Almost every week passers-by in downtown Baltimore witness the spectacle of dozens of yellow school buses lined up along Preston, Cathedral and Dolphin streets outside the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. The buses come from school districts throughout Maryland and southern Pennsylvania, bringing thousands of children to hear the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in programs designed to introduce young ears to the world's great musical treasures.
Over the past decade, some 100,000 area children have attended the BSO's educational and family programs every year. In an era when major orchestras are looking for ways to attract new audiences, these concerts for young people allow music directors and administrators to reach out to a large pool of future concertgoers. Indeed, the Baltimore Symphony ranks first among the nation's professional orchestras in the number of youth concerts it presents.
Last week, the orchestra celebrated a historic milestone -- a special concert dedicated to the one-millionth child served by the BSO's concert series for young people.
On hand for the occasion were Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, along with BSO conductor in residence Christopher Seaman, who led the orchestra and the Baltimore School for the Arts Chorus in a program highlighted by the "Hallelujah" chorus from Handel's "Messiah."
Anyone who has witnessed the excitement, wonder and sheer delight generated among youthful audiences at BSO concerts cannot doubt the orchestra's children's programs perform an important educational function.
Through its Music for Youth, Tiny Tots and Prime Time programs, the orchestra has taken classical music off the dusty shelf of history and transformed it into a vibrant, living presence to be enjoyed by a new generation of concertgoers.
The importance of the BSO's children's concerts also has to be judged by the contribution they make to the Baltimore-Washington area's regional identity. By bringing together children from all over the metropolitan area, the concerts help reinforce the sense of shared community in a way that the arts are uniquely qualified to convey.
We salute the BSO and all the people who have made it possible for the orchestra to reach this milestone. Of all the things the orchestra has accomplished over its 77-year history, this is truly "something to sing about."