Rembrandt etchings, landscapes painted by artists of the Hudson River School and medieval maps of Crusader Palestine might seem like pretty arcane fare, but to the folks at the Elizabeth Myers Mitchell Gallery on the campus of St. John's College in Annapolis, they're child's play.
That's because at the Mitchell, children are both seen and heard. Each of the four touring exhibitions the gallery presents each year brings with it a Junior Member Program consisting of a 30-minute tour of the main exhibit and a hands-on learning activity conducted and designed by the gallery's art educator, Lucinda Edinberg.
"We're very pleased to offer this type of interaction with the community," says Hydee Schaller, the Mitchell Gallery's executive director. "We do our best to supplement the art curriculum of schools in our area, both public and private." Those seeking information about offerings for children in the coming exhibition season should call the gallery at 410-626-2556.
Children are a target audience for the area's musical organizations as well. The Annapolis Symphony Orchestra, based in Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts (410-269-1132), does extensive outreach in area schools, often taking visiting soloists to schools to meet pupils face-to-face, and offering special programming for the younger set.
In addition, the ASO programs two Family Series concerts each year, each designed to convey the beauty and fun of the classical repertoire to children. The first concert this year will be offered Oct. 31 and present spooky selections like Modest Mussorgsky's "Night on Bald Mountain" and "March to the Scaffold" from Hector Berlioz's phantasmagoric Symphonie Fantastique.
On the second program, which is scheduled for March 6, the orchestra will be joined by Bob Brown Puppets for Sergey Prokofiev's classic musical tale, Peter and the Wolf. Young concert-goers will have the opportunity to meet the musicians.
The Annapolis Chorale has reached out to young musicians by forming the Annapolis Youth Chorus for singers, ages 6 to 18. Under the direction of Laurie J. Hayes, this ensemble provides enriching choral experiences in a variety of musical idioms. The kids are included in the parent group's annual "Celebration of Christmas" concerts performed at Maryland Hall each December.
The youngsters also have been featured in the parent Chorale's performances of Carl Orff's blockbuster cantata, "Carmina Burana," and in its "Broadway in Concert" production of Meredith Willson's vintage musical, The Music Man. The Youth Chorus rehearses weekly at St. Anne's Episcopal Church Parish House in downtown Annapolis. For audition information, call 410-263-1906.
Another choral opportunity open to area youngsters is the All Children's Chorus of Annapolis -- an ensemble conducted by Liz Barrett, who loves to welcome children from different racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds into her musical mix. These kids maintain a busy schedule each year, with performances at the State House, various community gatherings, and their own concert and fund-raiser held at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis each spring. For audition information, call 410-263-9191.
The Ballet Theatre of Maryland, also based in Maryland Hall, offers a full slate of classes for young dancers, as well as an "Apprentice One Program" that lifts their more advanced students into the adult company for selected performances during the professional season. Anyone interested in studying ballet, or in the slate of lectures and demonstrations the company has planned for school children during the 2004-05 season, should call 410-263-8289.
Founded in 1990, the Chesapeake Youth Symphony has grown from a fledgling single ensemble of 35 players into a fleet of four orchestras, two flute choirs and numerous chamber ensembles. A string orchestra and a preparatory string orchestra also rehearse and perform under the organization's aegis.
Participation in the CYSO also guarantees coaching from such frontline musicians as Jonathan Carney, concertmaster of the Baltimore Symphony. Auditions can be arranged by calling the orchestra at 410-263-2664.
For more than 40 years, the Children's Theatre of Annapolis has been presenting quality productions for young actors, a trend which continues at its complex on Bay Head Road, just west of the Bay Bridge. CTA produces two full-length musicals per season at the Pascal Theater on the campus of Anne Arundel Community College, one for its younger actors and one for high-schoolers. CTA includes a full slate of classes, workshops and summer camps. Call 410-757-2281 for season details and audition dates.
Annapolis' Talent Machine Company was founded by Bobbi Smith, the choreographer-director. Smith is now deceased, but the company she started still shines at its annual Christmas show and in the two musicals it produces each summer at Key Auditorium on the campus of St. John's College. Talent Machine also offers a full panoply of dance classes and camps. To catch some of that vaunted Talented Machine energy, call 410-956-0512.
The third troupe that must be noted is Merely Players, a North County ensemble based at the Chesapeake Arts Center in Brooklyn Park. Also a fully functioning adult company, Merely Players has turned the stage over to its youngsters on occasion, and the results in shows like State Fair, West Side Story and Into the Woods have been first rate. (410-636-6597).