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Former Dulaney High music students enjoy homecoming with Gettysburg Orchestra

By Steve Jones

10:54 PM EST, January 24, 2012

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Elizabeth Amrhein and Connelly Doan studied music for four years at Dulaney High School, and probably figured that their time at the Timonium school was over.

But they were back on the stage of the Dulaney auditorium last week, this time as members of the Gettysburg College Symphony Orchestra.

"I enjoyed playing music here for four years, and coming back on the same stage was exciting and made me remember some of the things that I got to experience while I was here," said Doan, a percussionist and resident of Baldwin.

"I was probably 10 years old when I started playing," he said. "Eventually, I made All-County and All-State, and had a few opportunities to play with the Baltimore Symphony. That really brought it home, that I wanted to do music."

The orchestra, an ensemble of Gettysburg's Sunderman Conservatory of Music, traveled to Baltimore for three performances on Jan. 19. The group started the day at Towson High, then moved on to Dulaney before finishing with an evening concert at Goucher College.

Under the direction of Dr. Alexander Kahn, the Gettysburg contingent didn't look like a symphony orchestra for its Dulaney performance. Clad in long-sleeved gray T-shirts, jeans and either sneakers or boots, their look was far from black-tie attire.

But their performance was thoroughly professional. The 55-member orchestra breezed through three compositions — Mozart's "Overture to the Impressario," Bach's "Concerto for Two Violins" and "Symphony No. 8" by noted Czech composer Antonin Dvorak.

"The amount of growth that the Gettysburg program has undergone is amazing," said Amrhein, a bassoonist with the orchestra who is pursuing a double major in music and history. "Since my freshman year, the orchestra has been through exponential change, in a positive way. We really wanted to get the word out that this is a wonderful new program that is developing. We just want to share our music."

The music that the Gettysburg College Symphony shared made quite an impression on Dulaney senior David Wu.

"I want to major in business, but I definitely plan on pursuing music in college," said Wu, a violinist in the Dulaney string orchestra. "Today's performance gave me an idea of what I would be playing in college. I've done the side-by-side concerts with the Baltimore Symphony all four years, and it was a really good experience."

The Gettysburg orchestra includes students who are majoring or minoring in music at the southern Pennsylvania college.

Not all Gettysburg musicians have their eye on the professional ranks, but Amrhein and Doan would both like to play symphonic music once they graduate from Gettysburg.

"My grandparents were opera singers in Baltimore, and my whole family is very musical," said Amrhein, a 2008 Dulaney graduate who plans to attend Baltimore's Peabody Institute. "I came in as a history major, but really fell in love with music when I got to Gettysburg. Then I went abroad, and grew to love it even more. In my junior year, I changed focus and just decided to go with music."

Both performers credit Barry Chesky, the director of instrumental music at Dulaney, for influencing their career path.

"Mr. Chesky helped me reach the point where I was able to get into the music and look beyond the notes on the page, and reach a higher level of musicianship," said Doan, a sophomore who is double majoring in music and management, with a minor in math. "You have to know what's behind the music. It's thrilling to play any piece, and understand that you're just focused on the music. You don't realize anything else that's going on around you."

Chesky looked like a proud mentor when his two former students returned to their alma mater.

"It gives me great satisfaction to see my students continuing in music," said Chesky. "Both Connelly and Elizabeth were recipients of the Dulaney instrumental music departmental award, which is the highest honor given to a graduating senior."

Amrhein contacted Chesky several months ago to set up the concert.

"It was good for my students in the audience to hear a collegiate-level orchestral performance," said Chesky, now in his eighth year at Dulaney. "I wanted them to hear a high-caliber musical performance, and see what opportunities exist for them after they graduate from Dulaney. I have several graduating seniors who are doing music auditions for colleges right now."

It's no surprise that Dulaney was chosen as one of the concert stops.

The school, which opened in 1962, has an illustrious musical heritage. According to Chesky, Dulaney has consistently had the highest number of students of any Baltimore County high school in the county's All-Honors Band and Orchestra and the Baltimore Symphony's side-by-side concerts.

Dulaney placed 10 musicians on the All-State Orchestra this year.

Dulaney students choose to participate in a variety of activities, including three concert bands, two string orchestras, two levels of jazz band, a marching band that performed in the 2011New Year's Day parade in London, an indoor percussion ensemble, and two music clubs, Dulaney Rhapsody and the International Music Club.

"We have a very supportive community," Chesky said. "We also have an administration that truly supports the arts."