Two Symphonies and a Bunch of Amateurs for the Love of Music

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October 25, 2015; Boston Herald (Associated Press)

As symphonies consider how they can connect more actively to their communities, at least two are inviting amateur musicians to perform with them during a week each year. This is the second year for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which will bring accomplished but amateur musicians from more than 60 communities across the state of Massachusetts on stage. Rehearsals start on Monday and the program ends on Halloween with a performance of the Coronation March from Meyerbeer’s Le Prophete, the Waltz from Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, Puccini’s Preludio Sinfonico, and the Polovtzian Dances from Borodin’s Prince Igor.

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has been doing the same for the past six years through a program called Academy Week. Violinist Tanesha Mitchell, one of 80 passionate amateurs, says, “I’ve always loved the [Baltimore Symphony Orchestra] since I was a little girl. So when I heard that they were starting to do this, the first couple of years I didn’t think I could. And then I realized they had scholarships available, and I jumped at the opportunity.”

Participants rehearse with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, are conducted by Marin Alsop, and attend lessons and workshops taught by the orchestra. The two programs differ in that the participants in Boston are chosen by lottery while those in Baltimore sometimes come back year after year.

Mitchell says that single week each year has changed her life. She grew up without the resources for private lessons. Now she gives lessons to the children in her neighborhood.—Ruth McCambridge