History of the Orchestra


The Early History

The Montgomery Philharmonic was founded in 2005 by a group of players who had been participating in the orchestra at Montgomery College. When the college decided to make the orchestra students-only, the orchestra’s community members decided to get together to start a new orchestra that would be open to adult musicians.

Martha Goldstein volunteered to serve as the orchestra’s conductor, with Marsha Vogin as the concertmaster. Gaithersburg Presbyterian Church’s Fellowship Hall served as the initial rehearsal and performance venue. Music was obtained through the DC Public Library system.

In 2007, Richard Fazio briefly led the orchestra, supplementing the ranks of its members with his own Trinity Chamber Orchestra. The orchestra temporarily moved to performing at Redland Baptist Church.



The Current Era and Major Milestone Events

In 2008, the Montgomery Philharmonic incorporated as a 501(3)c nonprofit organization, and appointed Sandra Ragusa to her current role as music director. Andy Green became the assistant conductor, and Daniel Ashton became the orchestra’s concertmaster.

Much to the orchestra’s gratitude, Ann Schmidt — Gaithersburg Presbyterian Church’s director of music — supported the orchestra’s move to rehearsing in the larger venue of Lindsey Hall, and giving performances in the church’s sanctuary.

2009 marked the beginning of the orchestra’s collaboration with the Central Maryland Chorale, and the introduction of an annual oratorio performance with CMC.

In 2009, the orchestra also launched a concerto competition for middle-school-aged students. This competition was named the Bernie Rappaport competition, in honor of an orchestra member that had recently unexpectedly passed away.

In 2010, the orchestra began its open Summer Reading Sessions, and in 2012, launched the Youth Chamber Music Festival (which became the Youth Leadership and Chamber Music Festival in 2020).

In 2014, the orchestra established its collaboration with the Watkins Mill cluster of the Montgomery County Public School (MCPS) system, thanks to the efforts of Douglas Woodruff, the orchestra’s principal trombonist and the music director at Watkins Mill High School. This resulted in the first side-by-side concert with middle school and high school students from the cluster. The cluster has a racially and economically diverse population, including the highest percentage of students in MCPS who qualify for free and reduced-cost meals (FARMS) or speak English as a second language (ESOL).

2014 also marked the introduction of a chamber music concert to the orchestra’s season, with groups formed from interested members and formally coached. In subsequent seasons, this has evolved into a senior outreach concert, performed at a retirement community.

In 2015, the orchestra received its first grant, from the Arts & Humanities Council of Montgomery County, and we’re thankful for their ongoing support in the years since then.

Lydia Leong became the orchestra’s concertmaster at the start of 2016, mid-season. In 2016, we launched a program to appoint a conducting fellow for a two-year term, allowing them to gain practical podium experience as an assistant to our music director. Since then, Kevin Poelking, Ryan Chani, and Isaiah Shim have held that appointment.

The pandemic caused us to suspend rehearsals and performances from March 2020 through the April of 2021, when vaccines became available and we resumed rehearsals outdoors, masked and distanced.

We planned a somewhat less busy 2021-2022 season, starting rehearsals outdoors and moving indoors once it grew too cold to be outside, with modified rehearsal protocols.

For the 2022-2023 season, we planned a full slate of concert programs, in our usual rehearsal and concert venues. We remained masked and continued to sit one to a stand, allowing a little more physical distance. We were fortunate to have an uninterrupted full season.

We have resumed expanding the orchestra and hope that you’ll join us soon!






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