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Youth Orchestra expanding to include Youth Choir


When the Las Cruces Youth Orchestra (LCYO) begins its new season of rehearsals and performances in September, it will include a brand-new voice – the Youth Choir.

“Kids are really going to need this after not singing for a whole year,” said director Ida Holguin.

The choir, she said, will be open to middle- and high-school students from Las Cruces and throughout the region. Students don’t need any singing experience to join, Holguin said, and don’t even need to know what voice part – soprano, alto, tenor, bass – they sing.

Holguin said Youth Choir’s rehearsal atmosphere will be “positive and respectful,” and rehearsals and performances will include “music they enjoy,” coming from shows “Hamilton” and “In the Heights” and other Broadway shows and “not just choral music.”

Participants will also learn classical as well as contemporary music, she said, including the work of composers like Bach and Mozart.

The Youth Choir will include at least 20 members, Holguin said. If it’s large enough, the choir will be broken into separate middle- and high-school sections.

The plan is to rehearse from 2 to 4 p.m. every Saturday in the NMSU Music Building choir room and perform one big concert this year and two next spring, Holguin said.

Holguin is a graduate of Silver High School in Silver City. She came to Las Cruces to attend New Mexico State University, where she earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree, both in performance.

“That’s why she’s such a good conductor,” said LCYO director and founder Simon Gollo, who started LCYO in 2019.

Holguin has been teaching choir for Las Cruces Public Schools for the past 15 years, including the last two at Organ Mountain (formerly Oñate) High School, and before that at Centennial High School and at Lynn and Vista middle schools.

Holguin was the first-ever choir director at CHS when it opened in 2012, so she is no stranger to starting a choral program from scratch.

Holguin, who plays the clarinet, said singing is “more intuitive” than playing a musical instrument, and learning to sing can benefit musicians “no matter what instrument you play.”

The cost to join the Youth Choir is $235. Scholarships will be available to help families with financial need, Gollo said.

Gollo said Las Cruces Youth Orchestra and Youth Choir will support the NMSU Music Department, helping to attract students to the music program and make it more of a first choice for incoming freshmen.

“I’m super excited,” Gollo said. “This is a kind of dream-come-true thing.”

Contact Gollo at sgollo@nmsu.edu.

La Academia Dolores Huerta charter school to add orchestra

Julio Campos has begun his first year as a teacher this fall at La Academic Dolores Huerta charter school (LADH), where he will start the school’s first-ever orchestra.

Campos also will be the viola teacher in the Las Cruces Youth Orchestra (LCYO) that begins its new season in September.

His goal is to develop LADH’s orchestra “side by side” with the Youth Orchestra, and to offer it not just as a class but “to everybody in the city.”

In both programs, he hopes to repair a disconnect between public schools and private schools in Las Cruces and provide “a good avenue for them to merge,” Campos said.

Campos taught students in the El Paso Symphony Orchestra’s Tocando Music Project in El Paso. He is a graduate of Las Cruces High School with a bachelor’s degree in music education and a master’s in music performance, both from NMSU. He did his student teaching with LCHS orchestra teacher Jennifer Rogers.

Campos said he is “a bit nervous, but it’s exciting as well.”

LCYO founder and director Simon Gollo said he is impressed with Campos’ “quality of teaching,” and will “support him to build his program” at LADH.

“We need to have 10 Julios,” Gollo said.

“There’s no competition in education,” Gollo said. “We work as a team. We help the development of musical education.”

Visit ladh.org.

LCYO staff also will include cellist Hyerim Mapp, the orchestra teacher at Centennial High School.

Mapp, a native of South Korea, began the Las Cruces Cello Project three years ago. It includes 25 middle- and high-school students who will also be encouraged to join LCYO.

Mapp has a master’s and a Ph.D. in cello performance from the University of Kansas.

“I’m very excited to have these wonderful people support this idea,” Gollo said.

Simon Gollo watched El Sistema, a network of youth orchestras in his native Venezuela grow from about a dozen members when it was founded in 1975 to a program that has attracted a million concert attendees.

He is hopeful for strong growth and support for both LCYO and Choir, and expects the organization to “become 100 kids very soon.”

“People will be proud to support the Youth Orchestra and Choir,” he said.