The Modesto Symphony Orchestra is one of the best in the nation at engaging its community, says the leader of a national orchestra association.
Henry Fogel, president of the New York City-based League of American Orchestras, will highlight the Modesto group's good work in a free talk tonight on "Orchestras in 21st Century America" at the Gallo Center for the Arts.
Fogel was invited to speak to the community by MSO President Paul Jan Zdunek. Modesto's symphony is one of 400 professional orchestras that belong to the league.
In a phone interview Wednesday, Fogel said he is impressed that the Modesto orchestra gives away concert tickets and provides transportation to shows to at-risk youth and their families. He also likes that the orchestra sends docents to schools to prepare students for educational concerts and provides students a "Sound Check" season pass to all concerts for $30.
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"I think orchestras can no longer sit in their concert halls, play good concerts and hope people come," he said. "Orchestras must get into the community and really engage with it, not in a token way but in a serious way. I think Modesto is in the forefront of that."
Fogel, who lives in Chicago, said it is important that communities maintain their orchestras because great music is one of the things that distinguish humans from animals.
"If you go back to ancient Greece, what do we remember? We remember the art," he said. "It's an element of human civilization. It sounds very airy, but it's true."
Bee staff writer Inga Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2324.