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May 13, 2012

BSO to launch training ensembles, taking over from Greater Baltimore Youth Orchestras

After 35 years, the Greater Baltimore Youth Orchestras, an educational enterprise involving multiple ensembles, will officially dissolve on Aug. 31, to reemerge on Sept. 1 as the Baltimore Symphony Youth Orchestras.

Former GBYO employees, including artistic director Kenneth Lam, will become employees of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, which has not previously had an orchestral training program.

“The idea of having a youth orchestra had not been on our radar until folks from the GBYO approached us in January,” said BSO president and CEO Paul Meecham. “But having worked at the San Francisco Symphony, which has a youth orchestra, I always had in the back of my mind that a youth orchestra would be a natural thing for the BSO to do.”

The GBYO, founded in 1977 by BSO clarinetist Chris Wolfe, has about ...

250 students, ages six to 19, from throughout the metropolitan region take part in the organization. There is a full orchestra of advanced students, an intermediate-level orchestra, and two early-level string ensembles (these two will be combined into one in the Baltimore Symphony Youth Orchestras).

The budget for the GBYO has been about $200,000. Approximately half of the money is raised from tuition, the rest from private contributions and grants from national, state and city agencies. “We hope those grants will stay in place,” Meecham said.

In a statement released Sunday, Lam said the the creation of the BSYO means that “our students will now have ties to a world-class music organization led by a visionary conductor in Marin Alsop [the BSO's music director], access to more sizable resources, and be in a better position to recruit the very best talent from across the State of Maryland.”

GBYO board president Jeff Zoller described the deal with the BSO as “a logical evolution.” He will become an an ex-officio member of the BSO’s board of directors.

The GBYO's current executive director Nana Gaskins Vaughn will join the BSO’s education and community engagement staff. Other conductors currently with the GBYO will continue with the BSYO. A new council formed by members of the GBYO board will take on the duties of fundraising and advocacy for the new organization.

Students in the BSYO will have increased interaction with BSO musicians and will get to attend BSO concerts.

Alsop is expected to work with the youth orchestra at some point in the future, Meecham said. In a statement, Alsop said that the addition of a youth orchestra reflects her goal of “deepening [the BSO's] the ties to the community ... and strengthens our commitment to serve and nurture Maryland’s most talented young musicians.”

The youth orchestra complements other BSO's educational initiatives, notably OrchKids, a program offered in early grades at a several Baltimore public schools. “As the kids get older and more proficient in their instruments, we hope they will get involved in the youth orchestra,” Meecham said.

For the past several years, the GBYO was ensemble-in-residence at Loyola University in Maryland. “Loyola needs their space back, so we're helping the youth orchestra to look for a new home for rehearsals,” Meecham said.

The BSYO will give one concert each season at the BSO's home base, Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. The location of additional concerts is to be determined (the GBYO's final concert of this season was held Sunday at Towson University's Center for the Arts).

Auditions for the BSYO will be held later this month and in June.



Posted by Tim Smith at 3:33 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: BSO, Clef Notes


Once again more of BSO's cherry picking of the least challenging part of a community.This decision was done by two people who don't know GBYO, its parents or its history or even Baltimore. Good work, Nana, it took you less than a year to destroy an organization parents built up over 30 years. Actual GBYO supporters please come to Thursday's meeting. Many the details of this have been hidden.

I don't understand how can anyone look at this wonderful opportunity for our children and see it as a negative thing.
As a GBYO parent I think that this is a step into the right direction, and I am very grateful to the artistic and executive team for initiating this change, and approaching the BSO. World does not get better by choosing the perpetual status quo but by taking courageous, and bold leaps of faith.

I am also a GBYO parent, and this year was a tremendous improvement over last year. The change to BSYO will continue the positive path that began this year with Nana and Ken.

How can the BSO afford to pay more staff members when the musicians themselves have taken pay cuts? What actually changes for the GBYO? Some free tickets? A concert with the BSO? What exactly does "interaction" with the musicians mean? One would hope that means coaching initiatives, but there is no mention of how the musicians of the BSO will be compensated. In the end, it doesn't seem like a fiscally prudent idea. The only person this seems to benefit is the GBYO conductor, who can now include "Baltimore Symphony Orchestra" on his professional resume.

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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