the founder and artistic director of the Gifford Youth Orchestra. We teach children music – violins, viola, cello and piano and eventually we will also have drama and dance. 

We met up with her and some of the young musicians at their weekly Tuesday evening practice. They’re preparing to perform their 16th Anniversary concert on November 2nd.

(Music up and under….)

TOC: How do you find the kids?

CB: I troll Wal-Mart and Publix and I see children and say to them, why aren’t you in my orchestra? When I talk to them, I expect the show up the very next week!

And show up, they do!


That’s 15-year-old...

JP: Jada Powell.

She’s been playing the violin for…

JP: 7, 8 years.

She started when…

JP: Miss Crystal stopped my mom in Publix. Yes!

We ask what she likes about playing music.

JP: It’s an escape.

Next, we meet 15-year-old…

P: Pryscalina.

She’s been playing violin…

P: …for three years. I saw a couple of friends doing it and I actually saw a movie with the violin in it and I wanted to try it. It gives me confidence cause I’m really shy. (giggles)

She plays some of the Schindler’s List theme.

(music up and under)

13-year-old Mieca-Eeja Ferguson explains how it feels to play violin.

MF: It’s like a different world. Like once you play you’re in a different moment and you’re just with yourself and the violin .. just YOU…and you are just having an amazing time.

Some of the younger students begin to arrive and warm up.

(music up and under)

This is…

N: Nicole.

TOC: And how old are you?

N: 9 Years old.

TOC: And what instrument do you play?

N: The violin.

TOC: And how long have you been playing it?

I don’t really know. 

N: I think a year or so.

TOC: You like it?

N: Mmm-Hmm!

Lessons are only $10 a month and they loan violins to those in need. The students are learning from teachers with impressive backgrounds.

LJ: Hi, I’m Louise Jones. I play first violin with the Treasure Coast Symphony Orchestra.

SE: My name is Safa El-Zein.

She graduated from Vero Beach High School… then …

SE: I went to the University of Indianapolis to study violin performance.

She began teaching with Gifford Youth Orchestra 3 years ago.

SE: I actually live in Orlando and I drive here every Tuesday to teach the advanced violin students.

Bujol circles back around to find us.

CB: We are so excited about one of our graduates… Marissa Rollins

Rollins started in 2007 with Gifford Youth Orchestra. She graduated this year from University of South Florida and now teaches violin to K-5th grade at Lincoln Elementary Magnet School in Plant City Florida.

CB: She is proving the value of having this Gifford Youth Orchestra here in the Gifford community.

The concert – called Silver Strings - is FREE and is November 2 at 2 pm at the Gifford Community Center.

Children from age 3 to 18 will perform.

We meet a 17-year-old young man - a senior in high school - who wished to remain anonymous. But we manage to persuade him to play for us.

(music up and under)

Learn more here: http://gyotigers.org/