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The Strathmore Experience: A Musical Awakening

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Holding truth today and in the past, attending classical concerts is hailed as a sign of both sophistication and style. Very reminiscent of 18th Century attendances at places like the Music Center at Strathmore, my noteworthy experience broadened my musical horizon. As a newcomer to classical concert-going, I was enthralled by the aural masterpieces and the alluring atmosphere. In partaking in the National Philharmonic's opening concert of the year at the Music Center at Strathmore, one experiences the warm ambiance of classical music in modern times while retaining its renowned value.

The modern-day Music Center at Strathmore rose from the ashes of the Strathmore Mansion which, to this day features art exhibitions and programs. Famous Washingtonian Captain James Frederick Oyster and his wife purchased the land and began to form the foundation of the mansion; Strathmore Mansion completed construction on August 14, 1899. In 1977, the mansion was acquired by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). Only two years later, ASHA handed over the mansion to Montgomery County. Shortly after, Strathmore was founded in 1981 by the Strathmore Hall Foundation, becoming Montgomery County's "first center for the arts." Recognizing the need for a concert hall and educational center, collaboration between the State of Maryland, Montgomery County, and corporate and individual philanthropists helped to raise the center in April of 2001. Since its opening, the Music Center at Strathmore has hosted an array of musical talents such as the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the National Philharmonic.

The featured orchestra band for Saturday, September 16 was the National Philharmonic led by Music Director and Conductor Piotr Gajewski. Based in Washington D.C., the National Philharmonic is known for performances that are "powerful," "impeccable," and "thrilling." (Washington Post). The National Philharmonic encourages younger generations to attend their concerts and thus, offers free admission for all young people ages 7-17. Additionally, the National Philharmonic offers various programs at Strathmore as well as in other institutions such as Rockville's F. Scott Fitzgerald Theater. Piotr Gajewski, an "immensely talented and insightful conductor", helps shape the National Philharmonic to its status as a respected and valued ensemble. In his birthplace of Poland, Gajewski led several major orchestras. His background also includes appearances with other well-known orchestras including the Karloy Vary Symphony and Okangan Symphony before taking charge of the National Philharmonic at the Music Center at Strathmore.

Stepping foot on the premises of Strathmore, I walked down the pathway at sunset to the entrance and looked upon the natural surroundings: a variety of trees and well-manicured shrubs out looking the Strathmore Mansion and the Music Center. The Music Center was well lit, and very inviting. The outer walls of the center are made of glass and add to its remarkable appearance. Its free-flowing roofline caters to the acoustics of the concert hall while maintaining its beauty on the outside. Just as elegant as it is from the outside, the Concert Hall at the Music Center is even more aesthetically pleasing to the eye, an architectural wonder; small, yet spacious.

Awaiting the start of the concert with anticipation, I look around to see the many eager faces- people of all ages, elegantly dressed for the occasion, many who, like me, are new to the atmosphere. Soon, the last few members of the audience slide quickly into their seats and the audience is silenced as the orchestra's concertmaster walks upon the stage and signals to the head oboist for an official tuning of the orchestra. The concert begins with Sergei Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto

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