Gifford Youth Orchestra

More violins - Better Tomorrows


Two Gifford teens returned Monday from an adventure in Las Vegas that may have changed their lives.  The teens, Mieca-Eeja Ferguson, 13, and Jada Powell, 15, represented the Gifford Youth Orchestra in a Black History Month spectacular at the E-String, a Vegas performance center, before a standing-room-only crowd.

            Woody Woods, with whose band the Gifford teens were featured, was extravagant in his praise.  “They came ready to play,” he said.  “They knew their parts and handled the pressure of a live performance like real pros.  My musicians loved having them on stage.”

            Mieca-Eeja, an 8th grader at St. Helen Catholic School, said her new bandmates had taught her to relax and just have fun playing.  “They were so welcoming to me,” she said.  “If you want to learn a new genre, try jazz because it’s really easy to learn the rhythms and techniques.”

            Both she and Jada have been classically trained, so the Las Vegas event was entirely new to them.  Jada, a first violinist in Vero Beach High’s Philharmonic Orchestra, called the experience “great.”

            “Playing alongside those musicians changed my thinking and feeling about jazz,” she said.  “I have a lot more respect now for the love and energy it takes to perform live with jazz professionals.  I’m going to listen to more jazz and to play more in the future.  I may even begin to write my own music.”

            Although both girls perform in their school ensembles, they view the Gifford Youth Orchestra as their musical home.  Mieca-Eeja, who has been playing violin since she was six, joined the GYO two years ago.  Jada started with the GYO at seven and has been its Concert Master since 2018.

            “This project is part of an exchange program we’ve developed between Gifford and Las Vegas to introduce our students to a new kind of music for them, jazz, at the highest level,” said Crystal Bujol, the orchestra’s founder and artistic director.  “It opens their minds to a very different approach to playing and enriches not only their skills but their ambitions.”  The program is underwritten by donations from the GYO board.


            Mieca-Eeja and Jada were prepared for their performance by Louise Jones, a GYO violin teacher.  “It was a little rough at the start,” she said, “but we pulled it off because those two young ladies worked so hard.”  Among their challenges, the girls had to learn new fingerings for the complicated jazz arrangements.

            Also helping out was Matthew Stott, music director of King’s Baptist Church and former director of orchestras for the county school system, who offered the GYO students a pair of fine-tuning sessions.

            The Gifford Youth Orchestra celebrates its 17th anniversary serving the children of Gifford and its neighboring communities March 7 at the Heritage Center in Vero Beach.  Tickets are $50.  More information is available at  

... Submitted by Debbie Avery.  Photos and synoposis printed by Vero Beach News

GYO In the News  August 2018

Alma Lee Loy Tunes Up With Gifford Youth Orchestra  (August 2018)

One of the most prominent community activists in Vero Beach has joined the leadership of the Gifford Youth Orchestra.  Alma Lee Loy, former business woman, chair of the County Commission and president of the Chamber of Commerce, was welcomed to her new relationship with the music organization during a recent visit to the Gifford Community Center.

The GYO is in its 15th year of teaching Indian River County children from 3 to 18 violin, piano and voice.  “We’ve learned from experience that music changes lives,” says GYO co-founder Dr. Crystal Bujol.  “One hundred percent of our students who have graduated high school are either now in college or have graduated from that, too.” 

It was statistics like this that convinced Miss Loy to become part of the GYO.  Her decision was applauded by Gifford residents who still remember her children’s clothing store, Alma Lee’s, in the Maher Building at 1425 20th Street in Vero Beach.

My partners and I were in business for 42 years, from 1955 to 1997,” she recalls. “We had many customers from the Gifford area.  I remember the Woolforks, the Rosses, two generations of Reuben Lane’s family and many others.”

Aundrea Perry, a longtime Gifford resident, remembers the store fondly.  “They had the best clothes,” she says.

The merchandise at Alma Lee’s was traditional and a little trendy.  The clothes were so well made they could be passed from one youngster in a family to another. 

GYO chairman John Young’s mother picked up the uniforms he was required to wear to school there. 

“I was 12-years-old and I could do nothing to wear them out,” he says.  I simply grew out of them.”

 Miss Loy smiles at the recollection.  “I always said my partner and I had a happy business,” she says.  “Customers came for special occasions like birthdays or a new baby in the family.  They would get special outfits for holidays.  Or they’d come just because grandmother was visiting so they’d bring the ‘grands’ shopping.”

Miss Loy’s decision to join the GYO is a continuation of her lifelong dedication to preserving Indian River County’s unique historical, natural and cultural assets.  She is a fervent supporter of McKee Botanical Gardens and she has had not only a county park but a bridge named in her honor. 

Dr. Bujol expressed appreciation for Miss Loy’s recognition.  “Our goal is to give our students not only tools that allow them to perform and appreciate great music.  We also teach them social and leadership skills that help them achieve success no matter what field they eventually end up in.” 

It’s a big task.  “Our job,” she says, “is to help them recognize the value of music in their lives and become well-rounded citizens.  But we also want them to enjoy life.  They’re still children, after all,” she says.



Luminaries - Monday, June 18, 2018

Atlantic Classical Orchestra supports Youth Orchestra

Cindy Roden

Special to Treasure Coast Newspapers USA TODAY NETWORK - FLORIDA

"Changing lives through music" is a theme held by both the Atlantic Classical Orchestra and the Gifford Youth Orchestra.

The Vero Friends of the Classical Orchestra recently presented the Youth Orchestra with $2, 400 to help with its mission.

