The Annapolis Symphony Orchestra expects more from its concert soloists than a fine performance. When guest artists arrive in Annapolis, they're invited to become part of the ASO's Outreach and Adopt-A-School programs to bring classical music to local schools.
Recently, cellist Julie Albers, who gave a dazzling performance of Samuel Barber's Cello Concerto last weekend, addressed an audience of about 100, from preschoolers to college students, at Anne Arundel Community College's Pascal Center.
A winner of several international awards, Albers, 21, said she had begun violin studies at age 2 with her mother using the Suzuki Method, and switched to the cello at age 4. In her junior year in high school, Albers moved from Colorado to Cleveland to pursue studies in Cleveland Institute of Music's Young Artists Program.
Now in New York, Albers plays cello in a piano trio and with a cello quartet, frequently performing with different orchestras. Responding to questions about her practice schedule and concentration level, Albers said that as a child, she'd practiced for an hour in the morning so she could lead a normal, active life.
She attributes her concentration skills to her early Suzuki training of listening and imitating, now learning scores by listening to them first. Mstislav Rostropovich is her favorite composer, she says.
She played a haunting melody from Eugene Ysaye's Sonata for Cello, displaying her need to be challenged and her desire to introduce great music to her audience. Albers concluded her performance with an excerpt from Samuel Barber's Cello Concerto, which she would play the next evening with the orchestra.
Pops artist and film and television composer Patrice Rushen also made a recent appearance for the outreach program at AACC Cade Auditorium. She conducted an improvisation session, assisted by ASO music director Leslie B. Dunner. Early that day, both had been at Bates Middle School, where Rushen met with the pupils and teachers..
She talked about her early training in classical piano and her student days at Locke High School in Los Angeles, where a Who's Who of pop music such as Tom Scott, Quincy Jones, and Herbie Hancock dropped by to encourage and work with students.
During this session Rushen played the piano and expressed her music theories, saying that classical music is relevant only as it's in tune with musicianship, and all kinds of music has value. Audience members were handed instruments as they sat to join in the performance.
These were just the latest in a series of memorable encounters with outreach artists. A visit to Annapolis High School in 1999 by 22-year-old violinist Jennifer Koh was unforgettable for her playing and her comments. She performed Samuel Barber's Violin Concerto, making it her own.
Equally memorable was the visit of violinist Judith Ingolfsson, who arrived in Annapolis in September. Before her performance of Khachaturian's Violin Concerto, Ingolfsson visited Bates Middle School, socializing with pupils, telling them that she got her first violin at age 3 and that she now travels with a priceless 1683 Stradivarius won at the Indianapolis International Violin Competition. She described her life as a musician living in New York and gave the class a preview of her virtuoso technique.