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Toledo Symphony Youth Orchestra


The youngest of six siblings, Armond Wimberly was into video games and cartoons. Then he discovered the violin at age 12.

Armond Wimberly

Armond Wimberly

Two years later he was playing with the Toledo Symphony Youth Orchestra.

“Once I was exposed to the youth orchestra, my eyes opened up to a whole different world,” he said. Armond realized that music could be more than “just a hobby” and began studying composition in addition to piano, violin and viola.

Then he decided to write an arrangement of songs by English pop artist Adele for a full symphonic orchestra. Until then he had only written music for strings. It took him about five months to compose the five-minute work.

What happened next amazed him.

The professional Toledo Symphony Orchestra performed his Adele medley – and he was invited to conduct the premiere.

“I never expected the Toledo Symphony Orchestra to play it. That was a big surprise. Conducting them was the highlight of my life. Not many 15-year-olds can say they’ve conducted a professional orchestra.”

“I Used Music to Escape My Troubles”

Now a senior in high school, Armond plans to pursue music as a career, aspiring to double major in music education and composition.

“I didn’t come from the best background – so I used music to escape my troubles. I want to influence others in my position to use music as their escape.”

The Lovell Foundation has long supported the TSO’s youth programs that serve disadvantaged inner-city youth in Toledo. Lura Lovell was very impressed with their work. The foundation has awarded a total of $175,000 in grants – for the youth orchestras, young people’s concerts, the music in the schools program, music lessons for low-income students and other activities. The TSO also operates a school of music for ages 3 to 17, providing Suzuki-style instruction.

Armond is more than 180 students involved in the youth orchestras program, which dates back 60 years, includes three orchestra levels and brings together talented young musicians from northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan.

Armond’s youth orchestra director is Kenneth Thompson, who said, “In many ways Armond embodies the spirit of what we as an organization try to achieve for talented young people. He has diverse interests and has been able to experience performing, composing and arranging through the TSYO program.”

Reaching Out To Other Teens

He was introduced to the youth orchestra through his middle school music teacher Wasim Hawary, who said, “I feel it is very important to expose young musicians to the world-class talents of the TSO – to offer them a practical perspective of what life can be like should they choose music as a career.”

He added, “Armond is the type of student that every teacher looks forward to working with. He is extremely motivated, a very hard worker, and is always eager to find opportunities to write, arrange and perform music.”

Armond said, “Coming from the background that I came from – not having as much as everyone else – has driven me to find something that motivates me in life. I like to challenge myself and do things ordinary people wouldn’t think of doing.”

His goal is to be a role model for other kids, inspiring them to the best they can be and encouraging them not to limit themselves. On school days after his classes are over, he assists the middle school orchestra. On weekends, he teaches piano.

Beyond his consuming passion for music, Armond plays soccer, participates in student government, is a member of the National Honor Society and currently is the long jump champion in the Toledo City Athletic League.

“Our clients were thrilled with the tickets. It enabled them to bring their children to an event that they otherwise could never have afforded. They were excited to have quality time with their children and found the event enriching for not only their children, but also for themselves. We appreciate the generosity of the symphony in providing this opportunity.”

– Cindy Pisano, CEO, Family and Child Abuse Prevention Center, Toledo

“Dear Toledo Symphony Orchestra – Thank you for putting on the show. I really liked it. My favorite instruments were the trumpet, xylophone and the cymbals. My favorite song was the last one. You are very good at conducting. Do you like cheese burgers?”

– Your #1 Fan, Ava, Third Grade, Monac Elementary School