For 15 years, the Youth Orchestra has been giving at-risk youth the tools to be on stage versus on the streets.

Through music education and opportunities to perform, these children are provided with a chance to feel good about themselves and believe that they can accomplish great things in their lives. Image: The Vero Friends of the Atlantic Classical Orchestra Brenda Allen and Jean Beckert, left, give Dr. Crystal Bujol, artistic director of the Gifford Youth Orchestra, a check for $2,400.

Dr. Crystal Bujol, artistic director of the Youth Orchestra, said, "One hundred precent of our high school graduates are either enrolled in, or have completed their education at the college of their choice." The Gifford Youth Orchestra has a focus on "More Violins, Less Violence." For some students, learning the violin can be difficult. The G YO has added piano and choir into its repertoire to make sure all students are feeling empowered by music education.

The gift from the Atlantic Classical Orchestra will help reduce the cost of piano lessons for the children.

"While piano lessons are offered to Gifford parents at a reduced rate, it can be difficult for them to make these payments every month. This donation will help to support those parents in need," said Bujol.

The Atlantic Classical Orchest! ra just completed its 28th season, bringing the beautiful sounds of the classical masters and works by some of today’s most celebrated emerging artists to life.

Through the volunteer groups of the Classical Orchestra and educational outreach programs, the orchestra is delighted to give back to community that has supported them for so many years.

To learn more about the Atlantic Classical Orchestra, visit www.Atlantic and to learn more about the Gifford Youth Orchestra, visit


November 10, 2017 - Luminaries



The Gifford Youth Orchestra’s inaugural "Getting to know the Stars of GYO" was wildly successful, as the "stars" were able to mingle with the VIPs and the VIPs were able to talk to the "stars," and even get tips on playing the violin.

All this mingling took place Oct. 27 at the Grand Harbor Beach Club on State Road A1A.

Some of the VIPs included Lawrence and Corrine Trapp, Indian River County Commissioner Joe Flescher and his wife, Rosemary, Oculina Bank CEO Chris Russell, and Roman and Joan Ortega-Cowan.

During the evening, the GYO "stars" would bring the VIPs to orchestra di rector D r. Crystal Bujol, who would talk about the orchestra, its programs and its expansion into choir and piano, all while Gretchen Cover played background music with her lyrical harp.

The Grand Harbor Beach Club chef also did a spectacular job.

On Nov. 4, the GYO held its 14th annual concert at the Gifford Community Center and played to a packed house.

Throughout the program, Bujol read biographies on the young musicians performing. All in all, there were 12 orchestra pieces, one piano solo, two choral pieces with one choral solo.

For more information on the the Gifford Youth Orchestra, Choir and Piano visit or on Facebook at


Gifford Youth Orchestra plays for community
May 15, 2017

Gifford Youth Orchestra 13th Anniversary Concert
TC Palm photos

Gifford Youth Orchestra plays at annual principals luncheon

December 23, 2016

Sounds of strings fills air at Gifford Community Center
November 14, 2016

Gifford Youth Orchestra "Making Better Tomorrows"
October 31, 2016

Gifford Youth Orchestra preparing for November concert
September 29, 2016








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                 Dr. Helen Lindquist Bonny's Bow Provides Scholarship for Gifford Youth Orchestra Students


Rare Bow to Provide Scholarship

For Gifford Youth Orchestra Students    

by Warren Obluck

GYO Board Communications Director  



Everybody knows a violin crafted by a master luthier, or maker of stringed instruments, can be worth a lot of money.  But most of us forget that the bow the violinist uses to play that violin can also be worth a pretty penny.

Vero Beach resident Bea Stoner made that clear in a recent donation to the Gifford Youth Orchestra.  Stoner’s mother was music therapy pioneer Helen Lindquist Bonny, a professional violinist and well-known academic, researcher and writer.

            When Bonny retired to Vero Beach in the early 2000s, she mentored many students in the GYO and became a well-loved figure in the organization.  It was to honor the memory of the association that Stoner presented the bow to the GYO’s creative director, Crystal Bujol.

            “We agreed that the bow should be sold to provide scholarships to several of our students,” said Bujol.  “It’s not only beautiful, it functions perfectly.  Its fittings are tortoise shell and silver and the wood is the finest perambuco.”

            Perambuco is an exotic and endangered wood from Brazil.  It is in great demand, since its resilience, density, strength and ability to hold a fixed curve make it the most -- some say the only -- viable material for bow makers.

            Bonny studied with the founder of music therapy, E. Thayer Gaston, at the University of Kansas.  After completing her PhD in the late 1960s, she began researching the effects of music on imagination. In 1973 she co-wrote with Louis Savary a book that is still studied today. It is entitled "Music and Your Mind: Listening with a New Consciousness"

Her method of guided imagery and music (GIM) is widely studied at American universities. Its approach to transformational therapy uses classical music to generate and move through inner experiences. The music serves as a catalyst and container for imagery that allows one to explore human experience.

“We were deeply blessed with Helen’s volunteer services,” said Bujol. I didn’t realize what a "crown jewel" had come to bless us until much later.  We would spend afternoons at her apartment, which she always kept filled with gardenias filling the room with fragrance as we enjoyed tea and conversation.” 


Sukesha Crosdale Receives the Last Violin Lesson from Dr. Bonny May 2010




Luke Pelt

Graduating High School May 2020

1st Student Scheduled to Receive

Tuition Assistance

From The Dr. Bonny Bow Scholarship Fund