Baltimore Philanthropists Robert E. Meyerhoff and Rheda Becker Donate $1 Million to Support Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s OrchKids Program

OrchKids continues to expand and thrive in second year

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, in partnership with the Baltimore City Public Schools, announced today that Baltimore philanthropists Robert E. Meyerhoff and Rheda Becker will make a leadership gift of $1 million to the BSO’s music education and life-enrichment program, OrchKids. This gift provides essential seed capital to support 50% of the OrchKids’ incremental expenses as it expands over the next four academic years (years 2-5 of the program). These expenses include hiring additional instructors, purchasing supplies and instruments and adding one full-time administrative position to oversee the program as it grows to more than 300 students over the next four years. A press conference announcing the gift took place today at 10:00 a.m. at Lockerman Bundy Elementary School.

Inspired by BSO Music Director Marin Alsop’s artistic leadership and community vision, OrchKids is a year-round after-school program that provides music education, instruments, tutoring and mentorship to youth in Baltimore City at no cost to participants or the school. Launched in Fall 2008, the program served 30 first-grade students from Harriett Tubman Elementary School in its pilot year (2008-2009). The school's closure at the end of the school year brought the program and the majority of the students enrolled in the program to OrchKids’ new home, Lockerman Bundy Elementary School, also located in West Baltimore. In its second year, the program has grown to serve more than 150 pre-K through second grade students, both during the school day two days each week and after-school four days a week.

“I have, for many years, been interested in providing educational opportunities to the underserved population. The Meyerhoff Scholar Program at UMBC provides the opportunity to study and earn advanced degrees in Math and Science. The OrchKids project is focused on this same population in the beginning of their educational life. We’re hoping to make a big difference there so that they can learn skills such as working with a team to produce something so beautiful and joyous as music. Rheda’s longstanding relationship with the BSO and her interest in education makes us the happiest of partners in the OrchKids program.” - Robert E. Meyerhoff

Robert E. Meyerhoff and Rheda Becker have been involved in OrchKids since its early planning stages. They were among several community members who stepped forward to match Marin Alsop’s initial founding contribution of $100,000.

“The growth of the OrchKids program would not be possible without this visionary gift from Bob and Rheda.It is a huge vote of confidence in the remarkable progress already shown by the young students, whom they have come to know and love. Their gift, covering approximately 50% of the cost of the program over the next four years, will hopefully inspire others to help make a real difference in these children’s lives.“ - BSO President & CEO Paul Meecham

Lockerman Bundy Principal Cynthia Cunningham said, “In the few months that OrchKids has called our school home, I have seen measurable progress in the students enrolled in the program. Children who previously struggled to complete assignments on time are now leading their classes academically. Some of the same students who were often sent to my office for behavioral issues have become a delight to their teachers. They exude a new sense of pride. OrchKids’ members are thriving.”

About OrchKids
OrchKids is a year-round after-school program designed to create social change and nurture promising futures for youth in Baltimore City neighborhoods. Under Music Director Marin Alsop’s artistic leadership and direction, OrchKids is a cornerstone of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s efforts to expand the Orchestra’s relevance within the City’s broad and diverse community. In collaboration with several community partners, OrchKids provides music education, instruments and mentorship at no cost to Baltimore’s neediest youngsters. The program is inspired by Venezuela’s El Sistema, the music program that in 30 years has transformed the lives of hundreds of thousands of children in that country’s most impoverished areas. Like El Sistema, OrchKids is intended primarily to address the most pervasive social challenges affecting underserved youth, using music to cultivate fundamental life skills such as self-expression, cooperative learning, discipline and creativity. With assistance from The Family League of Baltimore City, the BSO has implemented several assessment tools to track if OrchKids participants are achieving social, academic and musical outcomes.

For the 2009-2010 school year, OrchKids serves more than 150 pre-K through second grade students at Lockerman Bundy Elementary School in West Baltimore. Under OrchKids Program Manager Dan Trahey, students receive classroom music instruction during the school day twice weekly and in after-school sessions four days a week from 3:30-6:00 p.m. A typical after-school session begins with a healthy snack and includes classroom music instruction, group instrument lessons and tutoring assistance. OrchKids frequently have the opportunity to take field trips to local organizations and attend Baltimore Symphony Orchestra concerts.

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