Orchestra reaches out to children with 'Peter and the Wolf'



No one is too young to appreciate the beauty of a symphony, and few teach young audiences the intricacies of an orchestra like Peter and the Wolf.

The Aiken Performing Arts Group will present the Russian fairy tale Sunday at the Etherredge Center at the University of South Carolina Aiken.

“Every character in the story is an instrument or group of instruments in the orchestra,” said Tom Hofstetter, chairman of the board of directors for the Aiken Performing Arts Group. The story, which will be narrated by Aiken’s First Baptist Church Pastor Fred Andrea, follows a young boy named Peter and his adventures with a wolf after he leaves the garden gate open.

“It’s an effort on our part to introduce young people to music,” Hofstetter said.

The piece will be directed by Donald Portnoy, who is the director of the USC Symphony Orchestra and former director of the Augusta Symphony, and will be performed by the newly-formed Orchestra of the Midlands.

The orchestra is made up of leading musicians from throughout South Carolina who were brought together to accompany mezzo-soprano Fredericka von Stade when she performed here in April, Hofstetter said.

The story will make up the first half of the performance, after which audience members will be invited on stage to interact with the musicians.

“The first piece of music I ever heard in my life was Peter and the Wolf,” Hofstetter said. “I still love that piece of music after all these years.”

The second half of the concert will consist of The Toy Symphony. Students from area schools will perform the piece on toy instruments.

“It’s great fun,” Hofstetter said, noting that the concert is short enough to hold the attention of young people, and entertaining enough to engage them, he said.

The piece fascinated him as a child. He fell in love with the sounds and said he feels it influenced his love of music. In his career he has served as symphony president and president of an opera company. But on a smaller level, he hopes this performance will simply inspire the love of music in the children who attend.

“If you’re talking about childhood wonder and learning and having time with mom or dad and getting a little feel for the rest of the world that’s out there, this is what we’re trying to do,” Hofstetter said.


WHAT: Peter and the Wolf
WHEN: 3 p.m. Jan. 22
Etherredge Center, USC Aiken, 471 University Parkway
$15 adults, $8 students and children

WHAT’S AHEAD: Future performances begin at 8 p.m. at the URS Center for the Performing Arts, 126 Newberry St. SW, Aiken
• Feb. 9-10: Stig Rossen
• March 22-23: Il Voce
• April 26-27: The Grascals

MORE: (803) 643-4774, box office: (803) 648-1438, www.aikenperformingartsgroup.org