Group enjoys musical, social harmony


January 07, 2002|By Sue du Pont | Sue du Pont,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

TO SOME, going to the symphony may seem like an activity for an elitist, older crowd. But a group of Annapolis Symphony Orchestra supporters is out to change that view and make the music more accessible to young adults.

"People think you somehow need to have more knowledge or education about music to attend the symphony," says Natalie Green, president of Forte!, the young patrons of the ASO. "It's about whether or not you like it - do you enjoy the music?"

Forte! is a group of young adults dedicated to cultivating the next generation of symphonic music lovers by holding social and musical events with the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra. Mostly in their 30s or 40s, Forte! members share interests in music, meeting new people and supporting Annapolis' cultural arts.

When Green moved to Annapolis from Chicago five years ago, she wanted to get involved in the community. A businesswoman, artist and lover of music, she was drawn to the cultural side of the city and went to Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts to see what was happening there.

She heard of the need to get more young people involved and knew she could help. Three years after helping to establish Forte!, it is strong and growing under her leadership and through the dedication of its members.

When not attending concerts, raising funds, or participating in the orchestra's educational efforts, members of Forte! meet at various venues around town to enjoy music, conversation and camaraderie.

At a recent holiday party at the home of Forte! board members Bill and Wendy Thomas, the group talked about its coming fund-raiser, the second in a series of three wine tastings.

Amy Schwartz, owner of the Liquor Mart and Deli at Defense and Generals highways, has arranged for wine distributors to bring selections from California, Washington state and the mid-Atlantic region to the "American Beauties" wine tasting Jan. 19. Rob Coppock, a Forte! member who studied at the French Culinary Institute in New York, developed a menu of American foods to complement the wines and the theme. Members will prepare the menu items them for the tasting.

With nominal expenses and a reasonable ticket price, the events are good fund-raisers that appeal to the group's target membership. The wines selected for the tasting are not too expensive and are available at most liquor stores.

"We know events that cost $50 or $100 per plate won't work," Green says. "But if we can get 100 people at $10 then we are raising money for and interest in the symphony."

The first wine tasting in September was a success. Seventy-five people attended, trying a number of wines. Participants of each tasting receive a certificate that when presented for wine purchases at the Liquor Mart and Deli will direct 10 percent of the sale to the symphony.

Green says she has tried to make Forte! more than just a social group.

"I've tried to make it an organization where people in their 20s, 30s and 40s can learn new things, develop new interests, and make new friends by doing something they don't necessarily do for work," she said.

"Forte! is a great way to branch out from work and church friends," says Patricia Blick, a new member who is involved in planning the wine tastings.

Schwartz says she enjoys the symphony but that it's not her passion. "I joined to meet new people in my age group."

Member Cas Potyraj enjoys organizing social events such as trips to museums or concerts for friends, including those he's met through Forte!. "We do a lot of fun things together, but for me, it all comes back to the symphony," he says.

Members are encouraged to go to as many performances as they can, but are not required to attend every concert.

"We understand that there are big pulls on young people's time and resources," Green says. "It is not about making the symphony our lives, it's about saying, `We want it to stay here. We appreciate it and enjoy it.'"

The next wine tasting will be held from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Jan. 19 at Bay Ridge Club House in Annapolis. Tickets are $35, which includes wine and food.

To sign up for the wine tasting: Amy Schwartz, 410-268-8998, or send a check payable to Forte! to 41 Gentry Court, Annapolis 21403. Participants must be 21 years or older.

Information about Forte!: Natalie Green, 410-349-0820, membership chairwoman Elizabeth Hughes, 410-514-7617, or www.

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