Tending OrchKids

Our view : BSO conductor invests soundly

May 27, 2008

Marin Alsop could have done a lot with the last $100,000 of her MacArthur Foundation genius grant. See the Seven Wonders of the World. Commission a new symphony. Treat herself to a red Porsche. Put a down payment on a Stradivarius (previously owned). But she's decided to invest in the future audiences of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. That's a gesture worth applauding.

As music director of the BSO, Ms. Alsop has taken her role as the city's booster of symphonic music to heart, through appearances in the community, on the radio and with benefactors. Public relations and fundraising are part of the job for any major orchestra leader. The maestra, however, appears to genuinely like this aspect of the job. She is warm, connects with people and isn't averse to sharing her decorating scheme for her dressing room or designing a brassiere for a charity auction. But her decision to use her own money to help establish an after-school music program for 25 West Baltimore students sets her apart from her predecessors. It shows a commitment and conviction that exceeds what might be expected of a conductor.

Her generosity suggests a belief in what's possible for children in an impoverished city neighborhood. She has said that every child is born a genius, but genius needs to be cultivated and supported. The OrchKids project isn't only about music. It's about providing first-graders at Harriet Tubman Elementary with a safe, nurturing, stimulating place to go after school. The students might develop an ear for Mozart, an appreciation of the world beyond or the discipline to excel at math, a plus on any score.

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