BSO Receives Extraordinary Gift from Leading Philanthropists Robert E. Meyerhoff and Rheda Becker


Donation establishes the first-ever dedicated endowment for OrchKids and supports the Orchestra’s community-based performances beginning this summer with Star-Spangled Spectacular concerts

(June 29, 2023) Fifteen years ago, longtime Baltimore philanthropists Robert E. Meyerhoff and Rheda Becker made their first extraordinary gift to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) which included seed funding to launch OrchKids, a program envisioned by then Music Director Marin Alsop to use music as a vehicle to create opportunities for Baltimore City youth. Today, the BSO announced that it has received another generous gift from Mr. Meyerhoff and Ms. Becker with two profound parts. First, operating funds supporting the BSO’s multi-year commitment to increase the size, compensation, and quality of the Orchestra as well as to expand community-based performances in Baltimore City and throughout the state of Maryland. The second part of the gift supports the strategic expansion of OrchKids including a $1M gift to establish the first OrchKids Endowment Fund within the Baltimore Symphony Endowment Trust.

The OrchKids Program started with 30 students at one school and has grown to serve 1,850+ students across seven embedded sites in Baltimore plus a summer home at Goucher College. Within just a few years, OrchKids became a leader in the field of El Sistema programs across the country. Mr. Meyerhoff and Ms. Becker’s latest outright gift to OrchKids provides funds to expand the program’s scope of services including additional program staff and teaching artists, instrument upgrades, application and tuition fees for summer music camps, and support for students as they matriculate through and beyond Baltimore City Public Schools. The Meyerhoff/Becker gift establishes the program’s first dedicated endowment fund. The OrchKids Endowment Fund will be an open fund, available to receive the support of other donors.

“We have watched the steady growth of the OrchKids program over these past fifteen years,” said Robert Meyerhoff, “and wished to see it live on for many years to come. We also hope others will join us in ensuring the program’s future with the sustaining power of an endowment.”

Reflecting on the seeding of a new endowed fund for OrchKids, Vice President of OrchKids, Nick Skinner shared, “I'm beyond grateful for this extraordinary gift from Bob and Rheda!! They have been with the program since its inception and have supported our mission every step of the way. This gift will set the stage for more students to join the program in the coming years as well as provide the opportunity for us to deepen our impact through the services we provide. I can't thank Bob and Rheda enough for their continued support and investment in the youth of Baltimore!”

The Meyerhoff/Becker gift to the BSO also focuses on increasing the number of community-based concerts in Baltimore City and throughout the State of Maryland.

“Rheda was a pioneer in the field, serving as the BSO’s narrator for more than 40 years, and as a champion for accessibility and excellence in symphonic music,” said President & CEO Mark Hanson. “In earlier years, the Orchestra performed on many wonderful and adapted stages across the state, including our longstanding summer home at Oregon Ridge Park, and county-based performances through regional Symphony Societies. As we recommit ourselves to city-wide, statewide, and strategic runout concerts, we are honored to recognize Bob and Rheda’s many contributions and aspirations for the Orchestra.”

In deep appreciation for the entirety of their recent gift and reflecting on decades of annual support, the BSO announces that every Orchestra concert held beyond the walls of The Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall or The Music Center at Strathmore will for the next five years be recognized as A Robert E. Meyerhoff & Rheda Becker Community Performance. This recognition begins with the expansive 2023 Summer Season including Star-Spangled Spectacular celebrations at Oregon Ridge Park and Rash Field, eight stops (including many “pay what you wish” concerts) on the Music for Maryland Tour, and a free Symphony in the City concert at The Urban Oasis in West Baltimore.

The BSO invites the community to join in celebration of this extraordinary gift by attending exciting summer events. These concerts represent the inaugural Robert E. Meyerhoff and Rheda Becker Community Performances.

  • On July 28 at 1:30 pm, OrchKids presents the concluding concert of its three-week summer session at Goucher College at the Kraushaar Auditorium.
  • On July 3, 4, 6 & 8, the BSO presents its annual Star-Spangled Spectacular concert across four community-based venues: Oregon Ridge, Rash Field, Boordy Vineyard and the APG Federal Credit Union Arena at Harford Community College.

For more information on the BSO’s summer series, please visit

About the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
For over a century, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) has been recognized as one of America’s leading orchestras and one of Maryland’s most significant cultural institutions. The orchestra is internationally renowned and locally admired for its innovation, performances, recordings, and educational outreach initiatives including OrchKids.
The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra performs annually for more than 275,000 people throughout the State of Maryland. Since 1982, the BSO has performed at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore, and since 2005, with the opening of The Music Center at Strathmore in North Bethesda, MD, the BSO became the nation’s first orchestra performing its full season of classical and pops concerts in two metropolitan areas. In July 2022, the BSO once again made musical history with its announcement that Jonathon Heyward would succeed Music Director Laureate and OrchKids Founder Marin Alsop as the Orchestra’s next Music Director. Maestro Heyward begins his five-year contract in the 2023-24 season.

About OrchKids
OrchKids uses music as a vehicle for students to develop musical and social skills that are transferable to all areas of their lives including creativity, self-expression, and teamwork. Marin Alsop, Music Director Laureate of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and OrchKids Founding Director, shaped OrchKids into the cornerstone of the BSO’s community engagement efforts across the city with her artistic leadership and direction. OrchKids was founded in 2008 with 30 students at one elementary school with seed funding from Marin Alsop and Founding Donors Rheda Becker and Robert E. Meyerhoff.
OrchKids now works with seven schools in Baltimore City, serving over 1,800 children from Pre-K through 12th grade during school, after school, and in weeklong workshops.
In collaboration with several community partners, OrchKids provides music education, instruments, academic assistance, meals, mental health resources, connection to social services, as well as performance and mentorship opportunities -- all at no cost to students and their families. OrchKids is an acknowledged leader in the El Sistema movement throughout the world.