By Emely Miranda

For the first time since 2019, musicians with the National Orchestral Institute + Festival (NOI+F) performed “Peter and the Wolf” at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland (UMD) in June. 

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Edgar Moctezuma and NOI+F musicians
Courtesy of Lisa Helfert

The NOI+F, currently in its 36th year at the university, brings young aspiring orchestral musicians from across the country to UMD for a month of master classes and performances. Participants are selected through a rigorous nationwide audition process during which they have opportunities to demonstrate their passion for orchestral music. 

“It is a gathering of some of the most incredibly talented musicians from all over the country,” said Jane Hirshberg, the artistic planning program director at The Clarice. 

“We like to do family programs, and this is one of our favorite things. Many people love “Peter and the Wolf,” and it’s a great way for children to have an introduction to the orchestra’s instruments,” Hirshberg said.

“Peter and the Wolf” tells the story of a young boy who goes into the woods near his home, despite his grandfather’s warnings that a wolf may attack him. Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev created the narrated symphonic fairy tale in 1936. The first performance in the U.S. was in Boston’s Symphony Hall, in 1938.

“Everyone has some memories related to “Peter and the Wolf.” It’s a wonderful piece that has helped many people connect with music,” said Julia Cruz, a Spanish speaking assistant conductor with the NOI+F.

NOI+F has featured the piece annually since 2012, but suspended performances for three years due to the pandemic. Two concerts took place this year, the first with narration in English, with ASL (American Sign Language) interpretation, and, for the first time, a second performance narrated in Spanish.

“We have a lot of organizations that we partner with who are working with people in the Latino communities around UMD. There are some pretty densely populated areas full of Latino families primarily from Central and South America,” Hirshberg noted.

Richard Scerbo, director of the NOI+F, conducted the first performance with Stephanie Shonekan, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, narrating in English. Cruz conducted the second concert, which was narrated in Spanish by Edgar Moctezuma, a senior lecturer and instructor with the university’s Department of Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics.