At least half of the $75,000 in state funding to Northern Virginia communities, announced last week by the Virginia Commission of the Arts and Humanities, will go to small, mostly volunteer musical groups in the area.
One of these, the Fairfax Symphony, received four grants totaling $11,380, according to manager Barbara Searage.
She said Fairfax sounded out the National Symphony and got part of this year's funding for initiating successful overtures for joint music programing. The result was a harmonious idea of elementary school concerts in Northern Virginia, coordinating performances by the two orchestras for a more meaningful music experience for Fairfax students, Searage said.
"We've been introducing school children to the instruments of the orchestra in our 'Hello, Symphony' program for several years. Chamber groups of each instrument family - string, wind, brass, percussion - have performed for grades kindergarden through six," she explained. One of the grants, for $2,250, will be used for a total orchestra mini-concert, bringing all the instrument families together for the children for the first time, the symphony manager said.
"The National Symphony traditionally gives concerts each year for Fairfax fifth and sixth graders. We went to them this year and said, 'We want to cooperate, surely we can help.' They were excited by the concept."
A series of "planned programmed exposures to symphonic music" resulted, Searage said, for which the commission gave the Fairfax Symphony more than $6,500 in two new grants. Fairfax will now develop and coordinate its concert programs for younger students, giving them a logical music foundation for later exposure to the National Symphony.
"This really is just marvelous," Searage commented. "We're breaking new ground in cooperative efforts between community and professional orchestras to the best of my knowledge." The new programming, she emphasized, "will try to bring some kind of order to disjointed efforts."
A third grant of $1,125 will be used by the Fairfax Symphony for a master class and performance by noted international violinist Daniel Hiefetz, in conjunction with its first concert of the coming season. A fourth grant of $3,665 was made for salary to pay an assistant manager of the symphony.
Another thriving musical ensemble, the Northern Virginia Chamber Orchestra, was awarded a $10,000 multi-area, statewide grant by the commission. This group was formed seven years ago by outstanding musicians from the Alexandria, Arlington and Fairfax community orchestras, according to music director Gilbert Mitchell.
The new orchestra was "designed to tour and play for youngsters in remote rural areas of the state," Mitchell said, "where many children have never heard a live symphony before.
"We try to do things involving visual arts, something with action. Last year, we used dramatic puppet shows, ballet dancers and an opera singer. After we capture their attention, we give them good music!"
The orchestra prepares and rehearses two programs each year and gives several concerts in the spring. Grant funding is used to pay professional musicians' rates to concert performers, Mitchell said. Up to half the cost of the touring program is financed by sale of tickets costing about 60 cents per child, he reported.
The Alexandria Civic Symphony received $2,600 this year for its ongoing concerts for school youths. Conductor George Steiner said the money will be used for the kind of concerts the group has been doing for elementary students for 15 years, since he became the symphony director.
"Each year, the concerts have a theme," he said. "I explain the music and narrate the program, gearing it to the students' age level in the audience. It's meant to be not just entertaining but also educational.
"Since our concerts are during the day, we use paid professional musicians to join our community volunteers in giving two back-to-back concerts on one day, twice a year, at T.C. Williams High School auditorium."
Tentative plans call for public and private school students to attend concerts at 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. on Oct. 25 and Feb. 21.
All the commission grants were awarded in four categories: general projects, artists-in-schools, salary assistance and multi-area, statewide programs. Some of the grants are tentative pending requested revisions.
Including those mentioned above, general project grants for the metropolitan area totaled $26,631.
Recipients of other grants include the Arlington Symphony, $1,243 for high school musicians youth scholarship contest and $1,223 for youth scholarship contest winner concert; Fairfax Council of the Arts (FCCA), $700 for "Saturday Morning Live" mime theater, music and dance performances for families; Greater Reston Arts Center (GRACE), $1,350 for a docent program that will allow GRACE to take information on the art center into schools; Lydian Chamber Players, $1,800 for concert services in Arlington community center, and Wolf Trap Foundation, $10,000 for world Premiere of "The Duchess of Malfi," an opera by Virginia composer Stephen Burton.
Artists-in-schools grants went to Arlington County for two programs: architecture, $3,050, and poetry, $1,000. Manassas Park City Schools were awarded $3,050 for a visual arts and music program for gifted and talented students, and Central Elementary School in Warrenton received $500 for a poetry program.
More than $18,000 in salary assistance was allocated: Arlington Arts Center, $1,213 for an assistant director: Arlington Arts Center, $1,213 for an assistant director; FCCA, $2,573 for a concerts-in-the-schools administrator; King's Park Civic Band, $400 for a conductor; Torpedo Factory, $5,488 for an information desk staff, and Wayside Foundation, $5,400 for a company manager.
In addition to the $10,000 given the Northern Virginia Chamber Orchestra, one other multi-area, statewide grant of $12,600 was awarded the Wayside Foundation for its touring program.