The Youth Orchestra of Greater Columbus (YOGC) is in its 24th season of creating a fun and challenging environment for 100 students to reach their creative potential. YOGC supports a string orchestra, a symphony orchestra, six chamber groups, and a weeklong summer string camp. These programs perform seven mainstage performances a year, and the chamber groups perform at about 10 community events every season. Throughout the season, students learn increasingly difficult classical music that challenges their technical abilities and encourages creative expression. The summer string camp focuses on other areas of music such as composition, improvisation, and fiddling traditions like bluegrass and Irish music learned by ear.
All money raised during YOGC's Georgia Gives Day campaign goes directly to supporting the sectional coaches brought in to work with small groups of students for one hour during rehearsals. These coaches specialize in the different instrument families and provide individualized and immediate feedback to the students. This time is vital to the growth of YOGC musicians and allows those who do not have the means for private lessons to have the same opportunity for growth. Our sectional coaches are:
Ms. Jessica Bennett teaches string players in YOGC's String Orchestra. A native of Columbus, GA, she began violin lessons at the age of 6. Jessica graduated from Columbus State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Music, concentrating in music education, viola, and instrumental repair. Her passion for music has taken her all over the U.S. with competitions, recording projects, and performances as a soloist and ensemble member. Recently Jessica has recorded in Nashville and Franklin, TN for several country music artists, performed with the LaGrange Symphony Orchestra, and as the fiddle player in the local Irish band Wolf & Clover. She has also worked with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra and other organizations as a violin instructor for the EMpowered Youth of Columbus program. Jessica's private studio, JLB Music Studio, offers music lessons and services in Columbus, GA and the surrounding areas. Jessica conducts private and group lessons for violin, viola, cello, guitar, bass guitar, piano, mandolin, and voice. She also teaches guitar and violin privately at Brookstone School.
Dr. Robert Murray is the Professor of Trumpet at Columbus State University and works with the brass players in YOGC's Youth Orchestra. Dr. Murray’s trumpet studios have established a reputation for excellence; his students have participated and competed successfully at the state, regional, national and international levels and been honored as finalists in many competitions and pursue careers across the country. He has been a featured performer, soloist, and clinician at multiple universities and conferences. Dr. Murray has performed with the Dallas Brass, Colorado Symphony Orchestra, and the Oregon Symphony; he has served as principal trumpet with the Owensboro Symphony, the Orquesta Sinfonica de Mineria in Mexico City, the Portland Opera Orchestra, and Opera Colorado. He has served as a tenured Associate Professor at the University of Northern Colorado and also served on the faculties of Murray State University (Assistant Professor, trumpet, and jazz ensembles), and the University of North Texas (Teaching Fellow, trumpet). He received his Doctor of Musical Arts degree in trumpet performance from the University of North Texas, with previous degrees earned through studies at Portland State University and the University of Washington. He studied trumpet with Keith Johnson, Gerald Webster, Fred Sautter, and Roy Cummings. Other major musical influences and mentors are Eugene Corporon, Bryan Johansen, William Tuttle and Bill Bissell.
Mr. Eric Thomas Mr. Eric M. Thomas is the Executive Director of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra and the woodwind chamber music coach for the Youth Orchestra of Greater Columbus. He also serves as the Vice President of Membership for the Columbus Cultural Arts Alliance and served as the Orchestra Coordinator for the International Double Reed Society Conference in 2016. Mr. Thomas earned his Bachelors of Music Education from Jacksonville State University and his Masters in Music Performance from Columbus State University's Schwob School of Music where he studied oboe with Dr. Susan Tomkiewicz.
For the past four years, Mr. Thomas has been responsible for developing new educational
programs including the CSO’s Making Music Matters program, which provides free
instrumental groups lessons to students at various Title I schools. Eric also maintains a
private oboe studio and largely performs with many local ensembles, including the
Columbus Baroque Consortium, Uptown Wind Quintet, and the LaGrange Symphony
Orchestra. Eric has also participated in various performing events such as the
International Trumpet Guild Conference Orchestra (2012), the Carolyn Hove English
Horn Masterclass, and the Jacksonville Opera Theatre.
Ms. Caroline Vaughan is a junior music education major at CSU with a concentration in percussion. While enrolled at CSU, she has played with the CSU Percussion Ensemble, CSU Wind Orchestra, CSU Wind Ensemble, and the CSU Philharmonic. She is currently the Percussion Coach for the Youth Orchestra of Greater Columbus and is from Lawrenceville, Georgia.
Jessica Bennett with YOGC students that she helps coach
Maestro Jim Palmer with YOGC musicians
Musicians have fun at YOGC
While YOGC enjoys a relationship with Columbus State University, RiverCenter for the Performing Arts, and the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, it receives no direct financial support from these organizations and relies solely on grants and contributions from individuals, foundations, and corporations for its support.