ROCHESTER, Minn. - The area will likely see some snow on Tuesday and if you're wanting to get some yard work done before winter is here for good, kids in Rochester will actually do it for you.
Southeastern Minnesota Youth Orchestras, or SEMYO, is a non-profit that's dedicated to the artistic and personal development of those young musicians. About 30 students from the organization have gone around Rochester to rake up leaves, lay down mulch and do some planting all to bring in money for the non-profit. They've had to get creative with how to continue bringing in money since majority of the fundraisers have been canceled. The program director, Corey Henke, said the community has been supportive by offering space to rehearse and make special masks for the musicians, so this is their way of giving back. "When the kids come to the home and help with cleaning up leaves and planting annuals and whatever they need help with. The students were really enthusiastic about it and signed up for it," explained Henke. "I think they just enjoy getting outside and spending time with friends and the homeowners were really appreciative as well."
Henke said they decided to go ahead and hold in-person rehearsals this fall to help the students feel some sort of normalcy since school is already different. They usually have 4 orchestras, but they've divided it into 11 smaller ensembles. The students are grateful to be with each other again, no matter how it may look. "It's definitely a challenge, it's not the same," explained Henke. "They can't hug their friends and it's a little more challenging because they're spaced out. but I think they really appreciate it. A lot of our parents have said, 'this is the only in-person activity our child is participating in.'"
This Friday is the annual It's Instrumental Gala and it'll be virtual this year, of course. They have a goal to raise $4,000 by then and they're about 30% there. The gala will include performances by the young musicians and a silent auction, with the fall yard clean-up being an option you can win.