Pennsylvania Philharmonic conductor Michael Butterman
POTTSTOWN PA – When the Pennsylvania Philharmonic Orchestra and its new conductor, Michael Butterman, visits the Greater Pottstown area Friday (Nov. 6, 2015) for a concert that will be enjoyed in part by students from Pottsgrove Middle School, they can expect him to ask for a show of hands from his audience.
Butterman told WHYY Radio’s Newsworks.org, in an interview published Thursday (Oct. 29), that he normally quizzes young students about their earlier experiences, if any, with classical music performances.
“When I go into these schools, I will ask, ‘Who here is hearing or seeing a live orchestra for the first time?’ And, in many places, it’s 90 percent of the hands,” Butterman said. “We know, first of all, that we are providing an experience that they are not getting, for the most part, in other places.”
Part of its mission, the orchestra states, is “to bring its music to the parts of the state that rarely have an opportunity to experience live classical performances on so grand a scale. Not only that, The Pennsylvania Philharmonic is one of the only orchestras in the area to invest heavily in concerts exclusively for young people.”
Other school districts that will hear the Philharmonic play include Pottstown, Boyertown, Bethlehem and Red Lion.
The Philharmonic formed only last year, and Butterman said one of his hopes is that it will inspire students to be more than simply members of an audience. He wants them, maybe solely on the strength of what they hear, to be encouraged to pick up an instrument or join a choir and become musical contributors as well.
If students need a role model for musical activity, Butterman himself might fill the bill.
Besides serving as the Pennsylvania Philharmonic’s conductor, he also works as music director for the Boulder (CO) Philharmonic Orchestra, music director of the Shreveport (LA) Symphony, resident conductor of the Jacksonville (FL) Symphony Orchestra, and is in his 16th season as principal conductor for education and community engagement for the Rochester (NY) Philharmonic Orchestra.
Butterman photo from the Pennsylvania Philharmonic Orestra