Orchestra brings interlude to Philly schools

The acoustics were terrible and the piano was missing a few notes, but the principal violinist from the Philadelphia Orchestra played in the basketball auditorium at the Gesu School in North Philadelphia Monday.

This week, David Kim is going around to five Philadelphia grade schools to introduce students to classical music.

Many schools in the city have squeezed music education into art classes. In other schools, music has been cut out altogether. “We are going to have a cultural ghetto if we keep going down this road,” said Kim. 

The first-chair violin is visiting the schools to introduce obscure classical music to kids. That included work by the 18th-century composer Maria Theresia von Paradis and a modern piece by Ned Rorem.

Kim, 47, also shared stories of his musical upbringing with the 200 children gathered at Gesu: how his mother made him practice so much that sometimes there was only time to have doughnuts for dinner.

“With my mom there was no bedtime, there was no proper eating, it was all about the violin,” said Kim. “Even at breakfast in the morning, conducting with my cereal spoon.”

Abri Sample, a fourth-grader at Gesu, plays drums five hours a day. He said Kim’s visit has shown him where practice can take him.

“I’ll start by having doughnuts for dinner,” said Abri.

Kim was accompanied by Davyd Booth, an orchestra violinist and pianist, who played  the school’s beaten upright piano. Booth says Kim does not pander to the kids.

“He does not play down to the audience, regardless whether they are adults or children. They realize that,” said Booth. “You treat them like little kids, they are not going to respond as well as, you know, if they are young potential adults.”

Next week, the Gesu students and hundreds of others will watch David Kim and Orchestra members on their own turf – at the Kimmel Center.

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