New Grant Funding for East County Strings

Strathmore ECI has received a grant from the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rotary for the East County Strings Program. The program provides almost 100 middle school students an opportunity to grow and develop their artistry, and culminates with an exciting gala concert for the community. We thank BCC Rotary for their generous support!

If you would like to support East County Strings, please contact us to get involved!

Video Spotlight: East County Strings

Check out our fantastic East County String students performing in concert for their families, friends, and community. 

Video courtesy of Comcast.

New Directions

By Chris Slattery

After hosting more than a million visitors in 35 years at its 16-acre campus, what does a music, arts, and cultural center do for an encore? Take the show on the road! 

Where to? For Strathmore that was easy—especially after a 2014 Washington Post article pointed out that residents in some areas of Eastern Montgomery County, known as East County, face greater challenges than most Montgomery County citizens. Within the 47.5 square-mile area from Silver Spring north of Route 29 to the Howard County border there are pricey neighborhoods but also, according to the Washington Post, pockets of poverty with “unemployment as high as 20 percent—about five times the county average.”

Add limited public transportation and a lack of cohesion amongst arts and humanities organizations and the result is a scarcity of arts throughout the region. Enter Strathmore’s East County Initiative (ECI), with its community-embracing arts programs like Corridor Concerts with East County religious communities; an East County Intergenerational Chorus; a Festival of Voices showcasing choirs from communities throughout the county, and unique after-school arts programs like Step Up East County, East County Strings, and Latin Dance Teams.

Strathmore’s goal has been “to build on the strong tradition of performance in East County,” said CEO Eliot Pfanstiehl. “To create resident programming by and for people who live in the area, to develop what’s already there to a higher level, and to identify what we can do to make the arts more impactful.”

Strathmore’s strategy of identifying and expanding hidden arts assets, encouraging multicultural expression, and implementing creative education is already getting results. So far, the ECI has found success by bringing together Maryland Classic Youth Orchestras of Strathmore (MCYO) with community leaders, teachers, local businesses, and over 90 talented middle school musicians who might otherwise abandon the instruments they started to learn in elementary school. 

“Our goal is to keep the kids interested,” said Cheryl Jukes, executive director of MCYO, “to keep them moving forward with music.”

As is the Step Up East County program, which brings professional step instructors from renowned DC-based troupe Step Afrika! into multiple East County school communities to help students improve their technique, provide performance opportunities, and train captains and coaches to sustain their own after school step programs.

“We don’t only send artists in for one-off performances,” said Campbell. “We’re closely involved with the community, and our objective is to keep step teams going by providing community training.”

The philosophy behind this new direction is simple: Strathmore believes that the arts add intrinsic value to any population with hopes and dreams of a better life. The power of the arts “to bind families together, amplify the community’s aspirations, and build on what already exists in the community,” Pfanstiehl says, is the cornerstone of the initiative.


Support Arts For Everyone

We rely on charitable gifts from individuals to sustain and expand our visual and performing arts experiences and arts education programs. Your gift will foster incredible social impact by allowing Strathmore to remain a strong and vibrant resource in your community.