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  • Abby Santiago

Camp Meeting Youth Orchestra

photo by Courtney Herod

Ellen and Jeremy Francisco are the Youth Orchestra leaders who presented at this week’s camp meeting on Thursday. While stationed at Southern University, they also collaborate with Heidi Zinke, who recruits the musicians needed to form the orchestra. Ellen and Jeremy then take over, working with the kids during rehearsals, which surprisingly happen only three times before the actual performance, though the musicians undoubtedly practice on their own time. The ages of the musicians range from as young as 11 to as old as 22. In the past, this range has exceeded these numbers on both ends of the scale, and it will likely continue to broaden in future years.

The trio has been working together to bring music to camp meeting since as early as 2016, despite a brief hiatus due to COVID-19.

Heidi Zinke, organizer of the orchestra, shares, “Our purpose is to glorify God and give His gift back.” Everyone in this group has worked hard and continues to work hard to give God the glory.

As someone who has participated in this orchestra, I can say that the talent these kids have is phenomenal. I ended up in the orchestra at the last minute because of this interview. When they heard I played the violin, they invited me to join them. I accepted and discovered that they are looking for more members. The orchestra is small, and anyone is welcome as long as they can play. If you or anyone you know is thinking about joining the Youth Orchestra, contact Heidi Zinke at

The performance was a blessing, and I was honored to be a part of it. Everyone there is kind and patient, and I recommend that if you can play, you should consider joining!

— Abby Santiago

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