Two members of the New World Symphony family--a recent alumnus and a current Fellow--were selected as half of the quartet that will lead a new initiative for the Houston Symphony, focused on enhancing the institution's educational and community engagement activities, while also performing with the Houston Symphony Orchestra.
Read the Houston Symphony's media release below about this pioneering approach, or click here to hear a short feature on Houston Public Radio about the initiative.
July 28, 2015: The Houston Symphony announced today that it has successfully recruited four string musicians to be part of a new initiative announced earlier this year to embed musicians more deeply in the community. The four musicians/educators will focus on enhancing the orchestra’s growing education and community engagement activities while also performing on stage for select Houston Symphony performances.
Jenna Barghouti (violin), David D. Connor (double bass), Anthony Parce (viola), and Hellen Weberpal (cello) are part of the first group of Houston Symphony Community-Embedded Musicians who will spend most of their time in schools, neighborhoods and health care settings, beginning in the fall of 2015. Each one of these musicians is a practicing professional musician with the complementary skills and sensibilities of an educator, who will teach and engage people in learning experiences in, through, and about music.
“I, together with Music Director Andrés Orozco-Estrada and the entire Houston Symphony family, am excited to welcome these new musicians. They will fill an unprecedented and critical role in extending the Houston Symphony’s impact deeper into the community,” said Executive Director/CEO Mark C. Hanson. “I look forward to watching them in action with students and community members while also hearing them together with the full orchestra for select concerts during the upcoming 2015–16 season.”
Among other new and expanded community activities, these musicians will be part of a music and wellness program aimed at increasing the quality of health care through music. In addition, they will be heavily involved in education programs targeted at improving problem solving, critical thinking, and essential life skills in students.
“I could not be more thrilled to be part of the inaugural year of the Houston Symphony’s Community-Embedded Musicians program. I am grateful for the opportunity to be working with such brilliant musicians and staff, and for such a special opportunity in a leading American orchestra,” said Anthony. “Putting so much emphasis and so many resources toward fostering performing teaching artists is unprecedented in the orchestral landscape. This is exactly the kind of activity that will make orchestras relevant in the 21st century.”
All four Community-Embedded Musicians will perform on stage with members of the Symphony in approximately 25 concerts each year. The orchestra intends to add more of these musicians over the next two seasons, providing ever-increasing levels of service and music education to the rapidly growing Houston region.
Double bassist David Connor has worked with children with neurological disorders through residencies he completed at the Monarch School as a fellow of the Da Camera of Houston Young Artist Program. He also has experience working with students abroad while serving as a guest teacher in the New World Symphony’s cultural exchange with the Medellín Philharmonic Academy (AMFED). Connor also works with Classical Revolution, an international organization that engages the community by offering chamber music performances in highly accessible venues such as cafes, bars and clubs. Connor began undergraduate studies at the Peabody Institute before transferring to Carnegie Mellon University where he earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts. Connor earned his Masters of Music at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music.
Violist Anthony Parce, also a former member of the New World Symphony, has been extremely active in recent years in the institution’s community engagement programs, including the New World Symphony’s cultural exchange program with AMFED. A fluent Spanish-speaker, Parce is passionate about creating connections, breaking down societal barriers and empowering communities through music. An experienced educator, he has worked with people of all ages, from pre-K students through seniors, and with people from all walks of life, particularly those who are underserved and lack opportunities to engage with music. Parce holds degrees from the New England Conservatory and Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music, studying with James Dunham, Roger Tapping and Karen Ritscher.
In contrast to term-limited or structured fellowship or training programs, the new Community-Embedded Musicians are full-time, permanent, salaried employees of the Houston Symphony, and they will become part of the cadre of musicians who appear on stage and throughout the community. While existing Houston Symphony musicians spend about 80% of their time on stage as part of the orchestra’s robust schedule of classical, pops, family, student and community concerts, these Community-Embedded Musicians will do the opposite: They will devote the majority of their time to off-stage education and community programs through individual and small ensemble work in schools, neighborhoods and health care settings.
These four individuals were selected after a rigorous month-long audition and interview process that drew more than 100 applicants from across the country. Candidates for these four new positions were required to be accomplished string players with a demonstrated passion and aptitude for education and community engagement work. Additionally, candidates who met the main qualifications and also spoke more than one language were highly encouraged to apply to help better reflect the diverse make up of Houston.
The selection process involved live auditions before committees comprised of Houston Symphony musicians, classroom lesson demonstrations with students from Crespo Elementary School, and in-person interviews with administrative and musician leadership. Candidates were selected based on a combination of exceptional musical ability, passion for and experience doing work in the community and in educational settings, along with superior communication skills.
David Connor was born in Chelmsford, MA and began playing the double bass when he was nine years old. He joins the Houston Symphony as a Community-Embedded Musician after two seasons with the New World Symphony in Miami Beach, FL. Connor earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts at Carnegie Mellon University and his Masters of Music at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music. While at Rice, he was a fellow of the Da Camera of Houston Young Artist Program for two seasons, which led to many community outreach opportunities and chamber music collaborations in the greater Houston area. Connor has participated in summer festivals including Music Academy of the West, Aspen, Sarasota, Domaine Forget, and the Britten Pears Young Artist Program. He has been a recipient of the Aspen Academy Orchestra Fellowship and was chosen in 2011 to be a member of the New York String Orchestra Seminar at Carnegie Hall under the direction of Jaime Laredo. As a member of the New World Symphony, he has had the opportunity to teach double bass both at home and abroad, traveling to Medellín, Colombia and Geneva, Switzerland in 2014.
Anthony Parce has distinguished himself as a violist intent on confirming the vivacity of classical music in the 21st century. During his four-year fellowship at the New World Symphony, Parce organized and produced three interactive concert formats, lectured and performed on the early works and life of Arnold Schoenberg, produced a commemoration of Kristallnacht with narration by local Holocaust survivors, travelled many times to Medellín, Colombia, to teach through the SaludArte Foundation, helped develop the Symphony’s virtual library (Musaic), and took an active civic role in refining the curriculum and activities of New World Fellows. Parce has attended the Verbier, Schleswig-Holstein, Tanglewood, Artosphere, and Britten-Piers summer festivals, as well as the National Orchestral Institute, Domaine Forget and the Music Academy of the West. He holds degrees from the New England Conservatory and Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music, studying with James Dunham, Roger Tapping and Karen Ritscher.