Student orchestra ready to stretch strings in Austria


Members of the F.A.M.E. Orchestra are eager to stretch their strings in Austria this summer.

F.A.M.E. (For the Advancement of Music Ensemble) is a 52-piece string ensemble of teen-agers from public and private schools in the Baltimore area, including about 10 from Howard County.

The musicians, ages 13 to 18, have been invited to play in the International String Workshop in Graz, Austria, this summer. About 40 members will actually go, and they will be the only student orchestra in the workshop.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime chance," said the orchestra's manager, Anne Lane Vosough.

While in Austria, F.A.M.E. members will attend master classes, recitals and lectures by renowned musicians. They also will perform in concert as the laboratory orchestra for the workshop. Conductor Lois Stout will lead them in Mozart's Divertimento No. 3 and other selections.

But before the musicians can pluck one chord in Austria, members of the 7-year-old orchestra need money to pay for the trip. Organizers estimate the journey will cost each musician $2,500.

To help pay for the trip, the group had a fund-raising concert Saturday night at the Bethel Korean Presbyterian Church on St. Johns Lane in Ellicott City. Admission was $10 for adults and $5 for students.

Organizers said about 400 tickets were sold. They wanted to sell 800 tickets, which would have been a sell-out and raised at least $10,000.

RCM Corp., a local home builder, was to underwrite the costs of the concert, organizers said.

In addition to the concert, F.A.M.E. musicians have sold wreaths, flowers and candy during the school year to help raise money for the July 27-Aug. 13 trip.

If the orchestra's fund-raising efforts fall short, parents realize they will have to dip into their pockets, Vosough said.

Because of a lack of money in the past, F.A.M.E. has missed opportunities to visit Switzerland and Carnegie Hall, for example, organizers said.

For 20 years, the international workshop has been held, usually in a different country each year. F.A.M.E. was selected after workshop organizers heard one of its audiotapes, Vosough said.

"It's a tremendous opportunity for these kids," said Reba Andrew, a parent. "Not only do they study with professionals, but they perform with them." She has three daughters in F.A.M.E., but because of the high cost of the trip, only two will go, Andrew said.

Rebecca, one of Andrew's daughters making the trip, said she is bubbling with anticipation.

"I think it's going to be a great experience," said the 15-year-old violist. "I'm really excited. I've never flown before." She said she plans to take lots of photographs.

Her mother said, "This is something they can keep their whole lives."

Jane Sneeringer, another parent, said her 16-year-old daughter Sarah is a cellist in the orchestra and has raised 50 percent of the trip's costs through fund-raising activities and baby-sitting and other part-time jobs. Sarah's father has agreed to pay the other half, Sneeringer said.

"She's ecstatic," Sneeringer said of her daughter. "She's very excited."

Sneeringer added, "These kids are all really serious about what they're doing."

F.A.M.E. members practice two hours each Saturday during the school year and also give two concerts a year.

"They give up a lot of their Saturday mornings" for the cause, Reba Andrew said. "There's no sleeping in and hanging out. They're always working."

To make donations, call 825-5557.

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