At the Music Center at Strathmore:  Among its stops was a Monday night performance with Imani Winds.

LEAD PHOTO:  Members of The Portland Youth Philharmonic share a moment with Grammy-award winning composer Jeff Scott backstage before their performance at The Music Center at Strathmore in North Bethesda, MD.  

by Patrick D. McCoy

As a part of its 100th Anniversary, the Portland Youth Philharmonic embarked on an East Coast tour, which landed the talented ensemble on the stage the Music Center at Strathmore.  It was a challenge to fill the cavernous hall on a Monday night ahead of Holy Week.  Yet still, a rather enthusiastic showing came out to support the orchestra of talented youth.  David Hattner has led the orchestra since 2008 and shared how his musical beginnings as a clarinetist informed his musicianship as a conductor.  During his introductory remarks, he expressed great gratitude to his conducting teachers David Zinman and Murry Sidlin-who was in the audience.

Even though the orchestra is dubbed as a ‘youth philharmonic,’ it was gratifying to hear the group play with such tuneful finesse and musicianship.  That was a wonder unto itself.  The range of expression found in the “Gaelic” Symphony by Amy Beach provided the opportunity for the group to show a wide range of expression and articulation.  In the faster movements, Maestro Hattner was in full command of his players and they responded intuitively to his clear gesture.  One of the highlights of the Beach was the featuring of co-concertmaster Katie Liu, who’s violin shined with pristine clarity in the cameo appearances.  The full orchestra brought the first half of the concert to a rousing close.

Co-concertmaster Katie Liu tunes the orchestra before the concert at The Music Center at Strathmore.

For the second half the concert, the strings of the orchestra were prominently featured in “Strum” for which the composer Jessie Montgomery won her first Grammy-award this year.  This work was a wonderful showcase for the various sororities and idioms that are not always considered in the classical string canon.  Imani Winds joined the full orchestra for the performance of Grammy-award winning composer Jeff Scott’s “Paradise Valley Serenade.”  In three movements, Scott’s work presented a juxtaposition of a classic orchestral feel in contrast with the rhythmic excitement added by the modern drum-set.  Moreover, the soulful nod to Cab Callaway in the third movement was a wonderful example of how diverse musical ideas can co-exist, even in the construct of a ‘classical music’ concert.  The featuring of Imani Winds with the Portland Youth Philharmonic provided the opportunity not only for the young players, but also the audience to witness the diversity and fusion of genres in the concert hall space.


The Grammy-Award Winning Ensemble Imani Winds: Brandon Patrick George, Mekhi Gladden (filling in for Toyin Spellman-Diaz) Mark Dover (not pictured) and Kevin Newton took the stage with the Portland Youth Philharmonic under the direction of David Hattner.


Here’s to 100 more years!  The Portland Youth Philharmonic concludes its East Coast Tour on Saturday, March 29, 2024 7 PM at Mechanics Hall in Worchester, MA.  For more information about the Portland Youth Philharmonic, CLICK HERE


A native of Petersburg, VA, Patrick holds a BM in Vocal Performance from Virginia State University and a MM in Church Music from Shenandoah Conservatory. Formerly the Performing Arts Columnist for Washington Life Magazine, he currently is a freelance writer, publishing articles for several noted publications and organizations, including The Washington Post, Early Music America, Classical Music Voice North America, The Afro-American Newspaper, Prince George’s Suite Magazine, CBS Washington, and Washington Classical Review. He holds membership in the Music Critics Association of North America, National Association of Negro Musicians, Inc., American Choral Directors’ Association, Association of Anglican Musicians, a former member of the Shenandoah University Alumni Board of Directors, a member of the Shenandoah University Black Alumni Network, a Life Member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and a member of the Sigma Zeta Chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity of America.  As an alumnus of Shenandoah, he was named to the Dean’s Circle of the Shenandoah Conservatory Advisory Board.  He enters his 7th year as Organist/Choirmaster at Saint John’s Episcopal Church, Zion Parish in Beltsville, MD and is the newly hired Development and Communications Manager for Washington Conservatory of Music in Glen Echo, MD.  Patrick is the host of “Across the Arts” both a live and virtual media platform covering the performing arts.  Visit and follow him on Facebook and Twitter @PatrickDMcCoy, IG: PDM06. and subscribe to “Across the Arts” on YouTube.