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C. Todd Sherman

Abbey Swartzendruber, 7, performs her solo during the Tupelo Symphony Orchestra's free concert for school children at the Tupelo Civic Auditorium on Friday.

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C. Todd Sherman

Children from across Northeast Mississippi got a taste of classical music Friday with a free performance from the Tupelo Symphony Orchestra which included a piece from the soundtrack of "Pirates of the Caribbean."

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C. Todd Sherman

Steven Byess conducts the Tupelo Symphony Orchestra during a free concert for school children at the Tupelo Civic Auditorium on Friday.

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C. Todd Sherman

Abbey Swartzendruber, 7, watches the Tupelo Symphony Orchestra from backstage prior to her solo performance on Friday.

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C. Todd Sherman

Third grader Carla Burcham of Booneville raises her hand to answer a question during the Tupelo Symphony Orchestra's free concert for school children on Friday.

Third time's a charm

Antonio Pompa-Baldi, a silver medalist at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, will perform with the Tupelo Symphony Orchestra at 7:30 p.m. today at Link Centre on West Main St.

This will be his third time to perform with the symphony, and he'll be joined on the program by violinist J. Patrick Rafferty. Steven Byess will conduct.

Tickets are $15/advance, $20/at the door and $5/students. Call (662) 842-8433 for more information.

Hed: Welcome to the Symphony

Deck: Kids' shouts mix with music

Read-in: About 2,000 students were entertained during a pair of free concerts.

By M. Scott Morris

Daily Journal

TUPELO Kids cut loose piercing screams in the middle of a Tupelo Symphony Orchestra performance Friday.

The high frequency hollers bounced off cinder block walls and earned a "thumbs up" from Steven Byess, TSO's conductor and musical director.

Before the orchestra performed "Mambo" from "West Side Story," Byess asked the students to shout "Mambo!" Their first effort wasn't loud enough, so he made them try again.

"That's exactly right," he said, then the music and screaming began.

About 2,000 second-to sixth-graders from throughout Northeast Mississippi attended a pair of free concerts. In addition to raising their voices for the cause, the students were treated to a wide range of music that included video game and movie soundtracks.

"How many of you have heard of a movie called Pirates of the Caribbean?'" Byess asked. When a forest of arms went up, it was clear Byess knew what his audience wanted.

"I really liked it when they did Pirates,'" said Kacen Williams, an 8-year-old from Saltillo Primary School.

Young star

Abbey Swartzendruber, a 7-year-old from Smithville, might have been a little young to be in the audience, which was good because she was on-stage instead.

The orchestra played softly in support with Abbey as soloist for "Concerto for Violin in A Minor" by Antonio Vivaldi.

"I worked on it all year," said Abbey, who's been playing violin for four years.

After the concert, Abbey was nonchalant about her first time to play with an orchestra, but her mother said the violinist let more emotions show the night before the performance.

"She said, Mom, I'm so excited about playing with the orchestra, and I just can't wait," Debra Swartzendruber said.

Abbey got an impressive round of applause, but she wasn't the only hit.

Byess asked the orchestra members to hold up their instruments, and the bassoon earned a collective "Whoa" from the crowd, but it came in second to the tuba, which received a much more impressive and prolonged "Whoa."

Catch em

David Bartos, 25, is a teacher with Tupelo Public School District's string program. He got to skip school because he also performs with the orchestra. He liked that the show included so much audience participation, so the kids "used their brains and their ears."

Some of the youngsters talked back and forth, and a few others leaned back and let the music carry them off to dreamland. Bartos said that's part of a school performance.

"You catch who you can, you know?" he said.

Charity Cherry, 10, a fifth-grader at Okolona Elementary, usually listens to hip-hop, but she had her musical horizons expanded during her first symphonic concert.

"It was good. I liked the ending," she said, referring to Jacques Offenbach's "Can-Can," "and I liked the violins."

Contact Daily Journal entertainment writer M. Scott Morris at 678-1589 or scott.morris@djournal.com

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