They've been performing for almost a decade now — and they
haven't missed a beat.
A multi-talented group of musicians from NIH and other federal
agencies including the Department of Justice, the Library of Congress
and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, will, this
fall, celebrate its 10th year of providing entertainment to audiences
within the NIH community and beyond.
|Gary Daum is the orchestra’s
music director and principal conductor.
While the NIH Community Orchestra delights crowds throughout the
year, most recently the Recreation and Welfare Association-sponsored
ensemble gave yuletide performances at the Children's Inn, the
British Embassy and to a grateful audience at Baltimore-Washington
International Airport. Charity is a large part of what the group
is all about, according to Gary Daum, the orchestra's music director
and principal conductor, who is also on the music faculty at Georgetown
Preparatory School in Rockville. He has led the 60-plus members
of the full symphony orchestra since its inception. "We have raised
thousands of dollars for NIH charities and other community-based
organizations. Our outreach program includes performances at local
nursing homes, senior centers and schools," Daum added.
Philanthropy aside, their purpose is straightforward. The orchestra
prides itself on being a relaxed, friendly environment where making
music is wonderful therapy; it should never be a reason for having
therapy, its members contend. "I've played trombone in the group
for the past 6 years and find the music a nice change of pace from
the workday," says Steven Ferguson of the NIH Office of Technology
Transfer. "It's an excellent opportunity to meet folks from other
NIH areas, but most importantly I appreciate the sense of community
spirit and enjoyment the music itself brings to both audiences
and performers alike."
The orchestra's concert repertoire has included music from 6 centuries,
encompassing many periods, nationalities and styles including Beethoven,
Brahms, Dvorak, Mozart, Debussy, Copland and others. The orchestra
includes many scientists as well as other federal workers. While
the group is primarily classical in nature, subgroups have formed
over the last few years, providing alternative styles of music — for
example, a brass ensemble, a klezmer band and a classic rock group.
|The orchestra includes many
scientists as well as other federal workers. While the group
is primarily classical in nature, subgroups have formed over
the last few years, providing alternative styles of music — for
example, a brass ensemble, a klezmer band and a classic rock
Prior to the current ensemble, there have been four other NIH
Orchestras. "We began in the fall of 1996 as a project to get NIH
musicians together," Daum recalls. "The following year, the ensemble
expanded and they changed their name from the NIH Chamber Orchestra
to the NIH Community Orchestra, with our premiere concert being
the first NIH Messiah Sing-along on Dec. 21, 1997, at
Masur Auditorium." The orchestra has even delivered a few world
premieres, including one of the first post 9-11 choral/orchestral
pieces, composed by Daum. In June 2002, associate conductor Jesse
Parker presented Daum's Psalm 9:11, a musical tribute
to the events of Sept. 11, 2001. Meanwhile, publicity is no stranger
to the group — its showmanship was highlighted in a New
York Times article following the post 9-11 performance. In
addition, its annual sing-along has been listed in the Washington
Post Weekender's "Best Bets."
When members were asked what benefits they derive from being in
the orchestra, stress-reduction and personal fulfillment were noted
in particular. One scientist said, "Music soothes my heart and
soul. It is an outlet from the stress of work and other commitments.
The NIH Orchestra provides an excellent opportunity for 'closet' musicians
to resurrect their musical enjoyment in a minimally time-consuming
and highly satisfactory way."
The orchestra's upcoming June concert includes music by Mozart,
Bizet, Mendelssohn and Sousa. For more information about the NIH
Community Orchestra, visit http://www.nihco.org.