The Pennsylvania Philharmonic, a professional orchestra launched over the summer of 2014, is hitting the road to bring classical music to Pennsylvania's many small cities and towns. With an emphasis on community engagement and performing for young people, the 70-member ensemble is breaking new ground at its children’s concerts, which is not ancillary, but central to its identity.
The inaugural season of the ensemble is now underway. Along with initial concerts for the public in Pottstown, York, Bethlehem and West Chester, performances are scheduled for middle school students in seven school districts - in five counties - in eastern and central Pennsylvania, over a two-week period.
More concerts are set for the spring. And for many kids, it’s likely to be their first experience hearing the sound of a full orchestra.
Pennsylvania Philharmonic’s Music Director Michael Butterman has a strong background bringing classical music to kids. He’s been the education and community engagement conductor for the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra for the last 15 years. His approach involves both literary and musical improvisation. He asks the students to create a story that can be told through instruments. The students choose characters, the setting, and the plot. Then the orchestra’s musicians demonstrate the rich terrain of their imaginations.
Meridee Duddleston sat in on a recent student concert at the Phoenixville Middle School auditorium and spoke with several of the adults leading the effort.