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Arts & Culture

I Hear a Symphony

National Orchestral Institute + Festival Returns to UMD

By Sala Levin ’10

Overhead view of orchestra

The annual National Orchestral Institute + Festival this month brings dozens of young musicians to The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center to study, rehearse and perform with greats like Music Director Marin Alsop, below.

Top photo by Geoff Sheil; Alsop photo by David Andrews

Some of the nation’s most talented young musicians are converging at The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center this month as participants in the prestigious National Orchestral Institute + Festival (NOI+F)—and they’re about to show off their skills to the area’s symphonic fans and newcomers alike.

It’s the 35th year of this annual event hosted by The Clarice, where accomplished, young orchestral instrumentalists study, rehearse and perform with one another and with esteemed teachers. They will all be led by Marin Alsop, music director laureate of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the first conductor to win a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant, who in 2020 was appointed music director of NOI+F.

“We’re creating the future of orchestral music here every summer,” said Richard Scerbo, director of NOI+F.

Here are five highlights of the festival sure to please both seasoned orchestra-goers and the orchestra-curious.

conductor Marin Alsop

Marin Alsop 
Beginning the week of June 19, the festival will showcase Alsop’s influential work as a conductor. She will conduct some audience favorites, including Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, as well as pieces by living composers, especially women and people of color. The week will also include a screening of “The Conductor,” a new documentary about Alsop’s life and career. “Alsop is really a trailblazing conductor and teacher,” said Scerbo. “We’re so fortunate to have her leading NOI+F each summer.”

Naxos Album Recording (June 18 at 7:30 p.m.)
Since 2015, NOI+F has partnered with Naxos, the world’s largest classical music label, to record and release an album annually. In 2019, the partnership led to a Grammy for Best Orchestral Performance for the recording of “Ruggles, Stucky, Harbison.” This year, audiences can watch and listen as musicians record this year’s album of American music, including works by Ulysses Kay and Paul Creston, led by conductor JoAnn Falletta. 

Spark! Lounge (June 4, 11, 18, 23 and 25)
These mix-and-mingle sessions that precede or follow a number of performances offer attendees the chance to hear from the musicians themselves about the pieces they’re playing. Jazz musicians will play tunes in The Clarice’s Grand Pavillion while guests “enjoy a beverage, meet the performers and break down the invisible barrier between stage and audience,” said Scerbo.

Dubhe Chamber Ensemble (June 10 at 7:30 p.m.)
Named after a star in the constellation Ursa Major, Dubhe is a group of chamber musicians of color that features some of the most “influential chamber and orchestra musicians in the world,” said Scerbo. Created by the Philadelphia Orchestra’s acting associate principal bass, Joseph Conyers, the new group includes MacArthur “genius” grant recipient Vijay Gupta. The group will perform pieces by Antonin Dvořák and Florence Price.

Community Concert (June 5 at 5 p.m.)
The students of NOI will perform at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, 412 College Ave., along with their organist, David Houston. It’s “a chance for us to really meet and be out in our community, especially the College Park community where all the students are living and learning for these four weeks,” said Scerbo.

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