Sinfonia Youth Orchestra (SYO) has a new director … and plenty of opportunities for student musicians looking for top-shelf music education experience … and fun. More on that later. First, let’s meet Sinfonia’s newest music maker.
Loquacious, kind, and meticulous, 26-year-old Margaret Gordon was born and raised in Fort Walton Beach. Her passion for music began at Kenwood Elementary School where she began learning the viola. She was in Sinfonia Youth Orchestra while a student at Choctawhatchee High school. She went on to earn her undergraduate degree at University of West Florida in Music Performance and a master’s degree in Viola Performance from Appalachian State University. She has taught violin viola and piano and ukulele — and recently has taken up the mountain dulcimer! She is newly married to Cameron Gordon, a middle school band director, and the music making couple recently moved to Crestview.
We caught up with Margaret in between SYO and After School Violin rehearsals and here are highlights of our conversation:
As a former SYO student, you can say you’ve come full circle. What does it mean to you to be the director?
MG: Being the director of SYO is the biggest realization of a dream I never even knew I had. I am so humbled to be able to give back to the organization that gave me my foundations in music. Without the Sinfonia Youth Orchestra, I never would’ve been able to foster the love of music that was in me from childhood. By the time I left elementary school, there were no more strings programs available to me in the schools. Knowing that my job allows me to directly impact the students in Okaloosa and Walton Counties brings me immense joy.
Having a master’s degree in music as well as teaching experience, you are well suited to your role. How does your background plays into your role with SYO?
MG: Throughout my collegiate studies I was a part of numerous orchestras and performing chamber ensembles. During this time, I also taught privately as a graduate assistant. I have experience teaching to groups as well as private instruction of multiple instruments. By working with so many instructors throughout my studies, I have gleaned numerous techniques and styles of instruction that have come to form my personal philosophies on teaching. It is my belief that the best learning happens in an environment where exploration is encouraged, and mistakes are freely made without the fear of judgment. All sincere efforts should be celebrated as teacher and student work together to find better solutions.
SYO is unique in that it is affiliated with a professional orchestra. Why is that important?
MG: Being affiliated with Sinfonia means that students receive the highest level instruction available to them outside of their regular school settings. This mentorship is critical to budding musicians as many need guidance into the professional world. Sinfonia Gulf Coast is comprised of professionals who have walked this path and who can serve as examples of where the student’s journey will lead them with hard work and dedication. Because music is a continual journey, it is hard for a student to understand how far they can go if not presented with the finest examples.
What excites you about being the SYO director?
MG: My absolute favorite thing about working with the students of SYO is to be able to celebrate in the triumphs of each student. Whether the progress happens within the individual or within the group as a whole, it brings me immense joy to be able to see the faces of the kids as their confidence grows.
Many schools do not have music programs, why should kids join SYO?
MG: SYO provides students an opportunity to experience a part of the world that may otherwise be lost to them. Music in general provides so many benefits to developing children. It can help kids with math skills, increase reading levels, and help them to develop high levels of critical thinking. Believe it or not, communication is a large part of music as well. Whether this is happening silently during performance or before and after rehearsal with like-minded peers, SYO provides kids with an opportunity to become more well-rounded individuals. I like to think that when we teach music, we are actually teaching life skills with music being the vehicle to do so. And besides that, it’s fun!
Why do you love playing music?
MG: Playing music allows me to communicate in a way that fully encompasses the emotions I feel when words aren’t enough. A memory I cherish is of a performance I gave in Pensacola. During the performance I had felt a shift take place within me that felt like a release of sadness, joy, and triumph all at once. Afterwards, an older gentleman approached me and confided that my performance had touched his soul. Music is meant to be shared, no matter the form, and to provide people with such an experience is the most selfless thing I can imagine.
What kind of music do you like most?
MG: My favorite music is music that challenges me intellectually. I commute to work, so I spend a lot of that time taking apart the compositional elements of songs and trying to isolate things like rhythm and harmony. But the less snobby answer would be Contemporary Christian, Pop, and Classic Rock. I walked down the aisle at my wedding to a string quartet arrangement of Aerosmith’s I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.
What are your personal interests outside of music?
MG: I love to read and be outside in nature. Crocheting is also a favorite hobby of mine. If it’s got a pattern, I can make it!
Why is it important for people to support Sinfonia Gulf Coast?
MG: When you support Sinfonia Gulf Coast, you are directly supporting the dreams of thousands of students across Okaloosa and Walton Counties. When we bring educational music programs into the schools, the kids’ eyes light up and their imaginations run wild. The musical knowledge that we have as adults is often taken for granted. Many students live in homes where weekend excursions to the symphony are just not possible. When you support Sinfonia, you support our mission of bringing music to all children, regardless of their situation. You could be the reason a child dares to dream big and, just like me, grows up to be the next conductor of the Sinfonia Youth Orchestra.
Sinfonia Youth Orchestra is accepting applications. Why join SYO? Beyond the fun, there are a numerous valuable benefits. Click here to learn more.