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Kids at the Music Center

Strathmore named
Montgomery County Public Schools Partner Champion of the Year

by Melanie Marquez Parra

April 26, 2019

With a portfolio of immersive arts experiences that reach thousands of local students, Strathmore’s pursuit to be of the community and for the community was on display Thursday, April 25, when Strathmore was announced as the 2019–2020 Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Partner Champion of the Year. MCPS honored Strathmore with this distinction because of the long-standing partnership with the school system, number of students and families impacted, resources invested, and future programs and plans.


To the cheers and applause from an audience full of educators, students, parents, and community leaders, Strathmore President and CEO Monica Jeffries Hazangeles accepted an award that offers a testament to the impact of Strathmore’s multitude of educational programs.

“Education has been at the heart of our mission from the very beginning,” Hazangeles said. “Being able to pursue such a robust menu of arts education with MCPS is very exciting and inspiring to our entire team.”

These programs are part of Strathmore’s Bloom initiative, which seeks to grow a vibrant arts community that welcomes everyone. Through unique partnerships with schools, the initiative offers nearly 30,000 students in Montgomery County moments of arts-inspired glee and exploration across a continuum of thoughtfully and collaboratively designed performances and classes often led by working artists.

“We are a community partner who listens to the school system and to teachers,” Hazangeles said. “One of the aspects I’m most proud of with these programs is how closely we work with curriculum specialists and teachers. We want to help achieve the objectives of the educational system and expose students to the wonder of the arts.”

Katie Murphy, MCPS coordinator for choral and general music, agrees, “[This award] shines a well-deserved light on the impact Strathmore has had on the hundreds of thousands of Montgomery County students who have been inspired and encouraged through the many concerts and outreach programs provided by Strathmore for the past 15 years.”

Successful programs continue to grow and more and more students are asking to play an instrument when given the option. The popular East County Strings program that provides middle school students after-school coaching from professional instrumentalists is adding an additional three schools, bringing the total to thirteen schools, and is expanding into Upcounty.

In one of the newest partnership programs with MCPS, after-school Latin-American music instruction will be led by Kristofer Sanz of Maryland Classic Youth Orchestras of Strathmore. Students from two middle schools and one high school will learn Latin-American music for strings and percussion.

The Latin Strings and Percussion Orchestra program exemplifies how Strathmore’s education staff seeks creative opportunities to integrate cultural connections into arts experiences.

“We don’t aim for every child we work with to grow up and become a professional artist,” says Lauren Campbell, Director of Education for Strathmore. “Our aim is to move them, to spark a little flare of joy, so that music and art can stay with them in some way for the rest of their lives.”

The magic of Strathmore’s work with students in Montgomery County is in the breadth and quality of the offerings, plus the focus on providing exhilarating engagement for students and families who lack the resources needed to access private arts instruction or performances. For many of Strathmore’s donors, it’s the holistic outreach of the educational programming that motivates them to support and sustain Strathmore.

“It’s about giving children an opportunity, regardless of means, to play an instrument, to learn how to sing, to paint,” Hazangeles said. “That’s very important to our patrons and supporters. For many, Strathmore is the conduit for investing in their own passion and that passion is rooted in their own experience in the arts. Someone supported the arts for them, they had a chance to learn an instrument or study dance, and they want to make that available to all children from all backgrounds.” 

Maryland stands out in its investment in the arts—the state is third in the nation for per capita spending on the arts. As an institution built on the investment of time, talent, and resources from so many people, Strathmore’s educational programs for the youth of Montgomery County reflect the spirit of arts appreciation that permeates the community.

“It’s extraordinary,” Hazangeles said. “Montgomery County has such a robust landscape of arts, artists, and humanities programs. We are a treasure trove, and we are so very fortunate.”

Strathmore’s Partnership Programs with Montgomery County Public Schools include:

  • Strathmore Student Concerts | Every year, all Montgomery County Public School second and fifth graders come to the Concert Hall for a performance. Second graders see a symphony orchestra with the National Philharmonic. Fifth graders see a blues performance, a Strathmore original production featuring local artists.
  • Arts Within Reach | Through partnerships with schools where a high percentage of students receive free and reduced-price meals, Strathmore works with teachers to create a customized slate of performances, workshops, and demonstrations throughout the year. Arts Within Reach includes Spring Break @ Strathmore where fourth and fifth graders attend workshops at Strathmore and create a performance for their families and peers. 
  • Step Up East County | Students at three residency sites receive after-school instruction in the art of stepping from Strathmore’s artistic partner Step Afrika!, the only professional dance company in the world dedicated to the art of step. In conjunction, Strathmore brings students to see Step Afrika!’s annual Step Xplosion performance in the Concert Hall and produces a culminating student showcase performance. 
  • East County Strings | Strathmore provides 180 students from 10 middle schools six weeks of tuition-free after-school coaching from professional instrumentalists. Music teachers from each school select shared repertoire. All students gather for a large-scale public performance, with their coaches playing by their sides. 
  • Latin Strings and Percussion Orchestra | New in 2019, Students from two middle schools and one high school learn Latin-American music for strings and orchestra, which is not available for study at the schools otherwise. Kristofer Sanz of Maryland Classic Youth Orchestras of Strathmore leads this program. 
  • Slam Poetry | Strathmore offers after-school slam poetry workshops for six weeks to sixth graders at Montgomery Village Middle School. The residency culminates with a showcase performance for parents and teachers. 
  • Sing Out | Strathmore launched an after-school choral program in two schools unable to provide chorus as a class option. With a goal of building interest and resources for permanent programs in these schools, Strathmore worked with highly credentialed, veteran choral directors to lead the program. Students rehearse twice a week after school and then join Strathmore Children’s Chorus onstage in the Concert Hall for a culminating performance experience.
  • Think Big Café | A partnership of MCPS, Glenstone, and Strathmore, Think Big Café is a multi-disciplinary, year-long experience for fourth graders. The entire fourth grades from different schools gather for field trips to the Glenstone art museum to study sculpture, then get together at AMP to meet one another and process what they learned. They study the found-object percussion work of Scrap Arts Music, live-chatting with the artists in advance of an in-person visit to their schools by the group. The program is led by the collaboration among the fourth-grade classroom teachers and arts teachers at each school.

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