Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Tourney benefits children’s orchestra concerts

As published in the Record Journal Wednesday July 3, 2013

By Brianna Gurciullo
Record-Journal staff

(203) 317-2231

WALLINGFORD — Philip Ventre watched hands shoot up when he asked who played a musical instrument among the roughly 1,400 students who attended the Wallingford Symphony Orchestra’s children’s concerts in April.

Ventre, the orchestra’s musical director, said the annual show has inspired countless young people to study classical music since 1980. The tradition, held at the Paul Mellon Arts Center on the Choate Rosemary Hall campus, will continue in 2014 with an annual golf tournament benefiting the program scheduled for August.

“It’s important because it gives these children exposure to classical music, which they probably don’t have,” said Ventre, who helped found the WSO in 1974.

The Uria and Johanna Fishbein Charitable Foundation will host its Memorial Golf Classic on Aug. 10 at the Tradition Golf Club. The eighth annual event will benefit the Uria and Johanna Fishbein-WSO Children’s Concert Program, which offers two performances to public and parochial students in grades three through six each spring.

WSO board member Elizabeth Mitchell, who helps coordinate the show, said the musicians serve as role models for the students.
“They’re going to work harder on their instruments so they’re going to get as good as that,” she said. “It gives kids incentive, inspiration if they are actually studying a musical instrument, as well as music itself is good for creativity and thinking your own thoughts.”

Johanna Fishbein, who died in 1997, was a longtime WSO board member. She owned a local dance studio until the early 1940s and gave free ballroom dancing lessons at area schools.

Relatives established the charitable foundation to honor the legacy of Johanna Fishbein and her husband, Uria, after he died in 2004.

Ventre, who attends the golf tournament every year, said Johanna Fishbein was “instrumental” in raising money for Wallingford’s professional orchestra.

Mitchell said the golf tournament is one of the major sources of funding for the children’s concert, which was the brainchild of the Junior Woman’s Club (now known as Wallingford Community Women) and Ventre. The proceeds help WSO staff pay the professional musicians and for bus transportation to the show.

The WSO has also received money for the program from the town’s Rotary Club Foundation and from national foundations. The nonprofit organization won its first grant from the James H. Napier Foundation, which favors local initiatives for children and
families, this year.

“Music can be helpful in developing IQ and emotional stability and so forth. All of those things kind of go hand-in-hand,” Mitchell said about the concert’s benefits.

She added that some students have sent letters to the WSO after they attended the concerts, providing commentary on the music. One student wrote that the show “for a short time, took away the tensions” in his life.

“That’s what music does,” Mitchell said. “They listen and it’s kind of the only time they’re honest with their own thoughts — in terms of what the music is conveying to them.”

Mitchell said the town has a long history of musical excellence in its schools, highlighting Richard Otto, who led the Lyman Hall High School band to a national music conference in 1969. But Ventre, who teaches music at Choate, said elementary and middle schools have increasingly cut classical music courses from their curricula.

Proceeds from the golf tournament will also go toward the fund for an annual scholarship awarded to a Wallingford high school graduate.

Tournament costs total $150, which includes greens fee, cart, driving range, lunch, dinner, and a giveaway bag. Players will tee off at 1 p.m. on the
course at 37 Harrison Road.

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