Annual tribute hits every note at MLK High

For the last 21 years the Philadelphia Orchestra has held a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Tribute Concert. Six years ago Rep. Dwight Evans (D.,Phila.) convinced them to hold it at Martin Luther King High School in East Germantown, and give away the tickets for free.

The orchestra is internationally known, and spends a lot of effort breaking into new markets all over the world. According to Craig Hamilton, vice president of community and government relations at the orchestra, Evans’ used the same argument for bringing the orchestra’s music to city neighborhoods as the orchestra used for it’s efforts overseas – exposure.

It turns out he was right. The MLK concert at MLK High is one of the high points of the year for the orchestra.

“It feels great,” Hamilton said. “Oh my God, it feels great.”

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No matter where they are, when the orchestra plays outside of concert halls, the audience reaction is much more open than with the usual crowd, Hamilton said, and the musicians love it.

On this Dr. Martin Luther King Day, even Hamilton got to share in the thrill when he met ten year old Rodney Carson Jr. and introduced him to conductor Thomas Wilkins. Carson plays four instruments: drums, piano, upright bass and electric bass.

Hamilton and Wilkins were impressed.

“I try to play everyday on all of the instruments,” Carson said.

His dream is to play professionally in classical or jazz.

Central High senior Moises Velilla also has a dream, or more of a plan really, for his future. Following intermission he gave a speech to the audience about his plans to attend Drexel University and become a mechanical engineer. He said Dr. Martin Luther King held a special role in making that happen.

“Dr. King’s example inspires me to believe in myself and my future,” Velilla said.

Inspiration was in no short supply on Monday. Accompanying the orchestra through part of the concert was the Philadelphia All City Choir with singers from high schools across the city. Together the two groups filled the school with something like theme music for remembering Dr. King and tapping that inspiration so many associate with him.


In the slideshow above the orchestra and choir perform “How Can I Keep From Singing?” Pictures are from area MLK Day events including the concert above, King and civil rights related classroom activities at Wissahickon Charter School, the 33rd annual King sermon at First United Methodist Church of Germantown and community service work at Germantown High School. (Photos: Patrick Cobbs and Sue Ann Rybak/For NewsWorks)

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