- Associated Press - Saturday, March 22, 2014

CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) - The Philadelphia Orchestra is bringing Pinocchio and other beloved cartoon characters to life for an audience of children.

It’s all part of “Pinocchio and Cartoon Classics,” one of many family concerts the orchestra performs each year.

The audience in Verizon Hall of the Kimmel Center on Saturday will include 23 children from the Wiggins Family School in Camden - many of whom have never been to Philadelphia despite its proximity, according to Barbara Sparks. She chairs a program for the Camden County branch of the American Association of University Women that has provided orchestra tickets for city students for 45 years.

“This program exposes children to a venue they may not have had the opportunity to experience before,” Wiggins Principal Lana L.P. Murray told the Courier-Post of Cherry Hill (http://on.cpsj.com/1lcId5d).

The organization has purchased tickets for thousands of children ages 6 to 12, rotating among schools and after-school programs including Kids Alley, a faith-based, after-school haven for Camden children, and the Boys and Girls Clubs.

“I’m very excited about this,” Murray said about the trip, noting she selects students who have an aptitude or appreciation for music.

In addition to the concert, the children will participate in a one-hour preconcert seminar in the Perelman Theater within the Kimmel Center and learn the components of classical music from professionals with the Philadelphia Orchestra or New York Philharmonic. They are educated about parts of the orchestra, often with a direct connection to what they hear in the actual performance.

“It’s an amazing sight,” Murray said. “To be able to experience professional musicians and the educational component to that. To see the students have hands-on experience, and exposed to this genre is just tremendous.”

Students from the Veterans Memorial Family School attended the Feb. 1 concert. They were chaperoned by music teacher Norman Dorrell and Malcolm Adler, a retired principal.

The seminar allowed the kids to have hands-on experience trying percussion, woodwind, brass and string instruments.

Such experiences can leave a lasting impression well beyond a day at the Kimmel Center. Dorrell mentioned one student, Sol Rivera, who attended a concert and heard Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.”

“She figured out the melody by herself,” he recalled. “Now she’s ready to audition for the Creative Arts High School.”

“Each year, a handful are bitten by the bug after they see instruments played at a high performance. I’m kind of fascinated by that.”Dorrell said.

Veterans Memorial has participated in the program for seven years.

“We’ve gone as many as three times in one year,” Dorrell said. “I would talk about the orchestra to select students who show extreme interest in musical instruments.

“This program always kindles interest and they ask questions.”

Stories like this keep the American Association of University Woman the women’s group committed to continue this program, said Sparks, who joined the group association in 2009. The organization dates to 1881 as an advocate for the advancement of education for women and girls. The Camden County branch formed in the late 1920s.

“This is one of the programs that attracted me,” Sparks said.

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Information from: Courier-Post (Cherry Hill, N.J.), http://www.courierpostonline.com/

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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