When the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra began playing yesterday morning, 34 Anne Arundel County teen-agers were among the musicians.
Jonathan Menikheim, 14, wiped his hands on his trousers and positioned himself behind a bass drum on the stage of the Meyerhoff Symphony Hallin Baltimore.
"I've been here before to hear concerts, but now I'm up on the stage playing for everybody else. It's really exciting," said Jonathan,a North County High sophomore.
Band students from seven county high schools participated in the concert, called Side by Side, performing classics like a Tchaikovsky symphony.
For Emily Lemmerman, 15, of Severna Park High, the event wasn't nearly as intimidating as she'd expected. The students, who had applied months ago to play with theBSO, had practiced as a group several weeks ago.
Tuesday night, they met at the Meyerhoff for another practice, and yesterday morning the youngsters joined the BSO members for instruction and a formal rehearsal before the morning concert.
"When you're watching from theaudience, it looks so huge. But the stage is not quite as big and not quite as scary as I expected," said Lemmerman. "Being on stage withprofessionals was wonderful."
The BSO musicians, too, enjoyed their morning.
"I just wish we had more time with the kids," said Chris Williams, chief percussionist with the BSO. "But it's a neat experience. I've never had the opportunity to do something like this before."
During the hour-long morning practice, Williams tried to help the visiting percussionists improve their technique.
"Even the triangle, the cymbal and the bass drum can be played musically," he said. "And I tried to help them just learn to listen."
The youngsters also picked up notes on stage decorum. At one point in the concert, Jonathan and the other student percussionists were uncertain when to go back on stage from the wings.
They looked at Williams, also waiting off-stage.
"Do we go out?" asked Jonathan.
"We usually waittill the clapping's done," said Williams.
Nearly 2,500 high school band students, parents and Anne Arundel County Council members filled the hall for the concert. Getting them all there was itself a feat, said Susan Frost, who coordinates the Meyerhoff's Youth Program.
"We had auditions, rehearsals, seating logistics to work out, how topair the student musicians with BSO members on stage. It's a lot of details to pull together, but we enjoy giving something back to the community in this way."
Youths from Annapolis, Broadneck, Severna Park, Old Mill, North County, Glen Burnie and Chesapeake senior high schools were selected to play in the concert.
This is the second time in recent years that county music students have performed with theBSO, Frost said. The orchestra had hoped to also perform with Baltimore County students, but the county was unable to offer transportation for hundreds of music students who would have served as the audience.
Anne Arundel bought out the house at a discounted rate, but therest of the costs for putting on the concert were paid for by the Meyerhoff.
Jonathan, every hair in place, straightened his tweed jacket and studied the sheets of music in front of him.
"I was nervous about meeting the symphony members, but they've been great," he said.
When the percussionists weren't playing, they joined Williams off-stage to ask questions about the job market for professional musicians, and he regaled them with BSO lore.
After the opening number,the teen-agers edged off-stage with their mentors, anxiously questioning their performances.
"Did it go OK?" they queried.
"It was great!" said Williams. "You kids could almost do it yourselves."