Something new is happening to Killeen – a youth orchestra.
This orchestra is sponsored by New Horizon Music Studio, 1205 E. Central Texas Expressway in Killeen. James Clarkson, owner of New Horizon, organizes the company to meet a need for students who otherwise would have no outlet for their game.
Currently, there is an orchestra program at Harker Heights High School, but not at Killeen Ellison, Shoemaker, or Killeen High School. Students participating in the middle school orchestra programs at Union Grove, Nolan Middle School, Liberty Hill, and Eastern Hills must obtain school district approval to attend Harker Heights High School to play in the orchestra, and that is parent’s responsibility to transport them to and from school.
As a result, many of these students may not continue playing their instruments in high school.
Clarkson said he has acquired string instruments that will be made available to students who need them. The instruments were donated by Susan Pascale of Pasadena, California. He made a trip to California in June to retrieve the instruments.
Pascale contacted Clarkson in March to procure the instruments after announcing her retirement as director of the Los Angeles Area Youth Orchestra.
The cost of participating in the orchestra is $65 per month. For those who can afford the entire semester, the cost is $245. Mr. Clarkson is also creating a scholarship fund for students who cannot afford tuition. Clarkson said he didn’t want the cost to prohibit students from participating in the set.
“As long as the student can get to rehearsals, they’re good to go,” he said.
Clarkson said the program will begin with auditions in early September.
Rehearsals will be held in the Liberty Hill Middle School Orchestra Room on Tuesdays from 6-7:30 p.m. Additional sections may take place on Thursdays.
Clarkson began teaching strings at Liberty Hills and Eastern Hills Middle Schools in 2005. He recently left his position as an assistant strings teacher at Harker Heights High School to start the New Horizon Music Studio.
Clarkson said one of his goals is to take the youth orchestra to New York in 2023 to perform at Carnegie Hall. Its most immediate goal is to create a unique musical experience for students.
“I have to create something different,” Clarkson said. “The experience cannot duplicate their school orchestra experience.”