Jason Love, conductor of the Columbia Orchestra, knows firsthand how a young person's contact with music played by a symphony orchestra can be a life-changing event.
"I can remember when the North Carolina Symphony came to my hometown and played [Witold] Lutoslawski's Concerto for Orchestra, of all things," Love recalls. "It absolutely blew me away. Here it is 20 years later, and I can still remember everything about it."
Saturday afternoon, Love gets to return the favor for the children of Howard County when his orchestra presents a Young People's Concert titled "The Ingredients of Music -- What Is Music Made Of?"
At the concert, which begins at 2 p.m. at Wilde Lake Interfaith Center on Trumpeter Lane in Columbia, Love and his players will introduce children to the main components of the musical arts. The conductor will explore melody, rhythm, musical form and the instruments of the orchestra.
Presented in an informal setting, the one-hour program will encourage children to sit on the floor for close access to the players and their instruments. "It won't be a full-fledged petting zoo," Love says with a chuckle, "but we want to break down the barriers that exist in the usual concert situation."
The Columbia Orchestra's Children's Concerts are an important part of the organization's mission. The Hungarian composer and educator, Zoltan Kodaly, said, "We have to establish already in schoolchildren the belief that music belongs to everyone and is, with a little effort, available to everyone."
Love and his players couldn't agree more.
"One of the things that defines our orchestra," Love says, "is that we want to foster in our audiences a lifelong involvement with music.
"And that only happens," he adds, "when we reach out to the young."
Extraordinary music will be played to convey the essential ingredients of musical expression.
For melody and harmony, there are the hot gypsy tunes of Bela Bartok's Romanian Dances.
The relentless build-up that imparts such dramatic snap to "Mars" from Gustav Holst's "Planets" should make for a marvelous lesson on the importance of rhythm, and few pieces bring the flashy virtuosity of modern orchestral instruments to the fore more brilliantly than the Galop and Polka from Dmitri Shostakovich's "Ballet Suite."
"This concert is for children of all ages," Love says, "but we're especially interested in reaching out to the second- , third- and fourth-graders. After all, they're the ones who are about to be invited to play instruments in their programs at school. And they're more likely to pick up on it and begin their own musical journey if they've already been exposed to something previously."
True to the spirit of the event, admission to Saturday's Young People's Concert is free for children younger than 12.
All other tickets are $10 and available at Music and Arts Center, Ellicott City, and the Columbia Association Member Service Center.