Maryland middle school students will join with the University of Maryland Symphony Orchestra in an “out of this world” performance as they present a newly commissioned, multimedia concert incorporating astronomy and physics in conjunction with classical and modern music.

The concert, “An Orchestra’s Guide to the Universe,” premieres on Saturday, April 29, 2005, at 10:30 a.m. at the Dekelboum Concert Hall of the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, University of Maryland. The entire 5th and 6th grade classes from Berwyn Heights Elementary School in Berwyn Heights, Md., are the featured performers.

The program, part of a year long endeavor that uses music to teach science, is funded in part by a NASA education grant awarded to Washington-based composer Arthur Bloom and Dr. Ilana Harrus of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

“These kids are brimming with excitement,” said Harrus, an astrophysicist. “In their science class, they’ve explored new concepts, such as black holes and Einstein’s theory of general relativity, and now they’ll be on a stage singing about it all.”

The concert is the first in an ongoing partnership in which middle school students collaborate during an entire school year with established musicians and scientists and ultimately perform with a professional-level orchestra. The score, written by Bloom, incorporates science concepts using a curriculum developed by Bloom, teachers at Sidwell Friends School and graduate student Erin Godfrey from the Department of Applied Psychology and Public Policy at New York University.

A chorus of more than 100 students will perform a large number of roles, including “stars” who compete in a reversed American Idol-type competition with hopes of becoming “people.”

“The children have been enthusiastic to learn about science and performing,” said Margaret Strohecker, a science teacher at Berwyn Heights. “Under the direction of Tiffany Papanikolas, the music teacher, and Pat Carmody, our school Arts Focus coordinator, the program has energized the fifth and sixth grade students in a unique learning experience that goes beyond basic science.”

NASA images from different space missions will be projected in the concert hall as the music progresses. Harrus provided technical assistance to ensure scientific accuracy of the performance and has worked in the classroom with the school children. Bloom guided the artistic direction. “The performance enters the imagination of a child who takes the otherwise normal orchestra concert on a fantastic, multimedia trip through the universe,” said Bloom.

Bloom is the founder and head of Renovation In Music Education, or RIME, a nonprofit organization that helps young people, arts organizations and communities succeed through innovative arts partnership programs. Following the premiere, RIME hopes to replicate the concert curriculum nationally.

Seed money for the program came from NASA’s Initiative to Develop Education through Astronomy and Space Science (IDEAS) Grant Program, a component of the NASA Mission Science Directory E/PO Strategy administered by the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. Additional funding was provided by the National Endowment for the Arts.

The concert is part of Maryland Day festivities on the University of Maryland campus. The concert is free and open to the public. For more information on Maryland Day, visit

Additional contact info:

* Arthur Bloom, (202) 667-6111,

* Dr. Ilana Harrus, (301) 286-9649,

* Margaret Strohecker, (240) 684-6210,