A Jewel Shining Brightly for Music Lovers Everywhere

A Jewel Shining Brightly for Music Lovers Everywhere
by Jennifer LB Leese

The Maryland Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1982 by a small group of Washington County civic leaders and music lovers. From its beginnings through the conclusion of its sixteenth season in 1997-1998, artistic leadership was provided by internationally acclaimed horn virtuoso Barry Tuckwell. Elizabeth Schulze, former Associate Conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra, became Music Director of the MSO in the 1999-2000 season.
"The [the founders] were people who loved music and wanted to see music programs grow," says Mary Anne Ellifritz, director of marketing & public relations for The Maryland Symphony Orchestra.
In fact, "Many founding members are still on board," says Mary Anne.
From four classical concerts in its first season, programming has grown to include MSO Pops! Concert, two Holiday Concerts, a Family Concert, a free "Salute to Independence" Concert at Antietam National Battlefield, three Citi(r) Youth Concerts for 4th grade students, a series of Kinder Konzerts for preschool and kindergarten children, and concerts in Frostburg and Frederick. Orchestra members also give numerous ensemble performances for Washington County elementary and middle school students as part of the MSO Education Outreach program, in addition to performing for residents of area hospitals and retirement centers.
Since its founding, the Orchestra's annual audience has grown from 4,500 to 60,000. Despite its growth, the Maryland Symphony Orchestra has never deviated from its mission "to provide musical performances and programs that educate and entertain while enhancing the cultural environment of Western Maryland and the surrounding region." It has done that and more.
Music Education in Our Schools
The Maryland Symphony Orchestra is dedicated to supporting arts education in our region. Each year, educational outreach provided by Orchestra musicians, Guild members, and employees, reaches over 15,000 students in the quad-state region. With music in our schools, children can learn about the many different musical instruments available to them.
"Children like music," said Mary Anne.
"They like to feel the beats and get excited about the sounds," concurs Sharon Buck-Ahrens, orchestra manager.
The MSO Educational Outreach Program is a huge success. "The Board of Education has been working really hard at bringing orchestral and instrumental programs into elementary schools," said Sharon. "Our job is to supplement in the educational programs that children receive through their curriculum at the school."
BrassWorks brings MSO Brass Quintet performances to Washington County children in grades five through eight. Thirteen schools are chosen every year to receive the Brass Quintet performance, varying each year for each program.
The MSO String Quartet introduces elementary school students--grades one through three--to stringed instruments with StringSounds. "We feel that the students really need to hear the strings because they don't get a lot of string instruction at that age," says Sharon.
WoodWind Quintet performs for children in grades four and five through WoodWorks, the newest addition to the Ensembles in school programs.
For high school students there is Student Musician of the Month and a Music Scholarship Fund which was created in 2002 with donations in loving memory of former MSO President Bennett S. Rubin. This fund was developed to enhance and / or broaden the musical experiences of qualified students in grades nine through twelve. The scholarship is awarded each year on May 15 and August 15 and is based on merit and / or need, and may be used to defray the cost of music instruction, music camp programs, and instrumental repair. Students can apply twice a year.
These educational performances are part of the Maryland Symphony Orchestra educational outreach program. Other programs include:
"Music inspires and informs. We want to make sure the Maryland Symphony Orchestra continues to play and essential role in shaping and expanding the minds of our young people. Nothing is more important than the work we do to educate the next generation..." --Elizabeth Schulze, music director and conductor of MSO.
Citi Youth Concerts at the Maryland Theatre for area fourth grade teachers and students from public, private and home-schools. After learning about the music, composers, orchestra and concert etiquette, students attend a free concert designed especially for them. "Teachers receive booklets for kids beforehand," says Sharon Buck-Ahrens. "Elizabeth Schulze [music director and conductor of MSO] talks to the kids and tells them about what they are hearing while searching for specific sounds."
"It's a lot of fun. We fill every seat!" says Mary Anne Ellifritz. "Kids are very receptive."
Kinder Konzerts was designed for preschool-aged children. These free concerts introduce the littlest listeners to the wonder of orchestral music and the instruments and musicians that bring the music to life. Performances are at 9:00AM and again at 10:30AM with varying locations. Visit MSO's website for upcoming programs.
MSO Guild's Symphony Saturdays for grades one through three where children may participate in a series of four Saturday educational programs that introduce them to brass, woodwind, string, and percussion instruments. This popular program concludes with participants and parents attending a Symphony concert at the Maryland Theatre. "It's an instrument petting zoo," says Sharon. "It's a way to get children involved and interested." Registration forms are distributed through public, private, and home schools.
Family Concerts occurs once a year for families with young children. This year's performance is "Heroes and Heroines" with very special guest, Bob the Vid Tech on March 4, 2006 at 5:00PM at the Maryland Theatre. Join the MSO for a performance of enchanting musical stories, featuring the life-sized puppets of Das Puppenspeil in Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf", followed by the world premier of "Molly Pitcher" by Maryland's own Robert Lichtenberger. Tickets are on sale now!
Student Musicians' Evenings
Students in middle, high school and college have an open invitation to selected Maryland Symphony Orchestra dress rehearsals, where they join Music Director Elizabeth Schulze and guest soloists for an inside preview of the weekend's performance. Student Musicians' Evenings are free, and begin at 7:00PM at the Maryland Theatre. For more information call MSO at the "general" contact number below.
"On the eve of its 25th anniversary season, the Maryland Symphony Orchestra is widely recognized as one of Washington County's most valuable assets."
Board of Education Instrument Bank
There are many students in Washington County that would like to be a part of an instrumental music program, but cannot due to financial restrictions. There are also students who not only would benefit from being a part of such a program, but are in need of this creative outlet.
"Our goal is to collect donated instruments from the community to be used in the local schools."
Instruments needed include woodwinds such as flutes, sax, and clarinets; brass such as trumpet, trombone and tubas; string such as violin and cello; as well as percussion, guitars, and keyboards.
If you're interested in donating, drop the instrument off at MSO Concerts or at the MSO Box office on South Potomac Street, at local schools (office area), or at the Washington Board of Education on Commonwealth Avenue. Information about the instrument is taken, and a thank you note is sent and can be used for tax purposes.
"Classical, rock...any kind of music is good for the kids," says Mary Anne. "Music helps children in all aspects of studies."
"The importance of music is its power to transcend time, emotion, culture, and language as we connect with others. Like food and water, music has nourished man for generations--often bringing tears to our eyes."
To speak with Mary Anne Ellifritz, director of marketing & public relations for The Maryland Symphony Orchestra, call 301-797-4000 or email mellifritz@marylandsymphony.org.
To speak with Sharon Buck-Ahrens, orchestra manager, call 301-797-4000 or email sbuck-ahrens@marylandsymphony.org.
For general inquiries call 301-797-4000 or email info@marylandsymphony.org.
MSO Music Scholarship Fund: Students or instructors may obtain applications at the MSO office or at www.marylandsymphony.org or by calling 301-797-1000.
The Maryland Symphony is located at 13 South Potomac Street, Hagerstown. Visit www.marylandsymphony.org for more information.