The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) in partnership with the Montgomery County Public Schools announces OrchLab, a music-in-schools program for elementary, middle and high school students in Montgomery County. OrchLab was created to enrich the instrumental music program in schools within the MCPS system that have the greatest need, as well as to provide professional development opportunities for MCPS music instructors. For the 2012-2013 academic year, OrchLab will be piloted in 23 of the schools located in the Downcounty and Northeast Consortia of the MCPS System.
To launch the program, student musicians from the A. Mario Loiederman Middle and Wheaton High Schools had the unique experience of sitting onstage adjacent to their instrumental counterparts for the BSO’s rehearsal of Dvorak’s Symphony No. 8 under the direction of Maestra Alsop on November 13, 2012 at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. In advance of this session, the BSO Library provided parts and scores to the students for study.
OrchLab is an outgrowth of BSO on the Go, the Orchestra’s education outreach program that has provided more than 12,000 students with classroom instruction and performances from BSO musicians since that program’s start five years ago. The new OrchLab program will continue to encompass interactive classroom visits to elementary schools by BSO musicians. New, however, will be OrchLab’s enhanced service to middle and high school music students, with particular focus on reaching Montgomery County’s underprivileged students. Instrumental ensembles from MCPS’ middle and high schools can now benefit from up to three mentorship visits from BSO musicians. Further, participating middle and high school musicians will have the opportunity to attend one BSO concert at The Music Center at Strathmore.
OrchLab will also provide professional development opportunities for MCPS instrumental music teachers in forums featuring BSO musicians. In the pilot year, OrchLab intends to conduct a daylong seminar featuring student ensembles from cluster schools in sessions that will be mentored by BSO musicians, with topics that range from breathing techniques to how to mentor student concertmasters.
“The BSO seeks to not only serve Montgomery County with excellent performances at The Music Center at Strathmore, but also create meaningful impact in the lives of a new generation of music-lovers,” said BSO Vice President of Education Carol Bogash. “OrchLab does exactly that: we are coming alongside MCPS’ existing programs to further enrich the musical training of some of that county’s neediest youth.”
In collaboration with the BSO’s education team, BSO Community Liaison Dick Spero was the key staff member who oversaw BSO on the Go and he will also coordinate this new initiative. He explains, “OrchLab is a great example of the kind of outreach an orchestra should be doing in the 21st century: giving back to its community by nurturing the musical creativity of the next generation.”
To develop the parameters of the initial OrchLab pilot, the BSO worked with the MCPS fine arts curriculum team and Betsy Brown, Director of Curriculum and Instruction. This team shares OrchLab’s vision: when practitioners connect with students, young people have the chance to learn the specific methods and rewards of a particular field of study. Further, Brown expects that participation in music ensembles can contribute to students’ academic success. She expressed her appreciation of OrchLab’s effort to support young musicians, stating, “The BSO-MCPS partnership will benefit students, teachers, and the greater community.”