On stage with the masters

The county schools' best musicians and choristers perform side by side with the BSO

February 11, 2007|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Reporter

Onstage at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, musicians and choristers from Harford's high schools were positioned among members of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the Baltimore Choral Arts Society.

As the lights dimmed, a hush descended on the hall filled with about 1,800 middle school students - Harford's largest field trip ever - as well as teachers, parents and county officials anticipating the county's first "Side by Side" concert.

"For our musicians, it's like playing in Little League and getting a chance to play with the Yankees," said James Boord, supervisor of music for county schools.

Side by Side, a long-standing BSO program with schools in Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties, pairs professional musicians with students in a performance of classical music.

"This is a chance these kids rarely get to play with a professional orchestra," said Igor Yuzefovich, the BSO's assistant concertmaster. "It is much different on this stage than at a school rehearsal. If they choose music, this is a glimpse into the future at the path they might be on."

The concert Tuesday marked the first collaboration with Harford schools, and a first for the BSO in that it included a student chorus.

"Ours was not strictly orchestra," Boord said. "We put the entire all-county chorus into the program, along with the top 20 musicians from the all-county orchestra."

A case of nerves hit Rachel Lane on the bus ride to Baltimore. But once the 15-year-old violinist from Fallston High was practicing on stage with Yuzefovich, the jitters dissipated, she said.

"All I could think was, `Wow!'" she said. "I have been to the Meyerhoff, but never on stage."

Before the 11 a.m. concert, Rachel rehearsed for an hour with fellow violinist Yuzefovich, her partner for the event. When others left the stage for a brief break, Rachel remained in place, reviewing her music.

"She adjusted quickly in rehearsal and was right on top of the music," Yuzefovich said. "You really have no time to stop and go over something. I would be nervous, but she seems to be enjoying this."

So enthusiastic was the audience, composed mostly of middle-schoolers, that they applauded after Yuzefovich conducted the warm-up.

"I heard these kids at their holiday concert, and they were great," said Erika Richardson, an eighth-grader at Bel Air Middle School. "I play the flute, and I would like to do this kind of concert someday."

Samantha Stonebraker, a 12-year-old Aberdeen Middle student, said it was "awesome to see kids we know and our teacher up there in the chorus."

Briyana Walton, 12, from Edgewood Middle, said she expected to hear "some great playing, something besides rap."

The concert featured selections from Wagner, Verdi and Mozart. The BSO chose the choral works from 20 submitted by music teachers, several of whom performed in the chorus with eight members of the Baltimore Choral Arts Society.

Yuzefovich and Rachel sat side by side, focused intently on the music. His strong flourishes with the violin bow complemented her more delicate movements.

"He was really cool, awesome and really, really good," Rachel said.

Yuzefovich returned the praise.

"She is a wonderful player and well-prepared," he said.

The concert was nearly a year in planning. The county raised $25,000 to bring about the event, much of it through the efforts of William P. Yeakel, an Aberdeen businessman, who dedicated the event to the late James B. King, his choral teacher at Aberdeen High.

"Hopefully, this concert motivates students to go the next step in music," Yeakel said. "For them, this is exposure to music that we don't want to ever disappear."

Throughout the concert, Rachel sat in the orchestra's front row, facing Andrew Constantine, BSO associate conductor. At the finale, he gave her a hearty handshake.

"I have been playing violin since third grade," she said. "This was definitely worth all the work."

Boord said he hopes to make the concert an annual event.

"This is a wonderful opportunity that these kids will remember all their lives. Many are planning a musical career, and this is an experience of music at its ultimate potential - a symphony orchestra," he said. "They are not sitting in a community band. This is a high school student playing next to a world-class performer. People from all over the world have tried out for these seats."

mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

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