Janet's Stage Education Programs
Janet’s Stage is The Orion Ensemble’s one-of-a-kind collaboration with the orchestra departments at partner schools, through which the Orion musicians—clarinetist and executive director Kathryne Pirtle, violinist Florentina Ramniceanu, pianist Diana Schmück and cellist Judy Stone—provide multifaceted, year-long student support. The program, which celebrates the life, special leadership and service of Orion’s late longtime Board Chair Janet Safanda, offers practical, individualized learning through master classes and chamber music coaching, performances for students and parents at each school, invitations to attend Orion concerts and the opportunity for student ensembles to perform on Orion’s stages.
Pirtle and Ramniceanu share an update on the program for the current season.
Tell us about the fall 2019 semester of the Janet’s Stage program .
KP: We held master classes and gave performances for the students at Glenbard East and Geneva High School. It’s been rewarding to continue this program at these two schools for six years, and we have followed basically the same format: a concert on the first visit followed by visits that include coaching ensembles during each orchestra period or after school.
FR: During the years, the program has evolved a lot; it’s more organized, more complex and group-specific. The history makes it so nice to be at the two schools, seeing and working with so many students for several years. We get to know them as individuals as well as music students. We try to educate and inspire them and teach them about chamber music.
Any particular highlights you’d like to share?
FR: Many highlights—watching them grow from the beginning of the school year and then, for some, perform on our stages; seeing them all eyes and ears when we perform for them; having open rehearsals and great Q&A sessions. A personal favorite: playing along with the whole orchestra, sitting in the back and watching all the bows in front of me move quickly and together!
KP: Each year we have done this program, we have seen remarkable improvements in ensemble playing and individual musicianship. The groups that have participated in our program and then performed on our stages gain a wide range of new expertise with the process of rehearsing and performing a piece.
What do you find most rewarding about working with young student musicians in general?
KP: Their excitement about becoming better musicians and their willingness to work hard.
FR: Instilling the spark of chamber music in their hearts, opening up a world for them, helping them learn that the musical language is truly universal, and the better you speak it, the better human being you become.

What’s coming up for the spring semester?
FR: As we continue at Geneva and Glenbard, we’ll engage in more focused work with chamber ensembles that have been formed, and we hope to reach a level that allows us to bring them to our stages.

How does your work with students find its way to your professional performances?
KP: When a student ensemble performs on one of our stages, they rise to a new level and are inspired to continue playing chamber music. Hearing our ensemble perform gives them a wonderful sounding board to strive for their own excellence. The March 4 performance of our third concert program this season, at PianoForte Studios in Chicago, will feature two student ensembles: the Earl Clemens Woodwind Quintet from the Elgin Youth Symphony and a flute-harp-viola trio from the Chicago Youth Symphony.
FR: Hopefully we are inspiring them to practice, listen, come to musical performances and then get ready for a “real performance” with audience members who are chamber music fans.

Any final thoughts?  
FR: We are grateful to provide such extensive music education opportunities to the schools we work with.
KP: We are pleased to be back at Glenbard East and Geneva High School. Also, with Julie Lawrence retiring from Geneva at the end of this school year, we celebrate her incredible program.

The Janet's Stage program is supported in part by grants from the Arts Tour Fund of the Illinois Arts Council, the Farny R. Wurlitzer Foundation Fund and partner schools, and generous donations from Orion patrons.
See Orion's March concerts!
Concert 3

March 1 - 3 pm * (New England Congregational Church, Aurora)
* Benefit reception to follow
March 4 - 7:30 pm (PianoForte Studios, Chicago)
March 8 - 7:30 pm (Nichols Concert Hall, Evanston)

$30 adults | $25 seniors | $15 students

“Innovative programming. Unique repertoire.
Thoughtful performances that get to the music’s soul.”
~ Jim Ginsburg, President, Cedille Records

27th Season—2019–20
The Orion Ensemble is supported in part by grants from the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, the John R. Halligan Charitable Fund, the Farny R. Wurlitzer Foundation Fund and the Illinois Arts Council Agency, and by generous donations from our dedicated patrons.