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Effingham Magazine


Story by Tony Chiariello

Some people involved with the Effingham Community Orchestra (ECO) have

referred to the ECO by using the slogan, “Effingham County's Best – Kept Secret,”

in describing the efforts of the Orchestra to gain increased visibility. In no way is

this meant to disparage the musical presentations offered since 2007 to local

audiences. The ECO has been offering at least two, and generally, in an increasing

fashion, up to five FREE concerts annually. Rather, the ECO wishes to expand its

listening audience, allowing more people to take advantage of these musical presentations.

“Music gives a soul to the universe; wings to the mind, flight to the imagination,

and life to everything.” - Plato

“If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music,

I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.” -Albert Einstein

When fifteen musicians assembled in July, 2007, the goal was to establish the

Effingham Community Orchestra. They most likely were not referring to lofty

quotes from these historical philosophers, but, in reality, they agreed with Plato

and Einstein.

As Charles Patterson, the current musical director and conductor, explains it, those

original fifteen motivated musicians and the current musicians simply are interested

in displaying their craft and talents and providing the local extended community with

quality music and entertainment, and, in the process, elevating the cultural atmosphere in

Effingham County.

As is the case for community orchestras throughout the country, the ECO owes

so much to the musicians. Yes, they present four or five concerts annually, but

they pay to be part of the Orchestra. And to present those concerts, they rehearse.

Viewing the 2019 rehearsal and performance schedule indicates that the members

rehearse generally two times per month on Sunday afternoons. The ECO employs

several fundraising projects, but the reality is that pressure is on the Orchestra members,

their family members, and friends to participate in all these fundraisers. So, the

CEO members sacrifice to a large extent, both financially and with their time.

Musical director and conductor, Charles Patterson, is effusive in his praise of the

musicians. “I am excited about the changes happening with the Orchestra and

the musicians. Our musicians are growing and embracing the challenging music that

I present to them.” He points out that the ECO has young members, older members,

women, and men, a truly diverse collection of members. They currently total about

35 members. But they share a love for music and collaboration.

The Effingham Community Orchestra acknowledges a huge debt owed to Andrea

Huff in the start – up and maintenance of the ECO from 2007 to June, 2018.

Andrea Huff, assisted by her husband, Frank, provided dynamic leadership

for the ECO as Chief Executive Officer, musical director, conductor, and musician.

Then, in July, 2018, Andrea Hess ceded the Chief Executive Officer position to

Virginia Patterson and the musical director and conductor to Charles Patterson,

Virginia Patterson's son. All of this, of course was finalized by the approval

of the Board of Directors. Andrea and Frank Huff had given so much to the ECO,

and they decided that it was time to have more time for themselves.

Virginia Patterson can be described accurately as a “Renaissance” woman. She is

a wife, mother, lawyer, actress, writer, musician, and avid runner. Oh, and , by the way,

Virginia Patterson is also Chief Executive Officer of the Effingham Community

Orchestra, and she is a percussionist in the ECO. Why a percussionist? Because her

son, Charles, needed one. That is typical of Virginia Patterson. She will do whatever is

necessary to get the job done. Virginia Patterson is a whirlwind, seemingly able

to be in at least two places at once.

Charles Patterson had been a member of the ECO as a musician, and as the years

went by, Andrea Huff gave Charles Patterson the opportunity to conduct a few pieces

at each of the concerts. Now an accomplished conductor , Charles Patterson has

twice won the International Conducting Workshop Competition in Atlanta, GA.

In viewing a Sunday ECO rehearsal, you will notice a truly collaborative effort as

Charles Patterson encourages comments and questions from the Orchestra members.

He is a music teacher at Richmond Hill High School and is very close to securing

his master's degree.

Continuing the program format utilized by Andrea Huff, the ECO presents nine pieces

at each concert in one hour. An eclectic variety is presented, including classical and

popular pieces. A very popular segment is the jazz ensemble. Charles Patterson and

a select group of the musicians perform three jazz pieces, providing the audience

with a more upbeat portion of the program.

The Effingham Community Orchestra is a non – profit, 501 (c) 3 tax – exempt

organization, managed by a Board of Directors. So both Virginia and Charles

Patterson report to the Board. Underneath that structure, of course, lies the

musicians, whose paramount importance has been reported already. Volunteers

assist in many ways, including fundraising and at the concerts. A group of

volunteers, called BRAVOS, works with Virginia Patterson in developing

fundraising projects and strategies.

