OrchKids, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's widely-admired educational initiative, is getting its first executive director with the hiring of Raquel Whiting Gilmer, announced Thursday.
The Baltimore-born Whiting Gilmer will be responsible for the management of the project, which serves more than 1,000 students in several of the city's public schools.
"OrchKids is exactly what we need in our city," Whiting Gilmer, 43, said. "I absolutely believe there are lots of opportunities for expansion and growth of the program. This city needs more music, more arts, more commitment from the community to expand OrchKids into more neighborhoods. It just changes your life seeing the positive impact the program is having."
Previously, Whiting Gilmer, who has a sociology degree from Princeton University and a doctor of law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law, served as the executive vice president of Academic Support for Learn It Systems, a "diversified education organization" serving more than 150 school districts nationwide.
She has also worked as senior director of community and business development for Educate Online, a division of Sylvan Learning.
"I think it's the next chapter for OrchKids to have an executive director to focus on really refining the systems, the methodology, and scaling the model up to reach many more kids," said BSO music director Marin Alsop, who launched the program shortly after her tenure began in 2007.
"There are so many good fits about this -- Raquel's experience in management systems; her passion for giving back to her city. And her own background is very similar to a lot of OrchKids; she's an incredible role model for them," Alsop said.
Whiting Gilmer will oversee the OrchKids staff, which includes longtime artistic director Dan Trahey.
"Our current staff is doing extraordinary work," Alsop said. "But we have a huge educational program now, including the [Baltimore Symphony Youth Orchestras]. We have lots of things going on. OrchKids seemed to call out for someone who can focus on it 24/7."
Whiting Gilmer has a musical family. Her husband is a bass player and her 20-month-old son appears to be an OrchKids member in the making. "He's already honing his percussion skills," she said.