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Arts & Culture

New Outreach Program Strikes Chords of Connection

Partnership With City Ferries Local Seniors to Music Performances at The Clarice

By Jessica Weiss ’05

People sit happily in audience at a concert

Iva Hinnant (center) and some of her neighbors in Attick Towers in College Park attend a March performance by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and UMD Concert Choir at The Clarice.

Photo by David Andrews

Raised in Washington, D.C., amid the sounds of church hymns, College Park resident Carl Patterson, 78, has always found peace and joy in live music. His father was a Baptist minister, his sister played the organ and piano, and other family members sang in the choir.

Thanks to a partnership between the College Park Housing Authority and The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, now he can enjoy one of his favorite pastimes just two miles from his home.

He and fellow residents of Attick Towers, a subsidized apartment complex for more than 100 older adults and people with disabilities, are shuttled to premier seats at shows at The Clarice by internationally renowned artists such as the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) and conductor Marin Alsop.

“I just sit back, close my eyes and relax,” said Patterson, who recently attended a BSO performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4. “It helps me stay positive.”

Housing Authority Board Chair Arelis Pérez called the partnership a “dream.” In November, Pérez accompanied resident Elizabeth Norman, who is blind, to the first of two BSO performances, each attended by about a dozen residents.

“I’m a senior myself, and I understand isolation,” said Pérez. “These residents deserve to live their best life, to enjoy the world, to experience opera, symphony, jazz, soul—to enjoy it all.”

She added that it’s hard for residents to get to more distant venues in the region such as the Kennedy Center or the Music Center at Strathmore. “But we have something right here that brings phenomenal art and culture to our local residents.”

Jane Hirshberg, program director of development and community engagement at The Clarice, likewise called the partnership a “perfect match” that falls within the mission of the university’s Arts for All initiative, which seeks to expand access to the arts to local communities.

Last fall, when the UMD School of Music, the BSO and The Clarice launched a collaboration focused on engaging communities across the county through orchestral music, Hirshberg connected with longtime College Park resident Mary Anne Hakes, co-chair of the city’s Senior Advisory Committee. Hakes was eager to facilitate the connection with Attick Towers so residents could attend performances.

Hakes is also pursuing the AARP’s designation for College Park as an age-friendly community. First, the city has to meet requirements in a number of categories.

“Social participation is a big piece to that,” Hakes said. “If we can partner with organizations in the city such as The Clarice, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel.”

Hirshberg solved the transportation barrier by arranging to bus residents door-to-door to and from The Clarice, in addition to providing free tickets to the events.

Rose Marie Knicely, 71, teared up as she recalled the kind treatment she and fellow residents have received, adding that she “liked all of it.”

Plans are in development for Attick Towers residents to attend this summer’s National Orchestral Institute + Festival and more programming in the fall. Hirshberg stressed that Clarice staff will work with Attick Towers residents to “choose the events they want to come to.”

Linda Rabbitt, 78, who attended a February performance by Music from the Sole, a Brazilian-inspired tap dance and live music company, called it “just awesome.”

“You wanted to get up and dance and do all those things with the people there,” said Rabbitt, who added that she plans to encourage more of her neighbors to go to future events.

“We're all getting older, and the best thing to do is be able to go somewhere and enjoy your evening even for a couple hours,” she said.



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