Strathmore Student Concerts Welcome 10,000 MCPS Second Graders

November 5, 2009
Concerts on November 17-19 Featured Winners Of National Philharmonic Concerto Competition

2009 Concerts Supported in Part by the GEICO Philanthropic Foundation

For the sixth consecutive year, Strathmore opened the doors of the Music Center on November 17, 18, and 19, 2009, as all Grade 2 students from Montgomery County Public Schools had the opportunity to attend a performance by the National Philharmonic conducted by Maestro Piotr Gajewski in the Concert Hall. The Strathmore Student Concerts were created in partnership with the National Philharmonic, with support from the Montgomery County Public Schools. These interactive concerts feature a program especially assembled for second-graders that includes music by American icon Leonard Bernstein, Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos and others. To accommodate the more than 10,000 students, there were be six daytime performances, two each day at 10:35 a.m. and 12:15 p.m., over the three days in the 1,976-seat Concert Hall.

The annual educational concerts are a result of a unique partnership among MCPS, National Philharmonic and Strathmore, who work together to provide the coordination, pre-concert educational materials, transportation and other support to present these outstanding musical performances for students in one of the nation’s premier concert halls. The concerts are supported in part by the GEICO Philanthropic Foundation.

“The concerts that the National Philharmonic plays for Montgomery County second-grade students are the most important concerts that we play every year. For most of the students in the audience, it is the very first time that they are hearing a symphony orchestra,” said Piotr Gajewski, Music Director and Conductor of the National Philharmonic. “How well they like the concert may determine whether they yearn for another symphonic experience right away or whether years go by before they have another exposure. This is an awesome responsibility for us on stage.”

"For each of the past six years, our partnership with Strathmore and the National Philharmonic has opened the doors of the concert hall to 10,000 second-grade students," said MCPS Superintendent Jerry D. Weast. "This has been a tremendous opportunity for these young children to begin a lifelong appreciation for orchestral music."

“Strathmore has become not only a destination for great performances, but a location for high-quality music education. Through the free concerts for all Montgomery County Public School second-graders, now in its sixth year at Strathmore, we hope to protect and advance arts opportunities for future generations,” said Eliot Pfanstiehl, President & CEO, Strathmore Hall Foundation, Inc.

The concerts featured Bernstein’s Overture to Candide, Villa Lobos’ Little Train of Caipira, a concerto performance by three young winners of the National Philharmonic Concerto Competition and Russell Peck’s The Thrill of the Orchestra. At the performance, the students learned about the four families of instruments that make up the orchestra through interactive conversations with Maestro Gajewski and percussionist Greg Jukes, who for the first time narrated The Thrill of the Orchestra. Using image magnification, a large screen highlighted individual musicians discussed while various pieces are being performed.

Mr. Jukes replaced the late Mr. Peck as narrator this year. Since graduating from Montgomery County Public Schools and playing in the first Strathmore Student Concert in 2004 as one of the National Philharmonic Concerto Competition winners, Jukes has toured the country as a percussionist with Tales & Scales, an educational performing arts ensemble based in Evansville, Ind., whose programs combine music, dance and theatre to provide a high quality arts experience that ignites the imaginations of audiences young and old.

To enhance the educational opportunities presented during the concert, teaching materials were designed by the National Philharmonic in conjunction with MCPS for teachers to use in preparing their students for the performance. These materials were distributed in October and included a lesson plan for the instructors to teach students the words and some accompanying movements for “The Berry Pickers Song” from Villa-Lobos’ The Little Train of Caipira. During the concerts, the children sang and performed the movements as the orchestra plays.

One of the important goals of the concert experience is to allow the second-grade students to listen to young musicians who can be role models for the grade school students. The three winners of the National Philharmonic Concerto Competition held in October were chosen to perform a different concerto movement for each day. Brian Hong, 16 years old, played the first movement of the Dvorak (1841-1904) Violin Concerto on Tuesday, November 17. He is a sophomore at Robinson Secondary School in Fairfax, Va. Rhea Chung, 15 years old, played the first movement of the Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) Violin Concerto No. 3 on Wednesday, November 18. Rhea is a sophomore at the Holton-Arms School and resides in Potomac, Md. Shing Ann Yeh, 17 years old, played the first movement of the Elgar (1857-1934) Cello Concerto on Thursday, November 19. Ann is a senior at Centennial High School in Ellicott City, Md.

For more information on the Music Center, visit or call (301) 581-5100.

Soloist Biographies:

Tuesday, November 17, 2008
Rhea Chung
Rhea is a sophomore at the Holton-Arms school, where she serves as concertmaster of the orchestra. She is also co-concertmaster of the American Youth Philharmonic and was concertmaster of the Maryland All-State Jr. Orchestra. Rhea has performed at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, Carnegie Hall and Strathmore Concert Hall as a winner of last year’s National Philharmonic Concerto Competition. Rhea was a finalist for the U.S. Army Orchestra Competition and has won first prizes at the 2009 Young Artist Award Competition and the 2008 Joseph and Goldie Feder String Competition. She has played in master classes with Midori, the Emerson String Quartet, Jaime Laredo and Anne Akiko Meyer. Rhea also plays the piano, enjoys dancing and is a licensed sailor.

Wednesday, November 18, 2008
Brian Hong
Brian, who began his violin studies at age four, is a sophomore at Robinson Secondary School. He is currently co-concertmaster of American Youth Philharmonic and the first violinist of the Levine Honors Quartet. This past summer he attended the Music Academy of the West where he studied with Zvi Zeitlin. His main teacher is June Huang, but he also coaches regularly with Claudia Chudacoff, Shmuel Ashkenasi, and Zvi Zeitlin.

Thursday, November 19, 2008
Shing Ann Yeh
Ann is a junior at Centennial High School. She studies with Robert Newkirk and Donald Watts. For the past two summers, Ann received the prestigious Emerson scholarship to the Interlochen Center for the Arts. This past March, she performed Boccherini’s Cello Concerto in B-flat Major with the Columbia Orchestra. Ann has been a principal cellist of the World Youth Symphony Orchestra and the Maryland All-State Junior Orchestra, and is presently the principal cellist of the Howard County Gifted and Talented Orchestra. She is actively involved in the Centennial High School String Quartet and finds opportunities to play at her church or at senior centers. In addition to music, Ann loves to play soccer, bake, and spend quality time with her family and friends.

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