The ECO is funded solely by contributions from the participants and community

supporters. As noted, concerts are offered on a free admission basis. At each concert,

the Board of Directors, the Chief Executive Officer, the musical director, and members

of BRAVOS have discussions that center around what are the appropriate fundraisers for

each concert. Silent auctions, fresh baked goods sales, book sales are often used at the

concerts to raise money. Virginia Patterson even found a way to donate used sneakers

as a fundraiser. ECO participants, volunteers, and friends bought and sold butter braids as

a fundraiser. And BRAVOS members have “dished out” ice cream to customers

at DQ, Rincon, with the ECO getting a percentage of the profit on those evenings.

Wyona Nilson, a member of BRAVOS, discusses her becoming a member and

getting more involved with the Effingham Community Orchestra:

My introduction to the Effingham Community Orchestra came via an

encounter in the grocery store with someone wearing an ECO tee shirt.

I walked over to this stranger and said, “I didn't know Effingham had a

community orchestra .” Whereupon she told me she was a musician member

and I should come to the BRAVOS meeting on Sunday. I did. I joined the

lively BRAVOS group, learning these music and community minded

individuals offered enthusiastic support to the musicians and were

instrumental in various fundraising efforts to benefit the Orchestra...

These individuals (the musicians) play for the love of music and

I challenge you to come to a concert, enjoy both familiar and

new musical compositions, and try to leave without a smile on your

face and a tingle in your toes from tapping. Come enjoy the music,

participate as you are led to BRAVO membership (no dues!) and

contribute to the Orchestra.

The rehearsal and concert schedule reveals five Effingham Community

Orchestra's presentations in 2019.For the last several years, all concerts have

taken place at the Effingham County Recreation Department on Route 119

South in Springfield, GA. As you will see shortly, that changed this year. For the

last two years, the ECO has hosted a Spring Fling event, which took place on

March 2, 2019. This is a different kind of event, whereby the ECO invites the

entire extended community to participate in children's activities, in addition to

musical presentations. As this is a longer event, the ECO provides separate musical

presentations, broken down to specific instrument groups. For

instance, clarinet musicians get together and perform a set; the same for trumpets and

percussion, for example. Fresh baked goods and book sales were provided.

On May 5, 2019, a concert, “Music of the Great Composers of the 20th Century.” took place.

These musicians included Percy Grainger and Leonard Bernstein

On July 21, 2019, a concert with the theme of “classical music and jazz for

a hot summer afternoon” took place.

Then a change took place. For the September 21 concert, the members of the

Rincon United Methodist Church invited the Effingham Community Church to

perform at the Church. Charles Patterson recalls that this was “the Favorites”

concert. The musical director and conductor and the orchestra members vote to perform

pieces performed in the past. Among the Favorites was music from “The Pirates of the

Caribbean.” As it turned out, the ECO played before a nearly sold – out Church.

The concert was well – received. The acoustics at the Church were excellent.

In fact, the members of the congregation had a “love collection” for the benefit

of the ECO.

Then, the Rincon United Methodist Church invited the Effingham Community

Orchestra to host the Effingham Community Orchestra's Holiday concert on

December 8, 2019.

This branching out to new venue coincides with Virginia Patterson's goal of

enlarging its circle of friends. It will be difficult for the ECO to grow with

the current level of fundraising . And, at the same time, its visibility will remain

the same. As noted previously, the Effingham Community Orchestra must

move beyond fundraising that is almost entirely internal, depending upon

the hard work and generosity of the Board of Directors, the Chief Executive Officer,

the musical director and conductor, the musicians and their families and friends,

the volunteers, including the BRAVOS group.

One of Virginia Patterson's responsibilities as Chief Executive Officer is to

envision and plan for the future of the Effingham Community Orchestra. In

order to rightfully lose the slogan of “best – kept secret” in Effingham County,

the ECO needs to enlarge its circle of friends. As noted previously, so much

of the responsibility of the Orchestra falls to the individuals listed above.

Charles Patterson has presented a “wish list “ of nearly $50,000 for

instruments to make the Effingham Community Orchestra top – notch. The

ECO will have a difficult time dealing with that list unless it invites the entire

extended community into its mission.

Virginia Patterson concludes that “she is thrilled with the new partnerships

happening with the Effingham Community Orchestra and the growth and

outreach the Orchestra is launching. Our new partnership and giving campaign

is going out now and we hope community members will contribute to that effort

and to Effingham Community Orchestra.”