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Success no surprise for Dougherty County Youth Orchestra

Dougherty County Youth Orchestra claimed first place with a rating of excellent at a recent festival. / Mary Green

Alexander Reshetinchenko has been in Albany since 1999 and has brought more music to Southwest Georgia ever since.

Reshetinchenko, known to many as "Mr. Alexander," teaches music to about 75 orchestra students at Westover High School and Dougherty Comprehensive High School every day, and for two hours after school every Tuesday, he then leads around 40 of them, plus some local middle-school and home-schooled students, as maestro of the Dougherty County Youth Orchestra.

That time has been filled with two concerts each year and numerous festivals in between, including one most recently in Williamsburg, Virginia, where the orchestra competed in the Music in the Park festival at Busch Gardens.

"Playing those pieces for the whole entire year, you think you would master it by now, but man, so nervous," said violinist Christine Chung, a senior at Westover.

"The moment you hit the stage, it's just the lights in your eyes," Westover junior cellist Matthew Bennett added.

It turned out the spotlight was on the right group, as the Dougherty County Youth Orchestra claimed first place with a rating of excellent.

"The satisfaction of getting that first-place trophy — nothing in the world can compare to that feeling," Bennett said.

That feeling might not get old, but it's not exactly new either.

"The past five years I've been with Mr. Alexander, we've always won first place," Chung said.

"Yeah, we usually get first place like all the time," Bennett added.

The group is still practicing right up until the end of the school year, and their repertoire includes music from Elton John, Michael Jackson and Lady Gaga.

But when the students pick what they want to play, pops isn't popular.

"The kids love classical music," Reshetinchenko said. "They love it. And classical music, I think, changes them because they see the world in a different way."

"Classical music has more passion to it, and you can really feel yourself move with the music," Chung said.

That might come as a surprise, but not after the students describe what music means to them.

"What I love about the cello is, it just makes me so alive on the inside, hearing all the beautiful, melodious rhythms and harmonies it has to it," Bennett said.

"I'm kind of on the introvert side, but once you play the violin, you can speak through the violin, and the violin's a part of you," said Chung.

So the only thing less surprising than another festival victory is the passion that got the orchestra to that point.

"Sometimes, you cannot express yourself through normal language, but you can through music," Reshetinchenko said.

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