Members of the Golden Isles Youth Orchestra often keep a packed schedule year-round. Many of these students also participate in their high school band, take challenging AP or dual enrollment classes, and sign up for other extracurricular or employment opportunities.

But for one week every summer, these involved, hard-working students get a rare opportunity to come together and dedicate their full attention to their music education.

The GIYO program will wrap up its week-long summer camp Friday at College of Coastal Georgia.

GIYO brings in professional musicians from around the Southeast to teach the campers, who take part in daily private and small group lessons, full orchestra rehearsals, music theory classes and dedicated practice time.

The days are long and packed with activities. But the students are used to that.

“It’s a great learning experience, and it’s also a good bonding chance, because you get to make those personal connections with students and adults who can help you,” said Landon Wilson, senior percussionist at the camp, as he stood outside a group orchestra rehearsal Wednesday. “… The instructors are successful musicians.”

More than 50 students participated in this year’s camp. Nearly all stayed overnights on campus in the Lakeside Village residence hall.

Most campers are high school students from Glynn and Camden counties.

The camp’s instructors drive in mostly from Jacksonville and Savannah, said Suzanne Morrison, the camp’s director and general manager for GIYO.

“A lot of them play in multiple — that’s how musicians are,” she said. “I’ve got several that are college instructors. We pick them because they’re good at their instrument, but we also pick them because they work well with kids.”

One instructor, Jacob Haymans, is a former GIYO member who is now pursuing his master’s degree in music.

While not all GIYO members go on to pursue degrees in music, Morrison said nearly all college degrees, except for a few who have chosen to go into the military.

“But they all have a plan,” she said.

The program reinforces qualities in the students that help make them successful.

“It helps them to be goal driven,” Morrison said. “It helps them to understand time management. It helps them with a different way of thinking. They’re around other kids who are also working on their goals, so it’s very positive role model for all the kids.”

Students have to audition for a spot in the camp, which began Sunday. They will also audition soon after camp ends for the youth orchestra.

“They all have to audition,” Morrison said. “No one’s guaranteed a place.”

GIYO meets weekly during the school year and performs three concerts each year. One concert in the fall serves as a fundraiser for the summer camp each year, and the money raised keeps the cost of camp affordable for all students who wish to attend.

“If they had to pay the full rate on the camp, it would be about $900. They pay $130,” Morrison said. “And those who can’t pay $130, pay prorated of that down to 0. We don’t turn anybody away if they can’t pay.”

GIYO aims to make music education opportunities available to students of all economic backgrounds. The camp aims to help them improve their skills while preparing for the upcoming year of performing.

“A lot of them don’t have the opportunity to take private lessons, so this is a way of kickstarting some of that,” she said.

The campers and their instructors will perform tonight in a free show that is open to the community. The event will begin at 7 p.m. in the Southeast Georgia Conference Center on campus.

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