Elementary students to perform with MSO for Freeman’s opening night

Date Published: 
May 23, 2014

Coastal Point • Maria Counts: Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra conductor Maestro Julien Benichou rehearses with John M. Clayton Elementary School students last week in preparation for the Freeman Stage opening night.Coastal Point • Maria Counts: Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra conductor Maestro Julien Benichou rehearses with John M. Clayton Elementary School students last week in preparation for the Freeman Stage opening night.For its official 2014 opening night in mid-June, the Freeman Stage at Bayside will open with a performance by the Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra (MSO). This year will be a little different, however, as the symphony will be joined by Irish duo the Vallely Brothers and 100 other voices, comprising fourth- and fifth-grade students from John M. Clayton Elementary School.

“I don’t know if, typically, our children would attend the Freeman Stage or hear a symphony,” said JMC Principal Charlynne Hopkins. “This is a terrific opportunity for them to be a part of the process and be up on the stage. They’re very excited about it.”

The partnership was made possible through funding by a National Endowment for the Arts Challenge America Fast-Track grant.

“We’re proud that this initiative is part of the NEA’s Fast-Track grant that we received back in December,” said Doug Phillips, marketing and communications director for the Carl M. Freeman Foundation. “It’s the only one in the state of Delaware, and it’s important to us, because it’s federal recognition. We usually receive funding from local and regional grants, so to get something from the federal level is something we’re very proud of.”

The Freeman Foundation chose John M. Clayton Elementary to partner with due to its highly diverse student population.

“It’s very important to the Joshua Freeman Foundation, because we’ve noticed and been told that there is a lack of arts, not only in the schools, but in the area in general,” explained Phillips.

“Families have to travel two hours to see a live symphony or Broadway show, so we try to bring that to the people. Obviously, the need is greater than what we can fill, but we hope, with little outreach interactions like this today with Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra and [MSO conductor Maestro] Julien [Benichou], at least we can light the spark for further arts interaction.”

Last week, John M. Clayton students had their first rehearsal with Benichou.

“They were excited to have the Maestro here last week. They did a very good job; they’re wonderful children,” said Hopkins.

“It’s certainly the best part of my job, and it speaks to why we come to work every day. It’s great to see the light bubs go off over kids’ heads and to see them get excited about something that doesn’t involve a touchscreen or a video game. This is the best part of our job,” added Phillips, who attended the rehearsal.

The students will practice during their music special, which meets every four days, and are being given additional practice time, thanks to the extended school days resulting from weather-related cancelations this winter.

“Our music teacher has been working, rehearsing with these students with these selections that they provided us with,” Hopkins said. “We’re just very excited about this opportunity for our children.”

The performance will be held on Friday, June 20, at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $10 per person, while children may attend free of charge.

“Opening night is typically attended by the local community, and typically those who appreciate fine arts. A lot of people come out to see the symphony,” Phillips said. “We thought this was a great collaboration between some local people who may not have been exposed to the symphony or may not have been exposed to the Freeman Stage. It’s a very welcoming way to do that.”

Hopkins said she’s excited to hear the performance and believes it will be a fantastic experience for the students.

“I expect it to be wonderful, I really do. They’ve been practicing away. They sound great.”

“This is why what we do what we do in the summer, to do these efforts in the shoulder seasons,” added Phillips. “It’s great that we can have these kids open our season on June 20, to be on the stage with the MSO, and I can’t wait to hear these young voices echoing through the audience.”

For more information on the event or to purchase tickets, visit www.freemanstage.org. The Freeman Stage’s official opening night is June 20, but Memorial Day weekend will include a free pre-season, “bring-your-own-chair” performance by dance troupe Rhythmic Circus, “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now!” at 7 p.m. on Saturday, May 24.