Symphony musicians band together for benefit concert

| Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013, 6:00 p.m.

Great music is its own reward, but there's no doubt that concerts that benefit a good cause create an extra layer of satisfaction.

The musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra have found a new way to give back to the community whose support they're grateful to receive.

They will give concerts to help raise money for a fund at the Pittsburgh Foundation that will support school- and community-music programs that have been reduced or eliminated.

The PSO Musicians Care Fund will support basic aspects of music-education activities, such as instrument repair, music lessons, music scholarships and the cost of school busses for children to go to Heinz Hall, Downtown, for concerts designed for them.

Keith Lockhart, music director of the Boston Pops, will conduct musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony in a benefit concert Oct. 14 at Rodef Shalom Congregation in Oakland. Admission is free, but reservations are required.

The program will be filled with popular classics by Antonin Dvorak, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Georges Bizet, Aaron Copland, Edward Elgar and Dmitri Shostakovich. In addition, concertmaster Noah Bendix-Balgley and violinists Christopher Wu, Jeremy Black and Laura Motchalov will play Antonio Vivaldi's Concerto for 4 Violins.

“It's really a great initiative, and I hope it will serve as a model for others in the country,” says Lockhart, who earned his master's degree in conducting at Carnegie Mellon University, Oakland.

He's been music director of the Boston Pops since 1995, is a past music director of the Utah Symphony and is music director of the BBC Concert Orchestra in London.

“I was originally approached by (principal timpanist) Ed Stephan about this, one of the few members of the orchestra I don't know,” Lockhart says. “When he told me about it, I was honored to be involved and, especially, to kick it off. We're in a time of adversity for orchestras in this country, but the fact they're proactively taking on the long range of what we know we have to do is to be applauded.”

Lockhart and the musicians are donating their services.

The musicians found a ready partner at the Pittsburgh Foundation when they presented their idea.

The foundation provided no money, but provided a web page ( and portal for donations and will process the donations from a tax perspective.

Several aspects of the musicians' proposal were intriguing, says Gwyneth Gaul, the Pittsburgh Foundation's director of development.

“It was organic from the musicians themselves. That's pretty extraordinary, and from what I understand, the first of its kind nationally. It's separate from the symphony. The (musicians) wanted to spearhead this effort and make an impact in the local music community,” she says.

“They already donate time in schools and in the community. To take this extra step was extraordinary, something we believe in. One of the other meaningful things about this fund is that it will work hand in hand with the symphony. It's just that here, the musicians have their own voice.”

Mark Kanny is classical music critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7877.

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