Auditions begin this month for the Youth Chorus of Central Texas, a new program for students interested in growing as young musicians and singers.

The choir program is the brainchild of colleagues and friends Dr. Lynne Gackle, professor of ensembles at Baylor University, and Florence Scattergood, longtime Waco educator and choir director. Scattergood retired recently, although she still teaches music part time at Reicher Catholic High School.

The duo brings together two essential kinds of experience to the YCCT program. Gackle spent more than 20 years teaching in the Tampa, Fla., area, where she started a youth choir (Gulf Coast Youth Choirs) when she saw that music programs were falling by the wayside in local schools.

Scattergood’s 32 years of public school experience, which includes 10 years as the choir director at Waco High, paired with Gackle’s experience with Gulf Coast Youth Choirs was the perfect combination for a dream to be born when the two met four years ago.

“When I came to Waco something clicked in my mind that we need a (youth) choir here,” Gackle said. “What I envisioned is something similar to what we had in Florida.”

The two describe their relationship as a fated one. Almost instantly when they met, they began to dream about starting a youth chorus together.

“We started talking about doing something like this practically the first time we had lunch,” Scattergood said. “Circumstances have just now come to the time where it’s time to do that.”

Scattergood said the chorus is intended to fill a void in the community. There are few elementary schools in the community that have a choral group, she said, and fewer and fewer middle schools are offering it. Many students in neighboring school districts, especially the smaller ones, have no choral music at all.

“There’s a gap there of opportunity for students, so we have to fill that,” Scattergood said.

The decline of the arts in schools over time has resulted in fewer and fewer healthy music programs. Because the arts are not tested like other subjects, they tend to fall to the bottom of the totem pole as far as funding is concerned, they said.

The purpose of YCCT is to supplement a lack of programming in the schools, but not replace it.

“We don’t want to take the place of a choir in the school,” Scattergood said. “If a child is at a school where there is a choir, we want them to definitely continue that and be a part of this group as a supplement, it’s not to take the place of.”

The concern and reason the two are so passionate about supplementing the lack of arts in schools with YCCT is because the arts hit areas of development that other school programs do not.

“I think in our own spheres we have to be able to enumerate why music is important to every student,” Gackle said. “It’s not a fluff thing, it’s core to them as human beings.”

It’s similar to the way youth sports tend to build life skills and people skills in children; developing young musicians matures them in the same areas, she said.

“We want to build young musicians and give them skill sets,” Gackle said.

While the ultimate, big-vision goal is to have multiple youth choirs under the umbrella of YCCT, the starting point is to target children ages 9 to 12, or approximately third through seventh grade.

Scattergood said ultimately the group will probably take students as young as first grade.

“As far as previous music experience, they don’t really require any,” Gackle said. “However, in the audition process, this is for the child who is an interested student, can match pitch, and has basic aptitude, but is not necessarily achievement-oriented.

“In other words, they have the ability to hear pitch and match it; they have ability to clap back a rhythm, but they might not know how to read that rhythm — that’s our job.”

Scattergood added that because this is the first year for YCCT, it would build around whoever shows up for auditions.

“If we have 60 kids show up that we think are viable, and it falls 40 of them are little and 20 of them are older, then we’ll keep them together and then maybe 30 minutes of the practice I’d take the older kids for a while,” she said. “We’re going to open it up and see what happens, and then it will evolve.”

Scattergood and Gackle are passionate about seeing to it that every child in the area who wants to be involved with the choir has the opportunity.

“It’s community-based and kids come from all different walks of life, and that’s what we want,” Gackle said.

The chorus was recently awarded some grant money that will go toward things such as busing students to and from practices from various neighborhoods, helping with tuition costs, etc.

Scattergood said they are looking at tuition costing about $225 for the year, but payment-plan options and scholarships also will be available. The women said they never want finances to be a reason a child can’t particpate.

The bottom line to Gackle and Scattergood is that they see a need not only to preserve the arts in schools and in young people, but to see it and young people flourish as a result.

“Nobody said, ‘You need to do this,’ I just felt like there was a need,” Gackle said. “And I feel like with anything that we can do to get more students singing, more students involved in the arts, it strengthens the programs in the schools, and I think it makes the community a different place.”

Youth Chorus of Central Texas

What: A choral group for area children, currently targeting ages 9 to 12.

When: Auditions are 3 to 7 p.m. Aug. 29, 9 a.m. to noon Aug. 31 and 3 to 5 p.m. Sept. 10, all at Reicher Catholic High School, 2102 N. 23rd St. The audition process will test a student’s abilities. Individuals can set up auditions by appointment if they are unable to make a time slot. Once the audition process is finished, rehearsals will begin Sept. 16.

Rehearsals throughout the year will be 4 to 6 p.m. Mondays at Reicher Catholic High School.

Phone: Call Dr. Lynne Gackle at (254) 710-3654.