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To be the best, the best have to practice, push themselves and not expect instant results.

Charles County Youth Orchestra and Encore Strings will hold a concert at 3 p.m. Dec. 16 at Colonial Charles clubhouse, McDaniel Road, Waldorf. To set up an audition or for more information, call 301-374-6845 or email

“It takes discipline, dedication and [there is] delayed gratification,” said Anne Marie Patterson, director of the Charles County Youth Orchestra and Encore Strings, a group for the best young musicians in the county. “It takes a long time to achieve a goal. You build and build and build over the years.”

The fully symphonic orchestra is open to youth musicians who play wind, percussion, brass and string instruments, and the focus of Encore Strings is on younger players usually middle schoolers who play violins, violas and cellos, and it serves as preparation for membership in the orchestra.

The orchestra has about 25 musicians, and the strings group has about 21.

Patterson would like to see membership increase.

“Youth orchestras are kind of a big deal in other areas,” she said. “If a child is in band, they are already on the path to doing well in life.”

Children who choose to focus on music, mastering an instrument, find they are goal-oriented, Patterson explained.

“It’s something they can be proud of, something they can hook into,” she said. “Studies have shown that musicians are smart. … Your music students are almost always honor students. … Musicians’ brains are different.”

The local youth orchestra and strings groups meet once a week to practice for an hour and a half.

The orchestra gets together on Tuesday evenings at Westlake High School; the strings meet up Saturday mornings at John Hanson Middle School.

It’s a busy time of preparing for the Dec. 16 holiday concert.

Patterson directs Encore Strings members on “Rock the Bells.”

Kieran Schauf, 14, is the lone cello player at the moment and tentatively starts off the piece.

“Really lay into it,” Patterson directed. “James Bond-style. … Let’s go again.”

When Kieran regroups, the song starts on more level footing, laying the groundwork for the violins and violas to dance over.

“I’ve always just liked how it sounds,” said Gabby Dickerson, 12, of the violin, an instrument she has been playing since fifth grade, when students can choose to be in band.

“That was my chance, and I took it,” Gabby said.

She joined Encore Strings to expand her skills and get a competitive push from other good players.

“I wanted more opportunities to play. I build up techniques, and we help each other,” she said of her fellow strings players.

Gabby was named to all-county and tri-county band, and she credits some of her skill to her participation in Encore Strings.

“If you want to go to tri-county, this will give you a boost,” she said.

During practice, Patterson, a violin player, threw out words of wisdom.

During “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” she had to slow down the pace of some of the musicians.

“Is this a slow or fast piece?” she asked.

“Slow,” most students mumbled back.

“It’s a sign of a mature musician if you don’t rush. Wallow in the beautiful, luscious sounds,” laughed Patterson at the flowery piece of advice. “Give every note its moment in the sun.”

“Notes gets jealous of each other,” viola player Sarah Paris, 13, piped up.

“They do,” Patterson agreed. “All of them want to be beautiful.”

The beautiful music isn’t restricted to practice or concert.

Michilli Hardy said her daughter, Christian, 13, a violinist, plays at home with her brother joining in on piano.

“It’s a calming thing,” said Hardy, who has two other young children. “It’s a blessing to us as we listen.”