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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University October 17, 2005 | Vol. 35 No. 7
Hitting All the Right Notes

Music director Jed Gaylin rehearses the Hopkins Symphony Orchestra, founded to give university and community members a way to enjoy their musical talents.

The Hopkins Symphony Orchestra offers great music at affordable prices

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

In 1995, at age 27, Lisa Seischab decided to end her professional musical career. A bassoonist who had played with the Charlotte Symphony, Buffalo Philharmonic and Syracuse Symphony orchestras, Seischab felt she had taken her performing career as far as it was going to go, and she wanted a new direction. In 1997, she moved to Baltimore for a job in the Development Office of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Once here, however, the Roland Park resident realized how much she missed the lure of the stage. She would later discover that a way to scratch her performance itch existed less than a mile away from her home, on Johns Hopkins' Homewood campus — with the Hopkins Symphony Orchestra.

Founded in 1981 by Peabody Conservatory graduate student Catherine Overhauser, the HSO today still fulfills its original purpose of giving university and community members like Seischab a way to develop and enjoy their musical talents.

Since its inception, the orchestra has been dedicated to performing and promoting orchestral and chamber music from the standard and contemporary repertoires. Since 1992, the HSO has commissioned new works and regularly premieres the music of Maryland composers. It also provides opportunities for young Maryland soloists to develop their careers.

Past HSO soloists include such prominent artists as pianist David Buechner, soprano Allison Charney and violinist Hilary Hahn. This season will bring flutist Eugenia Zukerman to the stage.

Jiebing Chen

The HSO will kick off its 24th season on Saturday, Oct. 22, with performances of Brahms' Symphony no. 3 in F major and the Butterfly Lovers Concerto by He Zhanhao and Chen Gang, with erhu soloist Jiebing Chen.

In recent years, the HSO schedule has consisted of four symphonic concerts held in Shriver Hall, three chamber concerts in the Mattin Center, an annual concert for children and families and a free community concert.

The orchestra, which holds open auditions in September, is made up of 40 percent students, 40 percent community members and 20 percent JHU faculty and staff. This season, about 130 musicians of varying backgrounds — including lawyers, doctors, teachers, librarians and rocket scientists — will participate in HSO programs.

Edie Stern, general manager of the HSO, said that it's the diversity of the talented orchestra members that makes the group so special.

"In addition to our students, we have members who come from the surrounding neighborhood and as far away as Virginia," Stern said. "For most of our performers, this is a beloved avocation. At some point, they may have had to make the decision between music and another profession, and they chose medicine, engineering, teaching or other fields, but they never lost their passion for performing."

In 1991, Peabody alum Jed Gaylin became the HSO's fifth music director. Under his leadership, the HSO has developed a reputation for artistically and intellectually stimulating concerts.

The Hopkins Symphony has become a highly sought-after collaborator for events and performances in the community, such as a 2002 gala concert for cancer research featuring internationally known pianist Awadagin Pratt. The HSO also collaborates regularly with the Hopkins Choral Society and Goucher College Choir, in addition to holding community concerts in conjunction with the music programs at Grace United Methodist Church and Beth El Synagogue.

Gaylin, an award-winning conductor who since 1997 has also been music director of the Bay-Atlantic Symphony in New Jersey, said that the HSO's quality and range seem to increase each year, as the orchestra continues to attract talented, passionate performers. The result, he said, is top-notch performances that consistently delight audience and player alike.

"We play the best music here, and our tickets are affordable," Gaylin said, referring to prices that range from $6 to $10. "The performers love to play with us. They get to play with other excellent musicians and great soloists in front of a very supportive audience, performing the greatest pieces of the orchestra literature. The energy on stage is terribly exciting."

Seischab, who is now associate director of development for the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine's Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, said that playing with the HSO allows her to continue to push herself as a performer while she maintains a career and other pursuits.

"This is a wonderful orchestra to play with," she said. "The audiences have been delightful, too, and hopefully more people will discover us. Once they do, they'll keep coming back."

Hopkins Symphony Orchestra programs are supported by a grant from the Maryland State Arts Council, an agency funded by the state of Maryland and the National Endowment for the Arts.


Erhu Virtuoso Jiebing Chen Opens the 24th Season

The Hopkins Symphony Orchestra opens its 2005-2006 season with a visit from Jiebing Chen, one of the world's foremost erhu players.

On Friday, Chen will give a lecture-demonstration about the erhu, an ancient two-stringed Chinese violin. On Saturday, she will give a pre-concert lecture and then join the HSO for the most famous modern piece for erhu, arranged especially for her. The Butterfly Lovers Concerto, by He Zhanhao and Chen Gang, tells the story of lovers who can be united only by death and their transformation to butterflies.

Also on the program is Brahms' beloved Symphony No. 3. HSO music director Jed Gaylin conducts.

Lecture-demonstration: Friday, Oct. 21, at noon, SDS Room, Mattin Arts Center. Free.

Concert: Saturday, Oct. 22, 7 p.m. lecture; 8 p.m. performance, Shriver Hall. Free to JHU students with ID; $10 general admission; $8 for seniors (60+), students (through college) and JHU faculty, staff and alumni.

For more information, go to or call 410-516-6542.


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