EFFINGHAM COMMUNITY ORCHESTRA- It's Music to your ears!
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
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
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.”