On Saturday, April 7, 2018 student musicians in the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s OrchKids program performed at Library of Congress’ Coolidge Auditorium as a part of a collaboration with the Library.
Chief Librarian Carla Hayden, the first woman and first African American to lead the Library of Congress, kicked off the afternoon with a heartfelt expression of gratitude for the Baltimore Symphony’s commitment to the arts in Baltimore, stating that the OrchKids program is a bright light in a city that’s been troubled in the not-so-distant past. Before her post at the Library of Congress, where she was appointed by President Obama in February 2016, Hayden was the CEO of the Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Free Library.
OrchKids is an after-school music program is designed to create social change and to nurture promising young orchestral musicians in the Baltimore City neighborhoods. A leader in El Sistema USA, today the program works in seven public schools in Baltimore City, serving over 1200 students from pre-K to 11th grade.
The OrchKids rocked the Library to a very appreciative house including several surprised, and delighted, families that came in to rest their legs from touring the building. Bucket drummers and horns kicked off the program with Brian Precthl’s “Keep Up,” and an arrangement of “We Got the Fire” created by the students. Their set was lively and fun and included lots of audience participation!
After a brief pause, the audience was treated to music from the string ensembles. First up was the OrchKids’ Lockerman-Bundy Chamber Strings, made up of six members who performed a lovely rendition of Henry Purcell’s Rondo from “The Fairy-Queen” as well as Handel’s March from “Flavio.” Afterward, the OrchKids String Ensemble, a larger group, performed two works by Richard Meyer, “Wisteria Waltz” and “Figs Frolic” from “A Fiddler’s Fancy.”
The final number, “Untitled Composition,” was the reason for this collaboration, it was an original composition by OrchKids in honor of Leonard Bernstein’s centenary. A member of the program explained how the students culled the Bernstein archives in January 2018 to learn more about the composer’s work before setting off on writing their own collective composition. They were able to incorporate Bernstein’s symphonic, percussive, and musical theatre style into their own unique voice.
One can only imagine if Leonard Bernstein were alive today he’d be particularly proud of these kids and impressed with their dedication to music.
To learn more about the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s OrchKids go online.