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Arts Desk

A New Orchestra Brings Classical Music to Small PA Towns & Cities

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Michael Butterman is music director of the Pennsylvania Philharmonic

The Pennsylvania Philharmonic, a professional orchestra launched over the summer of 2014, is hitting the road to bring classical music to Pennsylvania's many small cities and towns. With an emphasis on community engagement and performing for young people, the 70-member ensemble is breaking new ground at its children’s concerts, which is not ancillary, but central to its identity.

The inaugural season of the ensemble is now underway. Along with initial concerts for the public in Pottstown, York, Bethlehem and West Chester, performances are scheduled for middle school students in seven school districts - in five counties - in eastern and central Pennsylvania, over a two-week period.

More concerts are set for the spring.  And for many kids, it’s likely to be their first experience hearing the sound of a full orchestra.
 
Pennsylvania Philharmonic’s Music Director Michael Butterman has a strong background bringing classical music to kids.  He’s been the education and community engagement conductor for the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra for the last 15 years. His approach involves both literary and musical improvisation. He asks the students to create a story that can be told through instruments. The students choose characters, the setting, and the plot. Then the orchestra’s musicians demonstrate the rich terrain of their imaginations.  
 
Meridee Duddleston sat in on a recent student concert at the Phoenixville Middle School auditorium and spoke with several of the adults leading the effort.    

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Michael Butterman is music director of the Pennsylvania Philharmonic. His other musical roles include current education and community engagement conductor for the Rochester Philharmonic, music director of the Boulder Philharmonic and the Shreveport Symphony orchestras, and resident conductor of the Jacksonville Symphony.

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Scott Robinson is the founder and CEO of the Pennsylvania Philharmonic, and is developing partnerships with school districts including Phoenixville, Pottstown, Pottsgrove and Boyertown -in an effort to expose middle school students to classical music.

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Preston McKnight is the supervisor of curriculum for the Phoenixville Area School District. The Pennsylvania Philharmonic performed two concerts for the district’s middle school students on October 23, 2014.