Temple University Music Prep celebrates 50th anniversary

To celebrate, the community-oriented music program will hold a Mosaic Concert on March 31 showcasing students’ talents.

Temple University Music Prep's Youth Chamber Orchestra rehearses at Center City campus in preparation for the upcoming 50th Anniversary Mosaic Concert. | COURTESY / TEMPLE MUSIC PREP

Five floors up at Center City Campus, young musicians from the tri-state area perfect their skills by playing their instruments, singing and dancing in hopes of making it big in the music industry.

The Temple University Music Prep program is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and will hold a Mosaic Concert on March 31 at the Temple Performing Art Center. The event will bring together nearly 200 students from the music program’s various classes for one large performance.

Temple Music Prep is a community-oriented music program for kids in elementary through high school. It also offers some classes to adult Philadelphians and Temple students. Temple’s College of Music started the program in 1968 to help address declining support of music in Philadelphia schools and offers unique classes including dance, ensemble and Suzuki instruction at affordable costs for people who couldn’t otherwise take individualized music lessons.

Mark Huxsoll, the program’s executive director, said the concert is meant to celebrate Temple Music Prep’s past, present and future. Performers will include the program’s four-string and jazz orchestras, woodwind instrument ensemble and performances from voice and instrumental students.

Music theory professor Jan Krzywicki wrote a piece for the event, and the program’s Youth Chamber Orchestra will perform it for the celebration’s finale.  

“The performance allows students to partake in a grand, engaging concert,” Huxsoll said. “For this particular event, we are trying to incorporate every student. We want to showcase our current skills and celebrate the past of the institution simultaneously.”

The performance will help the audience connect with Temple Music Prep, he added.

“The audience will have a sense of celebration and a concept of just how much is involved at Music Prep,” Huxsoll said. “Often, even the students only are fully aware of their own area, so this will bring people together who are part of the organization, but may have not previously had interaction with each other.”

The concert is a big deal for students, who often aspire to attend prestigious music schools, because they get to showcase their talents, said Temple Music Prep conductor Aaron Picht, who will direct the event’s finale piece,

“Several of these students will go on to continue their music careers at prestigious music institutions such as Julliard, Curtis Institute and the New England Conservatory of Music,” Picht said. “These kids will succeed in this extremely competitive field. They really stand out.”

The students have performed overseas in Germany, Iceland and the Netherlands, which allows the them to bond and learn about other cultures, Huxsoll said. In Iceland, the Youth Chamber Orchestra has performed at the Iceland National Performance Center, the National Museum of Iceland and Bessastadir, the Icelandic president’s official residence.

“It is such an amazing thing to not only go on tour in a totally different country, but to perform for their president as well,” Huxsoll said. “It’s amazing, and we plan to go for the third time this summer.”

Picht sees the Temple Music Prep as a special part of his life.

“Sharing my collective wisdom of music with gifted young musicians is both an immeasurable job and a great responsibility,” he said.

But the students’ friendships are what make the program truly great. He said students come from across the tri-state area to attend the program in hopes of building their skills and expressing themselves in a place where they feel they belong.

Kristy Chen, a violin student and junior high school student in New Jersey, said she attends Temple Music Prep to feel like herself. She spends an hour commuting to the program every Saturday.

“Coming here allows me to enhance my skills and express myself in a very different way that does not require words,” Chen said. “It’s really special to me, and I love it.”

For Huxsoll, the best part of the program is watching students connect music to their lives and grow as individuals and performers.

“Watching their growth is my favorite part about our institution,” Huxsoll said. “I have had the pleasure of seeing students succeed not only in musical fields, but life in general.”

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