A Homer Youth Orchestra Club rehearsal is conducted by Abimael Melendez. (Photo Courtesy Kim Fine)

A Homer Youth Orchestra Club rehearsal is conducted by Abimael Melendez. (Photo Courtesy Kim Fine)

Youth orchestra to bring the sounds of Halloween to costume concert

Homer OPUS’s Homer Youth String Orchestra Club will bring seasonal sounds and storytelling to the city on Sunday with Spooky Strings, a costume concert at the Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center in Homer. Attendees are encouraged to come in costume for the show starting at 4 p.m.

Board Member Kim Fine said the concert title was apt.

“Spooky sounds coming from violins, cellos, violas and basses that you never thought possible,” she said. “That you don’t usually associate with these classical stringed instruments.”

The show will feature performances by all four of the ensembles that are part of the youth orchestra — elementary school, middle school, high school and adults — concluding with a combined piece. There will also be storytelling elements in one of the songs. Fine said there are 40 members between the ensembles, ranging from the ages of eight to 80.

Fine said a central goal of Homer OPUS’s programming, of which HYSOC is the after-school component, is “strengthening the ties between kids, families and the community.”

Spooky Strings, a free concert, is part of that, she said.

“Events like this really make that vision visible. You can see it, you can feel it,” Fine said. “Creating this great opportunity for fun and community.”

Fine said the concert will also be an opportunity for Homer OPUS to showcase their new full-time educator and program director, Abimael Melendez. He will be conducting Spooky Strings.

Melendez is from Venezuela, and has a doctorate in educational sciences and a master’s in music education. He previously taught an after-school program in Boston public schools.

Fine said Melendez “has a lot of skills and expertise, but he also has the heart and soul to create, inspire and motivate the ensemble to take their musicality to the next level.” That next level would be apparent on Sunday, she said.

Miranda Weiss, president of Homer OPUS, said the organization has received several grants recently, from Carnegie Hall’s PlayUSA, the Alaska State Council on the Arts and the Rasmuson Foundation, that have empowered the organization both to bring on Melendez as a full-time instructor and to expand their in-school programming to Anchor Point’s Chapman Elementary. The organization is purchasing 86 new instruments, which Weiss said are mostly for Chapman, but also for Paul Banks Elementary and Fireweed Academy.

Receiving the grants, as well as other positive responses from the school district and the community, Fine said, “means we’re on to something good.”

“This is working for kids and families in our communities, and it is enriching their school lives. It is enriching their literary lives, their musical lives. It is tremendously exciting.”

Fine said Homer OPUS’s work, bringing music to kids as young as kindergarten, builds perseverance, stamina, discipline and focus. She said she’s seen struggling kids get into violin class and put their energy and focus into being part of the ensemble, “which is bigger than yourself.”

Then, to take that and perform, she said, “allows you to stand tall and hold that thing of beauty in your hand, to create music to share with others.”

More information about Homer OPUS can be found at homeropus.org. More information about Spooky Strings can be found at Homer Youth String Orchestra Club on Facebook.

Reach reporter Jake Dye at jacob.dye@peninsulaclarion.com.

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