Families who catch one of the two live performances of Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf" on Sunday at U.Md.'s Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center will not be thinking of how the concerts came to be. They may even have to be told who the orchestra is and why it is they are able to enjoy this free entertainment.
"Peter and the Wolf" comes to audiences courtesy of the National Orchestral Institute and Festival. Celebrating 25 years of music-making, NOI is a gathering of 80 young virtuosos from around the country, who passed a rigorous audition process for the opportunity to gather this month and hone their musical skills as members of this U.Md. School of Music-sponsored program.
"And this year, for the first time, we are doing a children's concert because I thought they should get that experience," said James Undercofler, this season's NOI guest artistic curator.
Undercofler, who holds the position of professor of arts administration at Drexel University, has not only chosen the repertoire, but also conducts seminar courses on being musical entrepreneurs, emphasizing the need for students to create their own musical opportunities. But for now, it is about coming together.
|U.Md. School of Music: 'Peter and the Wolf'|
|Where: University of Maryland's Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, Grand Pavilion, Stadium Drive and Route 193, College Park|
|When: 3 and 5 p.m. Sunday|
|Info: Free; 301-405-2787; claricesmithcenter.umd.edu|
"The musicians have to pull an ensemble together really quickly," Undercofler continued. "The biggest challenge is to put together a series of experiences in the right order to build their ensemble skills so they become a wonderful orchestra."
A week of un-conducted chamber playing taught the musicians to communicate with one another before Maestro Leonard Slatkin, one of the great teachers at the podium, took all of the material the students developed and turned the group into a first-rate orchestra.
"They are surprising me at how well they have come together," Undercofler noted.
In fact, the students have become so adept at ensemble work that, in addition to "Peter and the Wolf," they will be presenting musical interpretations of beloved children's books, including "Harold and the Purple Crayon," "Where the Wild Things Are" and "The Story of Ferdinand."
Listening to a rehearsal a few nights ago, James Undercofler said, "I could not believe how engaged, how creative and how prepared these students were."