Music to His Ears

September 17, 1994|By GLENN McNATT

Baltimore's newest community music school opens next week, joining the Peabody Prep and the city-sponsored TWIGS (''To Work In Gaining Skills'') program in bringing quality musical instruction to area youngsters.

The school, sponsored by the congregation of West Baltimore's New Shiloh Baptist Church, where classes will be held, is slated to start out with an initial enrollment of about 50 students with plans eventually to accommodate as many as 300 as the program develops.

To kick off the opening, the congregation is presenting a gala fund- raising concert tomorrow evening in the church sanctuary at 6:30 p.m. The featured event will be a vocal recital by Kenneithia Redden-Mitchell, soprano, and Janice Jackson, mezzo soprano, who will perform a program of operatic arias, art songs and spirituals.

Ms. Redden-Mitchell is a recent graduate of Morgan State University who won a full scholarship to the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia. She won the coveted Gold Medal in the Rosa Ponselle Vocal Competition earlier this year and first place in the Leontyne Price Competition sponsored by local chapter of the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women.

Ms. Redden-Mitchell also made her debut this summer with the Baltimore Symphony under the baton of the orchestra's associate conductor, David Lockington.

Ms. Jackson is a graduate of the University of Maryland Baltimore County who is currently completing a master's degree at University of Maryland College Park.

Ms. Jackson is a specialist in the German operatic repertory whose richly colored soprano has been praised by conductor Dennis Russell Davis, music director of the Bonn Orchestra in Germany and the American Composers' Orchestra and the Brooklyn Philharmonic in New York.

The school, whose formal name is the New Shiloh Baptist Church School of Music, will be directed by Nathan Carter, head of the department of fine arts at Morgan and former music consultant and choral director at the Baltimore School for the Arts. Dr. Carter is much beloved by local audiences for his sensitive work as a choral director.

''This will be a real community music school, not just a church school,'' Dr. Carter said. ''We're talking about a professional faculty that will give both individual and group instruction, as well as classes in ensemble music, orchestra and music theory.''

Alethia B. Starke, a longtime church member and civic leader, will serve as dean of the school and chief fund-raiser to help students who are unable to pay for lessons participate in the school's weekend and after-school programs. The school will also help students acquire instruments and books through the church's cultural-outreach program.

All these efforts are the brainchild of Dr. Harold Carter, pastor of New Shiloh, whose preaching ministry has inspired congregations in Baltimore and around the world for more than 30 years. Dr. Carter, who is Nathan Carter's brother, oversaw the construction of the church's $8 million new home at Monroe Street and Clifton Avenue four years ago.

This beautiful modern structure, built entirely with funds raised by the 5,000-member church congregation, has ample space to accommodate an entire suite of classroom spaces and practice rooms for students and faculty.

The creation of the New Shiloh music school represents an exciting development in the cultural life of this city. Budget cuts over the last decade have decimated arts and music programs in many city public schools (with some notable exceptions, like the innovative music program at Tench Tilghman Elementary School; but more on that anon).

School headmaster Nathan Carter has already begun assembling an experienced faculty that will be able to provide instruction in all the orchestral instruments as well as piano and voice. So far, about 15 instructors have been recruited and many more have expressed interest in teaching at the school.

For Dr. Carter, the energy and enthusiasm everyone involved in this project has brought to their task is, literally, music to his ears.

''This is a school for everyone, and everyone is welcome,'' he said. ''We're already getting calls from people outside the church wanting to know how they can get involved. I tell them to come on over 'cause you don't have to be a member to participate. You don't even have to be a Baptist.''

F: Glenn McNatt writes editorials for The Baltimore Sun.

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