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GSO Spotlight: Whitney Tinley

Whitney Tinley is the director of the Georgia Youth Symphony Orchestra’s Harmonia and Concertino ensembles and Orchestra Director at Trickum Middle School  in Gwinnett County. Read why she’s committed to educating young musicians, what makes GYSO special, and what mountain climbing and music have in common. 

Q: Tell me about your journey to becoming a music educator and a bassist? 

WT: So the bass…I was in 3rd grade and my parents took me to the mall because the local high school jazz band was playing there. For some reason, I just got stuck on the bass! By the time I was in 5th grade and we got to choose instruments, I was still stuck. So that’s what I chose and just started playing.

By High School, I kind of knew I wanted to be a teacher. By then I had started really getting into the bass with All State orchestra and other youth orchestras and I knew…I’m either going to be a performer or a teacher. I come from a family of teachers, a really long line of educators, so that’s what I settled on. 

I’ve been teaching middle school orchestra for 23 years and I love it.

Q: What’s your favorite aspect of teaching young people in general, and specifically the students in GYSO?

WT: Kids can learn to play the instrument, but as a director, I get to give them the gift of making music as an ensemble. Just because you know how to play, whether you’re a beginner or very advanced, it doesn’t mean you know how to play in a group. So fostering that love for ensemble. In GYSO, some of the players are too young when they start to play in a school group.

Giving them that opportunity at a young age to play in an ensemble is really cool. I love to see them watch the music come together.

Q: How does GYSO complement the music education they get in school and private lessons?

WT: One of the issues I see with kids who only take private lessons, is that they don’t know how to follow in an ensemble. They’re used to running the show! For kids who take private lessons, GYSO gives them the opportunity to develop a different kind of musicianship. For students who are getting ensemble experience in school, GYSO just exposes them to generally a little more advanced music and instruction. The more ensembles you’re in, the better.

Q: What do you wish everyone knew about GYSO?

WT: GYSO really has a place for everyone…from your talented 3rd grader to your very advanced high schooler. I don’t think there are many groups that do that…provide EVERY kid an opportunity to make music in an ensemble. I wish there was a GYSO in every community.

Q: I hear you have a pretty interesting hobby. Tell me about mountain climbing. 

WT: Yeah! I travel the world climbing mountains. I’ve climbed in South America, Europe and of course America. Kilimanjaro and the Matterhorn. I’ve been climbing since I was 27…that’s when I first climbed Kilimanjaro. Now I spend every summer just going somewhere and putting on my boots and crampons and my ice axe and climbing mountains. 

Q: Do music and mountain climbing have anything in common?

WT: That’s a good question! I’m thinking about my journey with both of these things and I think what they have in common is passion. I’m an extremely passionate person. On a summit day, you just have to have a drive and a passion to do it. With my ensembles, you have to have passion to rehearse and to push and really drive yourself to make music. And for me, as a teacher, I have to supply a lot of the passion. With young musicians who don’t have a lot of life experience, you kind of have to push the passion into them. Both just really involve dedication, passion, and work ethic.

Q: If you were talking to someone about GSO and GYSO, what would you want them to know?

WT: It’s an organization being led by talented musician educators that really has a home for cultivating ALL musicians.

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