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Kids get taste of classical music

March 20, 2000|By BRENDAN KIRBY

Washington County elementary and middle school students this week just might be surprised at how much classical music they recognize - and even like.

Musicians from the Maryland Symphony Orchestra visited five schools in the county on Monday, playing selections ranging from the national anthem to the music used in "Bugs Bunny" cartoons.

"I like, probably, the 'Pink Panther' song (the best)," said Brian Poole, an 11-year-old sixth-grader at Boonsboro Middle School.

A quintet of brass musicians offered that familiar song among others for about 150 students.

Some audience members who are learning to play instruments got a chance to see them played by professionals.

"I like when the tuba played, because I play the tuba," said sixth-grader Ryan Collins, who lives in Sharpsburg.

How do you keep a group of sixth-graders interested in classical music for 30 minutes?

You give them songs they know.

Hence, the "Pink Panther" song.

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Another successful strategy for holding their interest is to let them do things they normally would not get away with in school.

To demonstrate the different pitches of musical instruments, for instance, French horn player Ed Schupp instructed the students to shout "No," at the top of their lungs.

It didn't take much encouragement. The noise was deafening.

Schupp then told the students to repeat the word as softly as they could.

The point was that instruments can by played loudly or softly and high or low, just like the human voice.

Students had questions for the musicians. One asked why Schupp put his hands inside his French horn.

The answer is that years ago, that is how musicians changed notes. Even now, Schupp said he subtly changes the sound in this manner.

Another student had a request, the theme from "Star Wars."

Schupp obliged, to the delight of the audience.

Some students expressed surprise that trumpet player Charles Grab, who teaches music and band at the school, plays for the MSO.

"Why didn't you ever tell us you were in the Maryland Symphony Orchestra?" one boy asked.

"Why don't you go to the concerts?" Grab replied.

Brass and string musicians will give mini-concerts for students through Thursday.

At Williamsport Elementary School, first-, second- and third-graders recognized many of the songs performed by an MSO string quartet, including "The Star-Spangled Banner," and "Ode to Joy."

Most children probably could not name music composed by Mozart, but most recognized his piece that is used for "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star."

The purpose of this week's outreach is to introduce young children to a form of music they may not listen to at home and to provide a preview for a trip fourth-graders make each year to the Maryland Theatre for an MSO concert.

"We try to choose music that's accessible to show them how classical music is used in every-day life," said Denise Setny Nathanson, who plays the cello.

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