Note: Cheryl Tristam is married to FlaglerLive’s editor and runs the site’s business operations. As such, FlaglerLive could not very well run its own story on one of its own when another news organization could do the job better and more independently. The Palm Coast Observer has gracefully given us permission to run Jonathan Simmons’s story instead, which first appeared Wednesday.
When Flagler Youth Orchestra Executive Director Cheryl Tristam began volunteering for the youth orchestra in 2004, the program was fee-based. Some families couldn’t afford it.
Tristam, whose own parents had to choose between getting her music lessons and getting her braces — they chose braces — wanted to change that, and helped the Youth Orchestra create a financial relationship with the School Board so that all parents could enroll their children.
“We want to make this available to every child so that they can see if this is something that they might be interested in,” Tristam said. “We’re providing this opportunity to kids that through their circumstance — whether it be living in poverty, living in cultures that don’t perhaps embrace these particular instruments — we’re saying to them, ‘Yeah, you can do this. Why not?’”
The first year the financial barrier was removed, the Youth Orchestra hoped it might have as many as 40 kids. It got 125. This year, enrollment peaked at 375.Tristam’s daughter and son have both played in the orchestra, as well.
The School Board recognized Tristam’s work at its Tuesday, March 17 meeting, granting her its Power of One Award, which is given periodically to community members who have made a positive impact on students. A group of 22 string students, dressed in their concert blacks, assembled at the front of the commission chamber room and played “Irish Party,” honoring Tristam and St. Patrick’s Day.
“I think I can tell you why you do this,” board member Colleen Conklin said to Tristam as she presented the award. “It certainly has nothing to do with money. But I think it has something to do with witnessing that magic and seeing what happens when students get on the stage and they really get to discover who they are. And for a moment, for a moment, we get to share in that magic. That’s pretty amazing.”
Local business owner and Youth Orchestra parent Jon Hardison called Tristam “the wielder of the fairy dust that’s needed to keep the magic happening.” The orchestra, he said, offers “the pulling together of all children, in the most democratic of ways, to take part in something far greater than themselves. It’s the most generous of gifts, granted, in part, by one who was denied it herself. …In fact, in Flagler County, no parent has to choose between braces and music lessons. Not one.”
Hear The Award Ceremony and a Performance By the FYO[media id=399 width=250 height=200]
Tristam thanked the School District and the Youth Orchestra’s teachers and volunteers for their support, and said the program is about more than the music itself.
She mentioned a boy “who would go up to the back of the room during class time and avoid being in class because he wasn’t very confident about what he was doing,” and who had some trouble with technique. But at the end of last year, she said, he told her he was relocating. “And obviously, I wished him well and so forth — and he said to me that this was the best thing that had ever happened to him,” she said. “And I know for a fact that it didn’t have anything to do with the music. He had found some safety in coming to string class on Monday and Wednesday.”
Tristam has taken satisfaction in seeing children she knew struggled to get three meals a day able to take their place beside the county’s wealthiest at the same music stand. “That tickles me to know it, that they would be able to understand that they had every right to be there, just as much as the families that have. And I’m very, very proud of that,” she said.
The Flagler Youth Orchestra will hold its final concert of the year, which will feature full orchestral music through a collaboration with the Flagler Palm Coast High School Band, at 7 p.m. May 4 at the Flagler Auditorium.
Tickets are $6 for adults and $1 for children, and can be purchased at the Flagler Auditorium website.
–Jonathan Simmons, The Palm Coast Observer
Jon Hardison, a long-time FYO parent–with Inna Hardison–and, as it so happens, a friend of the Youth Orchestra and FlaglerLive, where he’s been a contributor–provided the following text of his remarks Tuesday evening. He did not intend them as verse, but the presentation of the text as he wrote it reflects to some extent the cadences of his speech (but not the pauses on a couple of occasions, necessitated by some emotions).
There is magic in attending a Flagler Youth Orchestra Concert…
in seeing hundreds of kids in their pressed whites and blacks,
bows at the ready, waiting for the conductor.
For those few hours, we get to be proud of the kids and all they’ve accomplished,
but we’re selfish. We go to see our kids on stage – there’s no shame in it.
It’s the nature of being a parent.
But this perspective often limits our ability to see where the true magic happens.
The always gracious, soft spoken woman receiving this award is the wielder of much of the fairy dust
that’s needed to to keep this magic going.
It’s found in every acknowledgment of small accomplishments,
in the fixing of broken strings,
in the offers of pretzel sticks to the kids who didn’t have time for lunch
and the pulling together of children,
of all backgrounds, in the most democratic of ways
to take part in the building of something far greater than themselves.
It is the most generous of gifts,
granted, in part, by one who was denied it herself.
I won’t pretend to know how or why Cheryl does it,
how or why she has given of herself so completely and for so long…
But the results? They speak for themselves.
In Flagler County, no parent has to choose between braces and music lessons.
In Flagler County, we can turn desire to promise,
and as the lucky parent of an FYO kid
a member of this community,
and a human being who believes in the power of art in all its forms,
I thank you.