Some of Baltimore’s best classically trained musicians will soon be performing in city schools in front of younger audiences than they’re used to.
Johns Hopkins University’s Peabody Institute and the Baltimore-based nonprofit Young Audiences of Maryland have agreed to partner up to bring Peabody musicians into Baltimore City schools. The conservatory will be sending its Marquee Brass quintet of brass musicians and members of its Peabody Opera Theatre department to play and sing before students. The former group will be playing tunes from its “Sounds of Music” and “Paths of Music” programs, while the latter will be performing an abbreviated version of Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute in full costume. The two troupes will begin playing for students this school year.
The partnership arose from Peabody’s desire to expand its presence within communities in the city and Young Audiences’ ongoing mission to provide supplementary arts education in schools as funding continues to dwindle.
In an interview today by phone, Peabody Conservatory dean Fred Bronstein called it a “perfect kind of collaboration.”
“One of the things that Peabody is especially interested in today is broadening our relationship with Baltimore’s communities. It’s really, in a sense, a return to our original founding initiative as a cultural center,” he said.
“A really critical part of training musicians for the future is to be in communities. We see this as a vital part of training future musicians,” he added.
Bronstein said they kicked the program off with an announcement and accompanying performance from the Marquee Brass ensemble at Mt. Royal Elementary/Middle.
With the city school system operating under a tight budget that leaves many facilities without even air conditioning, let alone functioning arts programs, some schools may not have the available resources to pay for these appearances from classically trained musicians. Luckily, Young Audiences has them covered. The group’s “Access for All” initiative offers to pay for as much as four-fifths of the cost of these events. Several groups and the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts fund the initiative, which provided grants to 13 schools around the city this past spring and just recently ended its application round for next year.
I see these efforts most benefitting students through exposure experiences. Students attending either a brass quintet or opera performance may experience that “light bulb” moment when they realize their life’s passion, or simply want to learn more about an instrument or musical form. It is also beneficial to school students that conservatory students are the performers, as they may be able to better relate to younger performers.
Brian Schneckenburger, the coordinator of fine arts for the city school system, said he hopes the performances will help students “experience that ‘light bulb’ moment when they realize their life’s passion, or simply want to learn more about an instrument or musical form.” He noted that the proximity in age between the students and the young performers from the conservatory may foster a strong connection between them.
The nonprofit and Peabody have worked together before. In fact, after Young Audiences was founded in Maryland in 1950, the organization was based for years right out of the Peabody Institute. The group has since grown and moved to a new headquarters on N. Howard Street at the edge of the Remington neighborhood.
It’s also expanded its offerings and developed a national network of 33 affiliates in total operating around the country. The Maryland chapter alone served more than 191,000 students around Maryland last year, according to its website.
Stacie Sanders, executive director of Young Audiences said via email that bringing arts to schools is “crucial” for students today. “Engaging a first class institution like Peabody in the process means better experiences and more opportunities for students,” she said.
This story has been updated with comment from City Schools coordinator of fine arts Brian Schneckenburger and Young Audiences executive director Stacie Sanders.