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BSO OrchKids gets $1M donation

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The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's (BSO) OrchKids program received the best Christmas present ever. Baltimore philanthropists Robert E. Meyerhoff and Rheda Becker will make a leadership gift of $1 million to the BSO's music education and life-enrichment program for kids.

The gift provides essential seed capital to support 50 percent of the OrchKids' incremental expenses as it expands over the next four academic years (years 2-5 of the program). These expenses include hiring additional instructors, purchasing supplies and instruments and adding one full-time administrative position to oversee the program as it grows to more than 300 students over the next four

Inspired by BSO Music Director Marin Alsop's artistic leadership and community vision, OrchKids is a year-round after-school program that provides music education, instruments, tutoring and mentorship to youth in Baltimore City at no cost to participants or the school. Launched in Fall 2008, the program served 30 first-grade students from Harriett Tubman Elementary School in its pilot year (2008-2009).

The school's closure at the end of the school year brought the program and the majority of the students enrolled in the program to OrchKids' new home, Lockerman Bundy Elementary School, also located in West Baltimore. In its second year, the program has grown to serve more than 150 pre-K through second grade students, both during the school day two days each week and after-school four days a week.

Robert E. Meyerhoff and Rheda Becker have been involved in OrchKids since its early planning stages. They were among several community members who stepped forward to match Marin Alsop's initial founding contribution of $100,000. "The growth of the OrchKids program would not be possible without this visionary gift from Bob and Rheda," says BSO President & CEO Paul Meecham. "It is a huge vote of confidence in the remarkable progress already shown by the young students, whom they have come to know and love. Their gift, covering approximately 50 percent of the cost of the program over the next four years, will hopefully inspire others to help make a real difference in these children's lives."
"I have, for many years, been interested in providing educational opportunities to the underserved population," explains Meyerhoff. "The Meyerhoff Scholar Program at UMBC provides the opportunity to study and earn advanced degrees in Math and Science. The OrchKids project is focused on this same population in the beginning of their educational life. We're hoping to make a big difference there so that they can learn skills such as working with a team to produce something so beautiful and joyous as music. Rheda's longstanding relationship with the BSO and her interest in education makes us the happiest of partners in the OrchKids program."

Source: Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
Writer: Walaika Haskins
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