The students in the Youth Orchestra of Greater Columbus are “Star Wars” fans -- when it comes to the music at least.
“They really like playing ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ -- and it’s not because their conductor reminds them of Darth Vader,” music director and conductor Jim Palmer said, laughing. “It’s big and powerful.”
Percussionist Michael Skillern agreed. “It’s extremely noticeable. We all love John Williams,” he said.
The group will perform the theme from the second “Star Wars” film, as well as other space-themed music during a benefit luncheon and concert on Sunday, Feb. 6 at 12:30 p.m. at the Columbus Convention & Trade Center. Both the string orchestra -- which has students as young as eight to juniors in high school -- and the youth orchestra -- which has students in grades eight through 12 -- will perform.
Palmer said he usually likes to structure the concerts around a theme and the new year -- 2011 -- reminded him of the movie, “2001: A Space Odyssey.” The orchestras’ concert, 2011: A Space Odyssey will include movie themes from “E.T.,” “Apollo 13,” “Star Wars” and “Star Trek.”
“The kids love it,” he said.
The orchestras combined have about 90 students and they perform four concerts a year, usually at the RiverCenter. Any student in the area is welcome to audition for the orchestra and students are seated according to their ability.
“We try to provide them with an extra opportunity not available in the public schools,” Palmer said. He also encouraged any student interested in auditioning to visit the orchestra’s website and look into its “Strings on Broadway” Summer Strings Camp.
Skillern, a 17-year-old senior at Columbus High, has been part of the orchestra since he was an eighth-grader. He said he thought his time in the orchestra had prepared him to pursue music in college.
“Being trained in an orchestral setting, it’s not something you can recreate,” he said. “It’s definitely prepared me for the next level.”
The students pay tuition to be part of the orchestra, but that covers only about five percent of the organization’s costs, Palmer said.
Sunday’s concert and luncheon will provide money for sheet music and coaching for the students, as well as give them an opportunity to perform for a wider audience.
“In addition to raising money, it’s really good for the kids to be performing for an audience that is not just their parents,” he said.