Mando for Kids:
The Baltimore Mandolin Orchestra youth program
Mando for Kids is the Baltimore Mandolin Orchestra’s youth program. The idea stemmed from a presentation at the 2009 convention of the Classical Mandolin Society of America (CMSA) in Dayton, Ohio, of a similar program used in Germany.
By the end of 2009 BMO members Laura Norris and Joyce Adams – assisted by Kitty and Lorin Brown – had developed their goals for the program, borrowed some mandolins, and were ready to get going.
Their immediate goal was to introduce children to the playing and hearing of the mandolin as a classical instrument. In spring 2010 Laura and Joyce presented six progressive workshops to two groups of children ranging in age from six to ten. First the kids learned to strum open string chords, and, with the aid of stories, they helped to describe, in sound, the characters or actions depicted in the stories. Later their mandolins were tuned to GDAE and the kids learned fingering and picking out notes of tunes. The kids are divided into three groups based on skill level – Nestlings, Hatchlings, and Fledglings. All levels have appropriate workbooks and songbooks that were developed by Laura.
There are currently about seventy children in the Mando for Kids program! Using grant money awarded by the Classical Mandolin Society of America, Laura and Joyce bought 24 inexpensive Romanian mandolins for the kids to use, and the BMO loaned them the money to buy 24 more.
The kids gave their first concert performance in June 2010, playing lively renditions of tunes like “Oh, Susannah” and “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” A great start for a wonderful program!
After a little over a year of diligent work and practice, the kids put on a brief, but very well received pre-concert program before two big evening concerts at the 2011 CMSA convention here in Baltimore. The first concert was held on October 14th in the Fitzgerald Ballroom of the Sheraton Baltimore North Hotel in Towson, and the second concert was on October 15th in front of a nearly packed house in the 1,000-seat Kraushaar Auditorium on the campus of Goucher College (see photos below). The kids played old familiar tunes as the audience sang along.