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ESYO provides music in the mall to raise money

Every year, when the Empire State Youth Orchestra holds its Playathon on the lower level at Crossgates Mall, a crowd gathers on the second floor and drops money down.

They like to aim for the bell of the tuba, ESYO Development/Marketing Specialist Sara Torrey said.

The falling money is a tradition ESYO gladly encourages (although the emcee makes sure to tell people they shouldn't toss coins from the upper level). Raising money is one of the chief aims of the Playathon, along with raising the orchestra's profile.

Billed as an ESYO "sampler," this year's Playathon run from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Crossgates on Saturday, Feb. 6. It will feature all 11 ESYO ensembles as well as students in ESYO's City Strings and City Brass Instrument Training Programs.

"It is absolutely a wonderful opportunity where someone can sit and watch eight hours of live music," Torrey said.

The students playing that music come from all over the Capital District and beyond. Torrey said the orchestra has counted musicians from Vermont and Massachusetts among its ranks. ESYO is not actually an orchestra itself " it's an umbrella organization made up of two symphonic orchestras, a wind orchestra, a string ensemble, three percussion ensembles and two jazz ensembles. More than 300 students perform in the groups.

To belong, students have to pay tuition, although Torrey stressed that no one is turned away for an inability to pay. To that end, ESYO does a lot of fundraising to pay for scholarships and tuition assistance.

There are two ways the Playathon raises money. The first is donations " in addition to the money that people pass down to the musicians, people stop and give as they are walking by. ESYO also sells raffle tickets for a number of prizes both in the weeks leading up to the Playathon and at the mall. Items up for grabs this year include Prizes include tickets to see the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, handmade quilts, tickets to Capital Repertory Theater and a car wash package from Hoffman's Car Wash.

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