Carson Bohner and Alex Small, at 15 and 16 respectively, are the youngest members of the Pine Bluff Symphony Orchestra.
The PBSO begins its 27th season at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Pine Bluff Convention Center with Bohner and Small beginning their second season with the local institution.
Both young men play the violin and both are also members of the Arkansas Symphony Youth Orchestra in Little Rock.
Bohner, a sophomore at White Hall High School, said he took up the violin at the age of 7.
“I’ve been playing for eight years,” Bohner said. “In order to get into the elementary school in Florida that I wanted to attend I had to audition by playing some kind of musical instrument. I chose the violin.”
Bohner said he was able to audition for a spot with the PBSO after symphony executive director Bill Fox heard him play in a YouTube video.
“We go to the same church and my dad told Mr. Fox that I played the violin,” Bohner said. “He ended up calling me in for an audition with [PBSO conductor] Charles Jones Evans and he offered me a spot.”
When asked what he enjoys most about playing the violin, Bohner had a ready answer.
“Performing; every aspect of the performance,” Bohner said. “That and getting paid.”
Bohner said the classical music genre has a calming effect on him.
“I also like that it is old music,” Bohner said. “It’s been perfected over time. My favorite composer is [Pyotr Ilyich] Tchaikovsky because [his music] is energetic, fun to play and fun to hear.”
Bohner said he follows a disciplined daily practice schedule that includes one hour in the morning and one to two hours in the afternoon.
“I wake up an hour early every day to practice before school,” Bohner said.
Bohner said he enjoys being a part of the PBSO because in it he has found kindred spirits.
“At school they appreciate music but they don’t know what it feels like to perform,” Bohner said. “If you are in a group like the symphony where everyone knows what it’s like and loves the music it’s a lot more fun.”
While Bohner loves his music, he is thinking of the medical field as a career choice.
“I’d like to go to medical school and use my violin playing as a scholarship opportunity,” Bohner said. “If nothing else I will have the violin as a way to decompress.”
Bohner said he has amassed violins of different sizes in the eight years he has been playing.
“I have a wall of violins,” he said. “When I first started I played a teeny tiny violin, then moved to a one-quarter scale, then a one-half scale and finally I made it to a full-size violin. Most people look into getting a higher-end instrument for their full-size violin because it’s like the big daddy instrument.”