April 6, 2016

Young inner-city musicians get opportunity to perform with the RPO

2015 Around the Town "side-by-side" at Edgerton Rec Center
As an instrumental music instructor to inner-city youth, Alexander Peña strives to inspire his pupils to develop a love for symphonic music. What better way than to give them an opportunity to perform “side-by-side” with the Rochester Philharmonic in concert?

On April 26-28, more than 60 students ages 6-18 will perform with the RPO in city neighborhoods as part of the free semiannual Around the Town Concert Series, sponsored by Xerox and the City of Rochester. The students are part of ROCmusic Collaborative, a music education outreach program that offers group instruction for economically disadvantaged children and teenagers from Rochester. The RPO partners with ROCmusic annually to perform “side-by-side” at the Around the Town series.

“Witnessing our ROCmusic at-risk youth rise up to the challenge of preparing a concert with the RPO is incredible,” said Peña, who holds a master’s in viola performance from the Eastman School of Music. “Giving them this annual experience of not only watching and listening to a professional ensemble perform, but integrating directly into such a strong musical force will give them a memory that will last a lifetime."

While Peña sees the lasting impact this experience will have on the students, the kids had a different reaction.
RPO flutist/piccolo Joanna Bassett with ROCmusic students

"After announcing to the students that we were going to be collaborating with the RPO 'side-by-side', the room was immediately filled with gasps, smiles, jitters, and chatter,” said Peña. “One student called out, ‘Wait, you mean like we are going to play WITH the RPO... seriously?’”

The annual side-by-side performance doesn’t just benefit the young musicians. RPO Assistant Principal Cellist Kathleen Kemp also looks forward to the collaboration.

“It's such a joy to see and hear the joyful sounds and positive activities our city children are able to participate in,” she said. “We hear too much of the negative. Music is such a positive outlet for all the stress in their lives. It's a wonderful opportunity to share with them.”

The concerts will be conducted by Eastman School of Music Conducting Fellow Boon Hua Lien, who has been mentored by RPO conductors and guest conductors all throughout the 2015-16 season before earning this amazing opportunity. Lien is a doctoral candidate in orchestral conducting at the Eastman School.

“My opportunity came when I was asked to assist Doc Severinsen in a RPO Pops concert in January,” said Lien. “The reception from the Orchestra was very enthusiastic, prompting an invitation to conduct the Around the Town concerts. In a way, that was my audition!”

Stay tuned to the RPO blog later this month for Lien's story about working with the RPO and how he is preparing for the Around the Town concerts!

If you go
FREE Around the Town Concerts
All concerts at 7:30 PM
Tuesday, April 26; David F. Gantt R-Center (700 North St., Rochester, 14605)
Wednesday, April 27; Franklin High School (950 Norton St., Rochester, 14621)
Thursday, April 28; Edgerton R-Center (41 Backus St., Rochester, 14608)

Concerts sponsored by the City of Rochester
Around the Town Concert Series sponsored by Xerox

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