Making music, classically

Show: The acclaimed Marian Anderson String Quartet exposes Howard youngsters to beautiful music.

January 16, 2003|By Dana Klosner-Wehner | Dana Klosner-Wehner,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

For a few moments last week, Allison Stanley got an inkling of what it would be like to be a professional musician. The 15-year-old sophomore at Ellicott City's Homewood School played cello while accompanied by three members of the acclaimed Marian Anderson String Quartet.

As she nervously played in front of her classmates, her rendition of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" accompanied by violins and viola filled the room with a beautiful, rich sound.

The workshop held in the music room at Homewood, an alternative school, was part of an outreach program run by the Candlelight Concert Society - a nonprofit organization dedicated to the promotion of music in Howard County.

FOR THE RECORD - On the cover of the Howard County edition of The Sun yesterday, violinist Nicole Cherry was misidentified in the photograph of a student and members of the Marian Anderson String Quartet. The photo also was credited incorrectly; it was provided by the Homewood School. The Sun regrets the error.

For more than 20 years, the outreach program has been bringing professional classical music workshops into schools.

The day before the Homewood School workshop, the quartet performed at Jim Rouse Theatre at Wilde Lake High School to an auditorium filled with middle school children.

"The quartet is a great role model for our kids," said Terri McLean, music teacher at Homewood School.

What's in a name

The quartet was the first African-American ensemble to win a classical music competition when, in 1991, it took top honors at the International Cleveland Quartet Competition. That's when the group, formally known as the Chaminade Quartet, requested and was granted permission to use Anderson's name.

Anderson was a prominent opera singer who broke down racial stereotypes in the 1940s and 1950s, said Marianne Henry, the group's first violinist and one of its founders.

Music inspires, soothes and educates, Henry said. "We are dedicated to bringing classical music to populations that may not otherwise have the opportunity to see it," she said.

The quartet - whose other members are second violinist Nicole Cherry, violist Diedra Lawrence and cellist Prudence McDaniel - have not only played at such venues as the Corcoran Gallery, the Library of Congress and New York's Alice Tully Hall, but they have also performed at soup kitchens, nursing homes and detention centers.

"Our motto is that education is the key to liberation," Henry said. "We feel everyone has the right to know everything. If you have information that will make a difference in a person's life, you should give that information. Exposure gives choices. It expands a child's choice as to what they would like to do with their lives."

For Nathanael Carrie, a sixth-grade violinist at Wilde Lake Middle School, the performance was an inspiration.

"I've seen high school students perform before, but never professionals," Carrie said. "I really like classical music because it's a challenge. Watching this quartet makes me want to keep practicing and become a professional."

The quartet does more than just perform beautiful music. Before playing a piece, the members break it down by explaining which instruments are playing melody, harmony, rhythm and base.

"Listening to music is like watching a basketball game," Henry explained to the audience. "The melody is the ball. That's how you listen to music."

One goal of the outreach program is to expose kids to professional classical music.

"Lots of kids are exposed to pop culture," said Rob White, instructional facilitator of music for Howard County schools.

"This broadens their experience. Even if they've heard classical music on the radio or a CD, it's a different experience to hear it live," White said. "[It is] just like seeing a live ballgame, the colors are brighter, the noises are louder and the experience is heightened."

The hands-on performances really seemed to have touched the kids.

"It was really exciting to think I was playing the same cello that she uses in concerts," said Stanley, who played cello in elementary school. "It was great to see these people have so much fun. Lately, I've been thinking about playing cello again. I'll probably get into it in college."

The workshops are also about creating new audiences for classical music.

"It's a good thing to take students that are struggling and give them the benefits of enjoying a concert," said Brandon Silva, 16, a junior at Homewood School. "I enjoyed myself. I was upset before I came in here. Now I'm in a good mood. It was very relaxing."

Hard work, dedication

It also shows kids that with dedication, they can become whatever they want to be.

Of course, playing music takes a lot of hard work and dedication, Lawrence said after Henry explained that each member practices for four hours individually and then four hours together each day.

"But if you find something you love to do, it's not work," she said.

"I thought it was unique how people can learn stuff like that," said Michelle Golobar a freshman at Homewood. "It makes you say, `Wow.'"

Henry's history shows the importance of outreach programs.

"I was 8 years old," Henry said. "Some musicians came in and demonstrated the violin, viola and cello. It was the most beautiful rendition of `Twinkle Twinkle' I had ever heard. It all seemed so mysterious. I was thinking how is this happening. I ran home and told my mom and I have been playing ever since.

"I feel it's my duty to inspire others that way," she said.

The quartet played a sold-out concert at Smith Theatre on Saturday night. Information on future events: www.candle lightconcerts.org.

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