This fund ensures kids are exposed to classical music

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Stonehouse Elementary students learn about the timpani with percussion musicians Dan Knipple and Ray Breakall. (WYDaily/Courtesy JB Crowley)
Stonehouse Elementary students learn about the timpani with percussion musicians Dan Knipple and Ray Breakall. (WYDaily/Courtesy JB Crowley)

The Williamsburg Symphony Orchestra has recruited its most acclaimed principal musicians for what are probably their most essential performances.

For two consecutive weeks up to Jan. 16, the 20 musician ensemble is taking their production of Sergei Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” to nine Williamsburg-James City County schools in an effort to expose as many children as possible to the classically composed tale.

“Young children are so enthralled with music and we just want them to have an experience with classical music that’s fun and engaging,” said Carolyn Keurajian, executive director for the Williamsburg Symphony Orchestra.

Keurajian said Peter and the Wolf is the perfect introduction to the orchestra for children as each playful instrument in the number represents a character in the story.

“What we found at the end when we do a Q & A with the kids they’re so inspired…we ask ‘who would like to play an instrument?’ and every single hand goes up,” she said.

Every five years Keurajian said the orchestra sets out on this special tour continuing the legacy of the late John Jamison, a former dean for William & Mary’s School of Business and philanthropist, who established the “Peter and the Wolf Fund.”

Keurajian said the musical inspired Jamison so much that for the last 15 years, he has paid the approximately $40,000 out-of-pocket for the orchestra to perform in the schools and even narrated the story himself. His wish before his death in 2015 was that every child would see the production.

“He [Jamison] saw the piece when he was a child and it inspired his life’s work,” Keurajian said.

As he realized his life was coming to an end, Keruajian said Jamison had a talk with her and born the beginnings of the “Peter and the Wolf Fund” as he told her “we have to keep this going, it’s my legacy, we’ve got to see this continue on.”

RELATED STORY: Sponsor Brings Musical Outreach to Area Schools with the Williamsburg Symphonia

Touring local schools to inspire young musicians is part of the orchestra’s vision and mission to expose young audiences to classical music, according to the website.

Keruajian also said the group collects, refurbishes, and loans out free instruments for children who express an interest for playing.

“We absolutely want to encourage them to be musical whether it’s singing, whether it’s picking up an instrument because…there’s just a huge amount of data out there published by the National Endowment for the Arts about the value of arts education for children and how it correlates specifically to test scores,” she said.

Jim Gandolfo, a veteran performer and adjunct theater instructor at Christopher Newport University, is the narrator for this year’s 15 performances and David Grandis, director of orchestras at the College of William & Mary, is the conductor.

For more information on how to donate used instruments to the Williamsburg Symphony Orchestra, click here and contact the Williamsburg Community Foundation to contribute to Jamison’s Peter and the Wolf Fund.

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