Among tapping feet and intermittent giggling, Steamboat Springs Chamber Orchestra Youth Ensemble coach Gary Foss lead one of the last clarinet quintet rehearsals before Saturday's performance.
"The hardest thing is keeping them thinking about music instead of hacky sack," Foss said about his youthful group of musicians.
This quintet has practiced an hour a week for 11 weeks, and it is one of the many student ensemble groups that will perform in the Youth Ensemble and Repertoire Festival, part of the Steamboat Springs Chamber Orchestra's new youth program.
Six coaches -- members of the Chamber Orchestra -- have been working with 39 students, ages 7 to 17. The students have been grouped into a variety of trios, quartets and quintets for the concert. Instruments that will be represented include violin, viola, flute, clarinet and piano.
For Foss, it is rewarding to see the students come together as a group to achieve more than they could individually.
"It's been more fun than I thought it was going to be," he said. "It's been a good experience all the way around."
No auditions were required for children to participate in the youth ensemble program, but the students had to be able to read musical notations and have at least two years of musical training.
"They had to have experience beforehand so we could hit the ground running," Foss said.
Separating the students into smaller performance groups has benefited them because they learn to use their ears more -- a talent each can build on, Foss said.
¤ Youth Ensemble and Repertoire Festival¤ 5:30 p.m. Saturday¤ Depot Art Center, 1003 13th St.¤ Free¤ 870-3069
"The idea was to get each student on a separate part to build their confidence. This way, they have more of a solo voice."
Many of the students didn't appear nervous about their first performance for the program.
"I'm only nervous when I'm alone in front of one person," Kelly Ernst said.