Germantown violinist talks about playing with Philadelphia Orchestra and music education

Booker Rowe, violinist for The Philadelphia Orchestra, knows good music.

In addition to growing up in a household where there was always music around him, the Germantown resident started playing the piano when he was five years old and moved to the violin at 10.

The unique sound was a draw, he said.

“I liked the singing quality of it. It’s like somebody is singing,” said Rowe. “I think part of the reason [I continued playing the violin] is that there were so many pianists at the same time and I was not a part of the number of violinists.”

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Music as education

Rowe, who was educated at West Philadelphia High School and Temple and Yale universities, rued the collapse of arts offerings in public schools. Exposure to music, he said during a recent interview with NewsWorks, is a beneficial thing.

“It’s certainly for the enjoyment and fulfillment on a spiritual level that you otherwise wouldn’t have,” said Rowe. “I think it keeps people out of jail and from doing things that they might otherwise do because they are no longer brutes when they hear great music.”

Rowe has played in community orchestras and professional ones such as the National Symphony String Quartet and the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C. He has been playing violin for The Philadelphia Orchestra for nearly 43 years.

Playing locally

The 71-year-old violinist will bring that unique sound close to home Thursday night when the Orchestra performs a free concert at the Curtis Arboretum, just across the city border in Cheltenham.

The 7 p.m. show marks the first time the Orchestra has performed at the site.

In addition to playing the Star Spangled Banner, the Philadelphia Orchestra will perform seven European classical pieces from Dvorak, Wagner, Saint-Saëns, Fauré, Mendelssohon and Tchaikovsky.

There will also be another free concert at Penn’s Landing on Friday at 6:30 p.m.

Guests are encouraged to bring blankets and chairs as the concert will be held outdoors. For more information, go to

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal