9-year-old conductor leads BSO in celebration

February 12, 1993|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,Staff Writer

For a few minutes yesterday, Ellen Snowden, who's all of 9 years old, had an awesome responsibility: She led the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

Standing on the conductor's podium at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall and facing 100 BSO musicians and 100 singers from the Baltimore School for the Arts Chorus, Ellen deftly led the ensemble in the "Hallelujah" Chorus from Handel's "Messiah."

And the only thing shaking was Ellen's right hand, where she held a conductor's baton.

"It was like, you know, you just go with the flow," Ellen, a fourth-grader at Beechfield Elementary School in Southwest Baltimore, said of her performance. "But I got a little confused on the four beat count, though."

Ellen was chosen at random to lead the orchestra during a celebration highlighting the more than one million school children who have attended BSO concerts over the past decade.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke joined more than 2,200 students from Baltimore and Baltimore County for an hour-long performance by the orchestra -- which was led by the BSO's conductor and not Ellen.

The mayor also gave Ellen a ticket to a BSO performance in the year 2016 -- the orchestra's 100th anniversary.

Organizers said that for more than 65 years the BSO has had a commitment to perform concerts for young audiences. Several concert series are offered during school hours at no charge to the students. About 100,000 students a year have attended BSO concerts at the Meyerhoff over the past decade.

Christopher Seaman, the BSO's conductor in residence, said it is important for the youngsters to be exposed to the orchestra's music and he hopes to continue the performances.

"They haven't had their judgment conditioned by cynical values," Mr. Seaman said. "They deserve to see a great orchestra giving their best. The kids deserve the best."

Mr. Seaman also said he didn't mind sharing conducting duties with Ellen, who he said was "completely mindblown."

As for Ellen, who plays the drums, the experience may spark more interest in symphony music. Some of her favorite performers are Kris Kross and Patti LaBelle.

She also said yesterday was not the first time she has led a musical ensemble. She once led the choir at her church, the Faith of Hope Church on North Longwood Street.

"But there were only seven or eight people there," she said. "This is a lot bigger and that makes you a lot more nervous. A lot more people were looking at me today."

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