The 63 members of the Maryland Youth Symphony Orchestra are packing their horns, bows and sheet music for a 12-day trip to Taiwan as part of a celebration of a 40-year-old cultural agreement between that country and the United States.

The orchestra, which includes 10 youths whose families came from Taiwan, leaves tomorrow. The group was invited by the Taiwanian government to present three concerts after orchestra leaders proposed the tour.

The Taiwanian government is paying all expenses for the trip, except air fare, which costs about $900 per person, according to Margaret Keating, president of the orchestra.

To raise travel money, the musicians sold poinsettias during the Christmas season and candy. The remaining money came from parents, the musicians and a $1,500 grant from Howard Arts United, a Howard County arts support group.

The group also will take a sightseeing trip to Hong Kong.

The 23-year-old orchestra is composed of musicians ages 9 to 25, mostly from Howard and Baltimore counties, who are selected through auditions. The group performs about five concerts a year around the state.

Most of the young musicians are excited, but seem nervous about being ambassadors for Maryland.

"I don't know what I'll tell {the Taiwanians} about Maryland. That it's boring, I guess. But to them, their country is probably pretty boring, too," said Rebecca Paulson, 14, of Columbia, who plays the clarinet.

The orchestra, which usually meets every Saturday for about four hours, has been putting in extra practice sessions for the trip.

"It makes you practice harder because you want them to have a good impression of you," said Karen Rezai, a 16-year-old cellist from Catonsville.

Rezai said she is looking forward to hearing the different types of music in Taiwan.

"We're playing a Taiwanese piece and already I can tell it is a different style of music. It's a lot calmer and has offbeat rhythms," she said.

The orchestra will play a variety of pieces, including "La Forea Del Destino" by Verdi and "The Sound of Music," by Rodgers and Hammerstein.

It will also perform a Formosan suite written and conducted by Minteng Chen, a Taiwanian composer from Howard County.

Several parents with Taiwanian backgrounds are going along as chaperones and translaters.

Her-Huy Hsiao, whose son James, 10, plays violin in the orchestra, is looking forward to showing the place where she grew up to James and his brother Joey, 11, who will accompany the group with his mother.

"I would like my kids to have a concept of where their parents came from," Hsiao said.

In a letter to Taiwan's minister of education, Gov. William Donald Schaefer said he was pleased about the invitation.

"What a marvelous opportunity for the Taiwanese-American students to be able to visit the motherland of their ancestors," Schaefer wrote. "I'm sure this cultural exchange will create a greater understanding and appreciation between our people."