It was the movement of the music in seventh grade that won Jocelyn Sciortino-Shades’ heart.
She moved to Valley Junior High in Taylorsville the day before school started. The one open spot in her schedule was in orchestra.
“So the teacher had an old viola and she put me in the hallway, and I taught myself how to play,” she said.
It was during the first concert that she had her epiphany.
“I have never sat in the middle of so much glorious sound. It was a physical sensation to have that feeling of music wash around me,” she said. “I was not super good, I was the last chair viola, but just the sound washing over me. I was overwhelmed by it. I even get goosebumps thinking about it now.”
Sciortino-Shades fell in love with that feeling and physical sensation.
“An experience like that, everyone should have,” she said. “To be part of a group, something bigger than yourself. It left me speechless and addicted to music.”
Sciortino-Shades started the Tooele Valley Youth Symphony this year and is excited for its future.
She works with Cami Shaskin, who is the associate director. She is also a violinist with the Orchestra at Temple Square. Bryan and Julie Embley also work with the students and help with administrative tasks.
In music there are three types of groups. Band has brass and woodwinds, orchestra has string instruments and the symphony combines all three.
Sciortino-Shades wants to create a place for young musicians in the valley to learn more music and have a place to play.
“My favorite of all the groups is the symphony,” she said. “I talked to some friends and we said, ‘Let’s make it happen!’ so we just decided to start. We were not completely ready; we have been learning along the way.”
She had directed a youth symphony in graduate school but was not in charge of the administrative work; the university did that. Even with the group’s enthusiasm it took some time. She had to save up to pay for the things the symphony would need.
Sciortino-Shades is working hard to find another foothold for the arts in the valley.
“In 10 years the whole valley will be covered with homes,” she said. “But if we don’t put in place a culture of music, there won’t be one.”
The strongest and most exciting things in the area are sports, Sciortino-Shades said.
“We have a good art community and a good dance community,” she said. “But we have no venues for kids to have concerts — other than the high schools and that is cost prohibitive.”
Athletes get lots of vibrant support, she said.
“We just need to see the potential and convince people that this music culture is worth supporting,” she said. “We will be empty without music.”
Sciortino-Shades is not a Tooele native but says there is hope.
“I am quickly becoming one!” she said and laughed. “I love that it is not super crowded, that it is a beautiful valley. And yet we have all the access to the things of a big city.”
She enjoys the ability to go to the symphony in Salt Lake City, to attend Ballet West performances and enjoy other cultural events — yet come home to Tooele Valley.
“There are lots of arts and culture, and yet nature accessible — my favorite thing is to go hiking,” she said.
Sciortino-Shades also loves the ability to visit the canyons in the area. She recently climbed Deseret Peak and loved the views all around the area.
“It is a beautiful change to be working out here,” she said. Her family moved from Missouri to West Valley and then to Tooele.
Her eight children range in age from 10 to 19. Most are involved in the arts and two are in the symphony.
“We found a home in Stansbury I love,” she said. “I can see the lake; I can see the skyline. I am really touched by being able to look up at the stars and feel peace when I am out running or walking. The high desert is gorgeous.”
Though she thoroughly enjoys her job at Excelsior Academy, Sciortino-Shades sees a problem in the area for her students.
“As I see it, we don’t have enough good teachers moving here from Salt Lake,” she said. “There are just not a lot of private teachers here. It is hard to justify teaching here when there are so many students willing to pay in the areas they live in over there.”
She is trying to slowly persuade other teachers to come here. She cites Shaskin as an example.
“She has amazing talent and plays the violin like an angel,” she said. “She is a great help to the symphony.”
Sciortino-Shades said some parents have the time and money to drive their children to private music lessons in the Salt Lake area. But not everyone can afford that.
“Kids in Tooele don’t get that unless their parents can afford that, they are just not going to have that opportunity,” she said. “I hope we get more and more kids into music. There is incredible talent that we don’t know about. We just need more teachers to come.”
This is the Tooele Valley Youth Symphony’s first year. Some of the older students have been playing in school, but Sciortino-Shades also wants to find other students to join.
“I am rewriting some of the pieces to have balance with the instruments we have,” she said. “I would not mind having some more flutes, clarinets, oboe maybe, even a French horn.”
Kids come to rehearsals and are excited, she said. And she wants music students from all over the valley to get involved.
Sciortino-Shades realizes such things don’t happen quickly.
“It takes time to build a culture of this,” she said. “We have practice one night a week, so students may be sacrificing church activities or other things. I appreciate the sacrifice they are making.
“We have fun, kids look forward to rehearsals and get excited,” she added. “We see tons of potential. We want to start touring, maybe next year. My goal is to give these students this kind of experience.”