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Vol. LVIII, No. 5
March 10, 2006
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NIH Community Orchestra To Celebrate 10th Anniversary

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 group.  

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.

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