By Laura L. Thornton
Thousands of third-graders at the theater. Thousands of second- and fifth-graders at the symphony. Only in Montgomery County?
Very possibly. Montgomery County Public Schools is the 17th-largest school system in the country (
according to the school system's website), and the cultural opportunities available to students in the area are numerous.
This week, more than 11,500 MCPS fifth-graders are attending concerts by the
National Philharmonic at the
Music Center at Strathmore. Maestro and former Rockville City Councilman
Piotr Gajewski conducts the concerts, held which continue through Friday.
Students are expected to fill the 2,000-seat concert hall "in droves," according to the organizer.
The program includes music by Benjamin Britten (Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra), Astor Piazzolla (Oblivion) and Tchaikovsky (1812 Overture).
There will also be brief explanations of the works and images projected above the stage, reinforcing musical concepts students are learning in school, Strathmore said in a news release.
These concerts for fifth-graders represent a $124,000 "investment in the community" by the Strathmore Hall Foundation and its sponsors—GEICO,
Jordan Kitt’s Music and the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, according to the news release.
But students aren't just going to the symphony. They're going to the theater, too.
A new collaboration—"Learning Through Theatre"—between the county school system and
Imagination Stage eventually will bring all of the school system's third-graders to the Bethesda theater.
Next year, Imagination Stage will begin the program by providing free tickets and transportation for 3,300 third grade students in the county's 27 Title-I schools to see Cinderella: the Remix. The theater also will provide a pre-trip video study guide and a post-trip workshop, according to Imagination Stage.
The theater's Oct. 19 gala—"Stories Make the World Go 'Round"—raised $120,000 to start the program. A total of $150,000 is needed to fund the program's first phase, the theater reported.
Don't you wish you were a kid attending a county school these days?