BSO expands OrchKids program

OrchKids, the music education initiative developed by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and given national exposure on the CBS show "60 Minutes," has expanded to a second school.

Funded by a two-year grant of $50,000 from the Rouse Company Foundation, the program had a quiet introduction last month at the New Song Academy in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood of West Baltimore; a media launch is being made Friday at the school.


OrchKids, which combines during- and after-school classes and lessons, started three years ago with 30 first-graders at Harriet Tubman Elementary. When that school closed, the project moved to Lockerman Bundy Elementary, where almost 200 students, pre-K through third grade, now participate.

At New Song Academy, an independently run charter school operating within the Baltimore public school system, the initial emphasis will be on string instruments. Students there previously had access to classes in the Suzuki educational method for young string players.


"We're building on what they were doing," said BSO president and CEO Paul Meecham. "We all need more string players."

All 37 pre-K and kindergarten students at New Song Academy are being introduced to the OrchKids program. More students are expected to join the program in subsequent years. There is no cost to the students.

OrchKids participants typically attend music classes during the regular school day; after-school activities are also offered. In addition to working with OrchKids staffers and area music teachers, students have opportunities to interact with BSO musicians at school and at the orchestra's home base, Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.

The project is based in part on El Sistema, a countrywide venture in Venezuela that has involved several hundred thousand, mostly disadvantaged young people over the past decades.

Seed money for OrchKids was provided by BSO music director Marin Alsop, who said in a statement released Thursday: "I am thrilled about OrchKids' growth and look forward to the day when every child has access to this kind of opportunity."

"We hope to be able to announce in the next year an additional school, probably also in the West Baltimore area," Meecham said.