COLUMBIA, 4/26/12  (Editorial) -- From a small chamber ensemble of violin, cello, and viola musicians to a full orchestra, the Missouri Youth Orchestra, which wrapped its fifth season this week, illustrates Columbia's many wonderful opportunities for kids interested in music. 
Music director Carrie Turner, who announced the receipt of her Mizzou doctorate at the final performance, is typical of the energetic, engaged talents who lead and have led Columbia youth in the wonders of classical and orchestral composition.  
This writer's teenage daughter has played cello with a number of these leaders since elementary school, finding excellent role models who keep their young charges happily on task throughout their education.   The teen years are especially difficult, with so many new distractions.  It takes special instructors to keep kids motivated.
In my childrens' life, Dr. Turner; Carli Bates, formerly with Columbia Public Schools; Pamela Sisson, a Columbia Public Schools music teacher; and Mizzou School of Music professor Darry Dolezal have figured prominently -- and refreshingly.  Many communities have cut funding for stringed instruments, bands, and other musical instruction.   Not Columbia.

This year, the Missouri Youth Orchestra hosted famed electronic violinist Tracy Silverman, who introduced students to his own unique brand of stringed instrument, an electronic violin of his design that's so versatile, it's almost like having an entire orchestra at your fingertips.  Student musicians performed with Silverman in a concert on the Mizzou campus, listening and learning to a thoroughly modern master.
At their final performance last Sunday at First Baptist Church downtown, three different student orchestras performed selections from Handel, Dvorak, Bizet, and others, with a big surprise:  Turner had the senior group play an arrangement of the music from World of Warcraft, the famous online game.   It may have been the best piece of the show.
Driving much of Columbia's commitment to music excellence has to be the Mizzou School of Music, which has quietly moved into the ranks of the world's finest.   Anyone who saw Mizzou music professor Paul Crabb conduct Mozart's The Magic Flute at the Missouri Theatre a few years ago would have instantly realized why. 
-- Mike Martin for the Columbia Heart Beat