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Seeking talent for community orchestra


Elijah Wirth likes the sound of the Westminster Symphony.

It's just a working title, but the director of Carroll Community College's music department hopes the symphony soon will become a household name.

Wirth is collaborating with the music department at McDaniel College to create a community orchestra that would draw talent from both colleges, area high schools and residents.

"It has been occupying my life," said Wirth, who became music director at Carroll Community College in June after a year on the adjunct staff. In addition, he has been teaching tuba at McDaniel College since last year.

"We're hoping to expand [the symphony] to as many people in the community as possible," said Wirth, who also is the conductor for the Frederick Regional Youth Orchestra.

The New York native moved to Baltimore in 1995 to study at the Peabody Institute, where he earned his bachelor's degree in tuba performance in 1999 and master's degrees in conducting and education in 2002. He taught for a year at Deer Park Middle Magnet School in Randallstown before joining the community college's adjunct staff last year.

This year, when the community college asked him to become its full-time music director - the music department's only full-time faculty member - he was charged with developing a music degree program at the college.

Toward that end, he has introduced two new courses - group piano and musicianship. Starting in the fall, students can earn an associate's degree in music.

As the school produces more trained musicians, the community benefits by having more opportunities to see performances, Wirth said.

"The big goal is to provide as diverse a [music] program as possible," he said. "We want to give music students the opportunity to experience many varieties and styles of music. ... We want to introduce the community to as much music as possible."

The idea for the community orchestra came about two years ago when the head of McDaniel's music department, Margaret Boudreaux, pointed out that the college did not have an orchestra and asked Peggy Ward, a lecturer in the department, to create one.

Ward noticed that the college lacked stringed-instrument students, and it would be impossible to create an orchestra without a full complement of string, woodwind, brass and percussion instruments.

Ward decided to tap into the musical talent at the community college as well as at local high schools to draw together the players needed for an orchestra.

When Boudreaux contacted Wirth about working together to form a community orchestra, he was eager to get involved.

Wirth and his colleagues at McDaniel are recruiting musicians for the orchestra, which will rehearse at McDaniel and perform at the Scott Center at Carroll Community College.

Musicians throughout the community are welcome to join. People interested in performing with the orchestra should sign up for a one-credit music course at the community college starting next semester.

"This adds a lot to the overall culture of not only the college, but the community in general," Wirth said.

The orchestra's first performance is scheduled for April 19 at the Scott Center, which seats about 420 people.

"We're in a really exciting position," said Bo Eckard, Carroll Community College's jazz ensemble director for nearly four years and director of jazz studies at McDaniel, where he has taught for nearly 22 years.

"This is a wonderful opportunity between the high schools, the county, both colleges and the community. ... It has the potential to be a tremendous center and magnet for music," Eckard said.

Another step in the effort to spread music throughout the community includes creating programs for children, Wirth said.

Starting in February, stringed-instrument instruction as well as early-childhood music programs will be offered Saturday mornings in conjunction with the community college's continuing-education department

"We're trying to push music education in the community," Wirth said. "We want to provide more opportunities to perform, listen and learn."

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