Youth orchestra program coming to Henry County

By Jason A. Smith
Times Correspondent

Music for Henry is currently screening applications for instructors interested in leading a new youth orchestra, as part of an after-school enrichment program.

Henry County Parks & Recreation will host Henry For Music/Henry Arts Alliance for the endeavor as part of an after-school enrichment program. The program is slated to kick off at the Fairview Recreation Center.

Jerry Hesselink is the founder and director of Music for Henry, which has provided more than 100 instruments to students in the Henry County Schools system since 2015. He said the orchestra program is being organized in connection with Henry County Parks & Recreation and the Henry Arts Alliance.

“We’re starting at Fairview Recreation Center because we’ve connected with Henry County Parks and Recreation,” said Hesselink. “We’re going to provide the instruments and teacher at no cost to the family. If they stay in the program for a period of time, they will own the instrument once we determine that they’re going to stay in the program and they’ve developed a level of ability to play.

Hesselink said Music for Henry enables the community to donate used musical instruments, so that children who are unable to buy or rent them can participate in a school band, orchestra or music class.

“We have now provided over 100 used instruments for children to get into the music programs at their school,” he said.

Hesselink said the orchestra will start with lessons one day a week, from 4:30-6:30 p.m., during school days, with the possibility of more as time goes on. Beginners will learn to play violin, viola and possibly cello as well.

Hesselink noted that several school clusters in the area do not have orchestra programs for students. He said Henry for Music is seeking business partners who are “interested in raising the social level in the community.”

“Why should the majority of children in our schools be held back from participation in orchestra programs while some are given the wider range of electives and resources in the Arts,” asked Hesselink.

The youth orchestra program is being launched with support from Speedway Children’s Charities, the Henry Arts Alliance and the Heritage Community Foundation. Hesselink noted that his program has also been active in Clayton County since September of 2015.

He emphasized that young people who learn skills in music often fare better in other areas of their lives as adults.

“Children who learn to play instruments become better at their academic studies and become better people,” said Hesselink. “I studied a lot of the info about music and how it affects social conduct. Music has a direct relationship to academics of children and their social well being as adults.”

Hesselink is hopeful that the youth orchestra will be up and running in Henry by the beginning of the 2018-19 school year, if not sooner.

“If we have the teacher and students, we could start a little bit before the [current] school year ends,” said Hesselink. “We’re trying to recruit while school is still in session.”

Space for the orchestra lessons is limited, and participation will be on a “first come, first served” basis. For more information, e-mail To enroll, call 770-342-9045.