Gazette - April 25, 2007
BSO members take part in youth outreach program
Musicians show youngsters a musical path
by Agnes Jasinski | Staff Writer
Passing around a photograph of herself at age 6, hair in pigtails with violin in hand, Ellen Pendleton Troyer attempts to convince the room of Takoma Park Elementary School first-graders that she was once their size, and was already learning how to play the violin at their age.
‘‘I started my first month of first grade,” Troyer said Monday morning, while gearing up to play ‘‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” the first song she learned. ‘‘You’re going to look different when you’re older, too,” she joked.
Troyer, a Baltimore resident, is a violinist with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra at the North Bethesda-based Music Center at Strathmore, and is part of a two-month-old initiative by the group — ‘‘BSO on the Go” — to bring musicians into elementary school classrooms and promote music education.
‘‘What we’re finding is that there’s an enormous demand for the program, and we don’t have the musicians to go around,” said Eileen Andrews Jackson, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, which pays for the program.
At least 25 Montgomery County schools have already enrolled in the free program, which brings the group’s performers into the schools for workshops with titles like ‘‘Cooking with Music” and Troyer’s ‘‘Sounds, Images and Stories.”
‘‘It’s definitely important for kids to see symphony concerts ... but for a kid to see an instrument up close, that’s just as important,” Troyer said. ‘‘It’s important in sparking their creativity.”
The musicians come up with the programs and themes they bring to the schools, said Richard Spero, community liaison for the initiative. Troyer has been holding programs like this since 1993, long before she joined the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and came up with her ‘‘curriculum” from years of observing children’s reactions and what got them excited about music.
In Takoma Park Monday, she focused on teaching the group the basics on how to get different sounds out of a violin, and how to add ‘‘soundtracks” to their oral and written stories, including one tale of a very wet and windy rainforest told solely through the use of noises made by the children’s hands and feet.
After several ‘‘sound stories,” Troyer gave the class a mini-performance. Before playing the children a string of melodies from classical composers Johann Sebastian Bach and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and a fiddle-heavy tune called the ‘‘Orange Blossom Special,” she passed around a page of sheet music, with notes coming together to form a classical Bach piece.
‘‘It looks like it’s pretty complex,” 7-year-old Everest Bloomer said of the notes on the page.
Cora Bruner, a music teacher at Takoma Park Elementary School, said the children at the school are already ‘‘exposed to quite a bit” when it comes to guest speakers and hands-on activities in their music room. New ways to bring music into the classroom are always welcome, she said.
‘‘Any time the children see a working musician, a professional musician, that’s a great thing,” Bruner said. ‘‘They like to see the instruments, and get exposed to different musical styles.”
For Bloomer, his favorite part was ... everything.
‘‘Well, I liked every time she played,” said Bloomer after Troyer’s class. ‘‘The fast music I liked the best. It reminds me of jazz that I like to listen to.”