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Phila. Orchestra expands programs that employ music for social impact

"How do we use music to increase quality of life for people in challenging situations?"

"How do we use music to increase quality of life for people in challenging situations?"

Daniel Berkowitz, the Philadelphia Orchestra's director of collaborative learning, asks the question, and says the orchestra is increasing the number of ways music can answer the call.

The group is instituting a new social-impact program, increasing others, and packaging them under an umbrella acronym: HEAR, which stands for health, education, access, and research.

Under the heading of health, the orchestra is sending its musicians into Broad Street Ministry as music therapists to work with victims of trauma. Temple University is providing training of orchestra musicians, as well as research that tracks outcomes.

In the area of education, the orchestra says it will increase its mentoring, coaching, and side-by-side rehearsals with students of All-City Orchestra. The orchestra has developed a program with the Eastman Music Co. in which the firm, for each instrument purchased in the region, will donate an instrument to a needy student.

To help increase access, the orchestra will expand its LiveNote app program next season and will add a new track for children. It has instituted a new TeenTix program that sells $10 tickets to middle and high school students.

The orchestra is also undertaking research - an information-mapping project that will survey all the existing music education programs in the city, so duplication and gaps might emerge. For this work, the orchestra has engaged Martin Ihrig, a practice associate professor at Penn's Graduate School of Education.

Orchestra president Allison B. Vulgamore said she hoped the assemblage of HEAR programs would attract new funding. The full scope of the orchestra's ambitions in education and social work would "take an investment that isn't here today," she said.

The initiatives are part of a changing institutional direction, she said, taking the orchestra more heavily into social-mission work. "I want to be off stage as much as we are on stage," she said.