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Arts Desk

Extending the Reach of Classical Music To Students In Pennsylvania's Small Towns and Cities

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Michael Butterman is music director and conductor of the Pennsylvania Philharmonic.

In its inaugural season, the Pennsylvania Philharmonic performed for 15,000 students in Pennsylvania’s many small cities and towns from Bethlehem to Pottstown, to Oxford, and York and points in between. In its second season (2015-2016), the orchestra will continue its mission of exposing middle schoolers to the magic of classical music. While some students will deepen their experience over last year, others will see and hear a full orchestra for the very first time. 

Conductor Michael Butterman has a distinct way of connecting with kids, many of whom go to schools on the far reaches of the seven central and southeastern counties where the orchestra performs.  Along with his work conducting orchestras in Boulder, Shreveport, and Jacksonville, Butterman has been the education and community engagement conductor of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra for over 15 years. His engaging approach involves both literary and musical improvisation.  

Founder and CEO Scott Robinson says the Philharmonic’s interactive program is the key element. Hands go up. Butterman races around the hall with a microphone. Students are invited on stage.  The audience influences the action.

Last season, the orchestra focused on works that inspired stories with characters, settings, and plots. Each concert was absolutely unique because the students created the story. This season the theme will be “Cheers, Tears, and Fears” and how music reflects such a range of emotions. Music composed by Dvorak, Mendelssohn, and Mahler will form the foundation for this venture.    

This WRTI Arts Desk feature followed a student concert in Phoenixville in October 2014.

The Pennsylvania Philharmonic presents public concerts as well. Its schedule of student concerts will resume in October 2015. Music Director and Conductor Michael Butterman will be at the Kimmel Center’s Verizon Hall to lead The Philadelphia Orchestra in a costume party concert on Halloween morning.  

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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.