The Hershey Symphony Festival Strings is an 80-member string orchestra comprised of middle school students living in the greater Harrisburg/Hershey areas. The ensemble gathers for a few rehearsals, culminating with a concert performance.
Membership in the orchestra is open to all area string players in grades six through nine upon the recommendation of school or private music teachers. All students are accepted without audition. All students must be members of their school orchestra, although Festival Strings also services many students in home school, or schools without string programs. High school students who are graduates of the program may return to serve as rehearsal assistants, gaining valuable mentoring experience.
Since the orchestra’s inception, Festival Strings has been selected through audition to perform four times for the Pennsylvania Music Educators Conference and four times for the Eastern Division Music Educators National Conference. In 2004, Festival Strings made their first appearance at the MENC National Conference in Minneapolis, and performed again for them in April of 2006 in Salt Lake City. Festival Strings performed for the prestigious Midwest Clinic in Chicago in December of 2006. In the spring of 2008 the orchestra was in Albuquerque for the American String Teachers Association national convention. The orchestra has also performed for the MENC Eastern Division, and for the state Pennsylvania Music Educators Association. In the Spring of 2017, the youth orchestra made its debut at Lincoln Center, New York.
Under the direction of Dr. Sandra Dackow since its formation, Festival Strings is recognized for setting a national standard for performance excellence and is unique in its scope and offerings.