The youthful spirit of Pepsi Pops is a tradition and a mainstay

MYSO at Pepsi Pops

Pepsi Pops, on May 10 at Old Trace Park on the Barnett Reservoir, delivers its usual infectious mix of marvelous melodies by the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra and a charming outdoor setting to enjoy them.

This year, as the captivating tradition reaches its 43rd year, the concert also brings a prime chance to recognize the 75th season of the Mississippi Youth Symphony Orchestra – MSO’s educational arm and a vital stake in our community’s music for the future.

MYSO will join Pepsi Pops at the park as part of the pre-concert entertainment, starting at 5:45 p.m., as picnickers begin arriving and music lovers find prime spots to enjoy the surroundings and the symphony.

David Keary & Friends will perform at 6:30 p.m. and MSO strikes up at 7:30 p.m. with a thrilling mix of frontier-focused fun (Cowboys, Oklahoma, Rodeo and Apollo 13 selections) in the first half and engaging pop faves (“This Guy’s in Love with You” and more) plus sci-fi excitement (Star Trek and Star Wars) after intermission. Fireworks bring the evening to a crescendo as patriotic tunes swell the spirit and leave the crowd humming all the way home.

The Mississippi Youth Symphony Orchestra’s presence at Pepsi Pops not only brings a fresh flavor to the event, but also a winning picture of the possibilities for local youth. MYSO’s youngest musician is just four years old.

Pepsi Pops graphic with smiling watermelon and spring landscape backgroundAbout forty strong this season with an eye toward growth, its talented young musicians come from public, private, and home schools across the state, but primarily from Hinds, Madison, and Rankin counties. Woodwind and brass ensembles have now joined the program’s string orchestra core. MYSO’s three divisions by skill level help young musicians blossom as they grow into their own and learn more advanced techniques as they progress.

“First of all, the kids are very excited to be able to play that big of a venue,” MYSO Director Alina Shook said. Their usual schedule includes a formal concert in the fall and in the spring, and a local tour each spring that hits a variety of venues in a single day. “This is a chance to share their repertoire, including Mozart’s The Magic Flute and ‘Amadeus for Strings and Winds’ from his Symphony No. 25, plus modern selections such as the themes from G-Force and Pirates of the Caribbean.

“To share the stage with MSO, with professional musicians, just gives us a sense of support,” Shook said. And speaking of support, consider this: “If you don’t have a kids orchestra, even the adult orchestra will go away, if you don’t keep it alive,” she pointed out. Fundraising is always key for arts organizations and MYSO will have T-shirts celebrating their 75th year on sale (including some adult sizes), at Pepsi Pops.

MYSO fills a niche, particularly for young string musicians. Woodwinds and brass players often have the school band, but orchestra programs are rare in schools beyond a certain grade. “There’s no place for those students to go, except to MYSO, for strings once they reach a certain level, unfortunately. … You can’t march with a cello, right?”

MYSO is about much more than the music. Involvement fosters creativity, discipline, and cognitive development. It empowers kids with life skills from confidence building and teamwork to personal responsibility and connections across diverse backgrounds and communities.

Shook called up Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s quote, “Music is the universal language of mankind.” “It brings us together as a community, it brings us together as humans,” she said. “It just brings us together, wherever we’re from. Whatever our background is, we can come together around music.”

MYSO’s presence is a perfect fit for Pepsi Pops. The event’s family appeal is second to none. Little kids can’t help but dance in front of the stage, caught up in the music. Fast friends take to the playground before diving into family picnics. Young couples flirt with breezy charm. Parents and grandparents sit back, tap their toes, and soak up the blissful sounds and sights of boats bobbing on the water and musicians making magic — an all-ages endeavor from scene to stage.