The Vernon Parish Community Orchestra is tuning up for a busy year, said conductor Karen Gordy at a recent meeting of the orchestra's executive steering committee.  
Going into its sixth year, the orchestra is looking to grow both its members and its friends, said Gordy.
"As we look ahead ... our sixth year will be a packed year," she said. With venues in Woodville and Jasper, Texas as well as Leesville and DeRidder, she expects not only more members but more action.
This coming year's performances include the Carnival of the Animals by Saint Saens in Woodville in October. A day-time event, the presentation will also feature guest pianist Luis Sanchez of Argentina, costumes created by the Woodville Art Council for children to wear during the musical presentation and a "petting zoo" of violins, violas, basses and various stringed instruments that children may touch, said Gordy.
In mid-November, the orchestra will present its fall and Christmas concert in Leesville and also kick off its conductor contest.  
The conductor contest, a fundraiser for the orchestra, will have community leaders vying for the chance to conduct the orchestra, said Gordy. Whichever candidate collects the most votes, at one dollar per vote, will win, she explained.
The first week in December the orchestra will perform its holiday concert again DeRidder, and then in Jasper, Texas a few weeks later.
In March, the orchestra will participate in a community-wide gospel program, and in April the full orchestra will perform its annual spring concert.
Boasting 53 members, the orchestra can also claim credit for several other offshoots, musical groups which originated from within the orchestra itself, including a youth orchestra of 15 members; a preparatory orchestra of about 12 for those who are getting acclimated to orchestra work; and two string quartets.
"Truly Karen has brought culture into Vernon Parish," said orchestra member Darlene Thompson.
Starting small by providing music instruction to just a few string students in studio space donated by Leesville Music Center, Gordy set a movement in motion in 2004 that is sure to continue to grow and gain momentum.
For more information about music instruction or the orchestra, contact Gordy at kgandbg@cebridge.net.
Look for more articles about the orchestra in upcoming issues of the Leesville Daily Leader.