Performing Arts

South Florida Youth Symphony raising money for trip to presidential inauguration

William Benoit, 14, plays his violin as the South Florida Youth Symphony practices at Miami Dade College North Campus on Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016.
William Benoit, 14, plays his violin as the South Florida Youth Symphony practices at Miami Dade College North Campus on Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016.

When Carmen Nappo founded the South Florida Youth Symphony in 1964, his mission was to expose and instruct budding musicians — regardless of race, color or creed — in classical orchestral music. It was a grand dream.

Now, more than a half-century later, Nappo’s stepdaughter Marjorie Hahn, carries on the dream as the symphony’s executive/musical director. She and a staff of professional musicians have nurtured the symphony to become one of the premier youth music organizations in the nation, performing locally, nationally (twice at Carnegie Hall in New York) and internationally. That distinction has earned the group an invitation to perform at the prestigious Heritage Music Festival in Washington, D.C., and attend the presidential inauguration in January.

The symphony has begun a GoFundMe campaign to help raise the estimated $40,000 needed for the trip. “This is a great opportunity to not only play at one of the nation’s most prestigious music festivals, but also to attend a presidential inauguration,” Hahn said. “But to make this trip happen, we’ll need the help of the entire South Florida community.”

Since the symphony was founded, it has lived up to its late founder’s dream of training young people ages 5 to 21 in responsibility, social development, self-discipline and leadership, as well as musical expression and preparing them for professional careers.

It is the kind of organization that Maxine Brooks Glinton’s mom wanted her to be a part of back in 1964 when she first heard that auditions were being held. Glinton, in the 10th grade at the time, auditioned for Nappo.

“When I auditioned, I was the only black there,” she said at a recent rehearsal. “But I was never intimidated by being the only black, although at that time we were still a segregated community.” She said her mother always promoted the concept of love and that kept her focused on what she wanted to gain from the group: to sit first chair bassoon.

“I was principal from 10th grade through 1968,” she said.

Now, Glinton’s 6-year-old grandson Zolan, is training with the symphony. “This is his first experience with music” she said. “My goal is to get him started in piano and after about three or five years, he will make the choice as to what instrument he wants to play.”

Glinton said when she first took her grandson to rehearsal, “he saw all those little bodies, all focused on what they were being taught. I could just feel his energy and excitement.”

The classes Zolan and other children attend each Sunday afternoon at Miami Dade College’s North Campus will teach them how to read music. When the time is right, he and the other young students will perhaps join the symphony.

The symphony, comprised of young musicians from throughout Miami-Dade and Broward counties, has already started to receive donations to help fund the trip. Hahn said many of the former students have sent donations. “They know that quite a few of our students can’t even afford the cost of joining the SFYS, but they also know we have never turned away a child because of their family’s inability to pay.”

One of the symphony’s goals is to find sponsors to help support and nurture the young musicians through scholarships and creative programming. The whole child is the focus, not simply their musical ability. To achieve this goal, the symphony has a roster of professionals including Dr. Dennis Kam, composer-in-residence and the former chair of the Theory and Composition Department at University of Miami School of Music; Angelica Losada, Symphonia String Orchestra director, who has a bachelor’s degree in music education from UM; and Cesare Turner, String Consort director, a symphony alumni and Florida Memorial University graduate who is an accomplished performer on trumped and viola.

Also: Priscille Michel, Suzuki string instructor and a symphony alumni; Eleejah Kitchell Bush, string development instructor; Dr. Pamela Schultz, piano instructor who has served as editor for piano pedagogy music for Columbia Pictures Publications; Juan Carlos Vwera, classical guitar instructor and a professional performer and private studio teacher who serves as adjunct guitar instructor for Miami Dade College; and Lowell Thomas , director of winds and an accomplished performer on oboe and English horn, as well as a steel band performer and instructor. He is music director at John A. Ferguson Senior High School.

The annual membership is $450 per child for each program, with sibling discounts and payment arrangements available to parents.

How to help

If you would like to help the symphony as a sponsor, or to help the youngsters make it to Washington, D.C., in January for the presidential inauguration, you can donate at You can also contact the symphony via email at or call 305-238-2729.