Symphony of dreams

Concert: Talented Anne Arundel students get the chance to perform on stage with professional musicians.

May 17, 2000|By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan | Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan,SUN STAFF

Like most seniors, Kimberly Bergstrom has been busy squeezing as much as she can out of her final high school days before graduating next week.

Bergstrom, 18, who attends Southern High School in Anne Arundel County, has played the flute since fourth grade and once dreamed of making it a career. But because reality tells her she has a "million-to-one" shot of landing in a symphony orchestra, she plans to enroll at Towson University this fall and major in music education.

Yesterday, however, she lived her dream for a day, playing with a professional orchestra to a sellout crowd at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. Bergstrom was one of 23 talented Anne Arundel high-schoolers selected to perform with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra before an audience of 2,400 as part of the BSO's 10th annual Side By Side Concert featuring professional musicians and students from the county.

And as a soloist on the piccolo, Bergstrom got her own dressing room with her name on the door.

"It's your senior year, and you want to make the most of it before going off to college," Bergstrom said before the one-hour performance. "Playing with the Baltimore Symphony is such a privilege. It gives me a taste of it. But this is probably as far as I'm going to go. You have to be something at a really early age to make it."

The symphony's Side By Side Concert began about 12 years ago as a partnership with Baltimore County schools. That arrangement ended two years later, and the symphony forged a partnership with Anne Arundel County schools. Between 20 and 40 students have performed with the orchestra each year.

BSO administrators say the concerts are useful in giving young musicians like Bergstrom a chance to work and perform with professionals and help cultivate an interest in classical music among the hundreds of Anne Arundel County students bused in for the event. Daniel Hege, BSO's departing conductor, said it's also refreshing for himself and the musicians to work with the young musicians who often are brimming with enthusiasm about playing pieces that seasoned professionals usually have performed many times.

"I get personal satisfaction simply from the music and seeing young people digging into a piece for the first or second time," said Hege, who has conducted the Side By Side Concert for four years. "Often, with professionals, you have to find something very inspiring in the music to make them really want to play it. With young players, the enthusiasm is already there. They just want to dig in and give it their all."

Yesterday's program included music Hege selected to entertain a mostly teen-age audience that was likely to be better acquainted with Britney Spears than Igor Stravinsky.

So, while the 86-member orchestra and 23 high school musicians performed some slower pieces such as the second movement of Antonio Vivaldi's Concerto in C Major -- featuring Bergstrom on the piccolo -- they also had audience members tapping their feet to the lively "In the Hall of the Mountain King" from Edvard Grieg's "Peer Gynt Suite."

To prepare for the performance, BSO musicians paired up with students for several rehearsals, starting in November, when the high-schoolers were selected by audition. Although the Side By Side program will accept up to 40 students, the BSO selects only as many as it feels are qualified. This year, about 60 tried out, and 23 made the cut. The concert initially had been scheduled for Jan. 25, but was postponed twice because of snowstorms.

With clear skies yesterday, the long-awaited concert began at 10: 30 a.m. without a hitch.

As Bergstrom's peers took to the stage and lifted their instruments into position, she sat in her dressing room, waiting. She quietly paced the room, surrounded by signed photographs of distinguished soloists who have performed with the BSO. And as she chatted with her longtime piccolo teacher, BSO piccoloist Laurie Sokoloff, she said she felt her lips get numb with nervousness, and she wondered how she would be able to play on stage.

Bergstrom had been on stage several times before for recitals at Peabody Preparatory in Annapolis and in performances with the U.S. Naval Academy Band.

Last year, she was the only female student selected for both All-State Band and All-State Chorus.

But the BSO performance was daunting. Bergstrom had performed with bands before but never with a professional orchestra. And as she heard the notes of the piece preceding hers subside, she slowly got up and walked to the double-doors leading to the stage.

Out in the audience sat her parents, her sister, her best friends and dozens of fellow Southern High School classmates.

As the applause erupted, Bergstrom stretched and breathed deeply, and then straightened up and strode onto the stage.

From the first crisp notes, the audience was hushed. And Bergstrom began to relax.

In the fall, she would start a new life at Towson University and hope to end up as a high school band director one day.

But for now, she had six minutes on stage as a soloist, her one moment of being a part of a symphony orchestra with a piccolo to her lips, a captive audience of 2,400 and the promise of thunderous applause at the end of her final note.

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