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An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. "A fight is going on inside me," he said to the boy.

"It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil—he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego." He continued, "The other is good—he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you—and inside every other person, too."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

First People - The Legends. Cherokee Legend of Two Wolves. November 16, 2004. [accessed April 7, 2012].

Thursday, April 26, 2012

College Park Airport: History of HiTech in Prince George's County

The Wright Military Flyer is set up on a launching rail at College Park in 1909. 

               College Park, Prince George's County was once the Cape Canaveral of the United States with all eyes on the events that were taking place there just over a century ago. The Brownsville Daily Herald of October 09, 1909 tells the story of invention, discovery and hitech accomplishment in Prince George's County:[1]

"Makes a World Record in his Flight of Yesterday" College Park, Md., October 9 - With practically a dead calm settled over College Park, Wilbur Wright today broke the world's record for speed in his aeroplane over a meter course including a turn beyond the course, his time being 58 3-5 seconds or 20 seconds less than that of Delagrange over a similar course in France.  Wright obtained a speed of 46 miles per hour for the distance."

               College Park Airport was founded in 1909 for instruction of the first military aviators by the Wright brothers.   Among those taught by Wilbur Wright in 1909 were  Lieutenants Frederic Humphreys, Frank Lahm, and Benjamin Foulois. Later future military leaders such as "Hap" Arnold who would go onto become a five-star General of the Air Force set out to master the highly technical skills that laid the foundation for both military and commercial flights. As at the Kennedy Space Center aided by the work of the Goddard Space Flight Center, also  here in Prince George's County, not too far from the College Park Airport, men and women set out to master flight in outer space, so the early explorers of aviation working here in Prince George's County worked in College Park setting ever higher goals in the investigation of the possibilites of flight itself.

"Cross-Country Flying is to be Program of Government Aviators" read the headlines of The Washington times., September 05, 1911, LAST EDITION, Page 4:[2]

"A big program of cross-country flights for this week has been mapped out by Capt. Paul Beck, of the Government aviation school at College Park.  Provided the weather is good the surrounding country within a radius of forty miles will be visited by the Army flyers.
Benning was visited yesterday and the flights were so successful that men are anxious for other flights.
This afternoon Annapolis will be visited.  Three machines will make this trip.  Captain Beck will lead the fleet in his last Curtiss biplane and Lieutenant Arnold will sail over in his old Wright.  Lieutenant Kirtland will go in the Burgess-Wright.  Four o'clock is the time set for the departure of the flyers, and they hope to return by sundown.
Baltimore comes next.  The officers plan to sail to that city Thursday or Friday, possibly Thursday.  They will leave in the morning about ten o'clock and return in the afternoon  about sundown.  The line of the flight will be directly over the Baltimore and Ohio railway tracks.  Captain Beck will in all probability wait until the last 10:15 train passes College Park  on its way to Baltimore and will try out his biplane in a race against the express.  He figures that he can beat it into Baltimore by at least ten minutes.
With prospects of good weather during September, the officers will make a number of cross-country flights.  Washington again may have the opportunity of seeing the machines sail over the city.
Realizing that each aviator at the Government school has learned about all there is about plain sailing  around an aviation field, the men are going to seek other work, and naturally the next move will be to make long and more daring flights."    

               Prince George's County has a long history of being in the forefront of technological innovation. This county participated in the creation of the aviation industry. A second story in the Washington Times of September 5th 1911 describes in detail a progressive hitech county.[3]

  " Return of Aviators from Benning Proves a Splendid Flight"  The return of Capt. Beck and Lieutenants Kirtland, Arnold, Kennedy and Private Whalen from Benning to College Park last evening was splendid.  The flyers made the trip back in much shorter time than in going over, for a wind was behind them. Lieutenant Arnold carried Lieutenant Kennedy as his passenger, reached College Park at 6:27, returning in seven minutes.  When over Hyattsville a distance of two miles from College Park , Lieutenant Arnold cut off his engine and volplaned all the way to the aviation field.  He was up 1,500 feet at Hyattsville, and after  cutting off the power his machine sailed perfectly the two miles to the hangers.
At 6:42 Lieutenant Kirtland and Private Whalen returned.  They made the trip in exactly seven minutes, too.  When at Riverdale Lieutenant Kirtland turned his machine nose downward and glided from an altitude of 1,000 feet to a perfect landing on the aviation field. 
Captain Beck make a moonlight trip in returning.  He did not get back until 7:06, Two big bonfires were built on the aviation field to guide him in making a landing.  The whir of the propeller on the fast-flying Curtiss was heard when the machine reached Hyattsville, and instantly the privates at the school started the bonfires.  Captain Beck was not sighted until within half a mile of the field, and he was only visible on a line with the moon.  Flying at the rate of over a mile a minute, Captain Beck swooped over the field and made a beautiful landing. Four minutes was the time on the return."

               Today you can visit the College Park Airport and learn more about the hitech past of Prince George's and perhaps be encouraged to demand the same for tomorrow.

1909 Cpl. Frank Scott Drive
College Park, MD  20740
301-864-5844; TTY 301-699-2544
Hours of Operation:
Daily, 7 am-10 pm

for more information check out:


[2] Cross-Country Flying is to be Program of Government Aviators . The Washington Times., September 05, 1911, LAST EDITION, Page 4. Library of Congress. [accessed April 26, 2012];words=Park+College+Arnold?date1=1911&rows=20&searchType=basic&state=&date2=1913&proxtext=College+Park+%2B++Arnold&y=15&x=20&dateFilterType=yearRange&index=1

[3] ibid. Return of Aviators from Benning Proves a Splendid Flight

Friday, April 20, 2012

Norton Brown Herbarium: Right here in Prince George's County, Maryland

Right here in Prtince George's County: the Norton Brown herbarium located for the time being at the University of Maryland. The Norton Brown Collection is fortunate to actually have a home for we live in a time when archival collections are being discarded for reasons of space, cost and erroneous assumptions about the state and condition of the infrastructure of knowledge that supports our life styles and civilization. The Norton Brown Herbarium stands as a lonely sentinel against the idea that everything you need to know is on the internet.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The weather is great in Prince George's County, Maryland, but your garden needs water

               The present highly unusual weather here in Prince George's County could be quietly having dramatic impacts on your landscape. It is all too easy to think of the weather only in terms of our personal well being - how wonderful this sunny early summer feels to us and how fortunate we feel not to have had drifts of snow and ice, as well as almost no freezing temperatures to be concerned about. The flowers of spring are coming and in many cases have gone and we are drawn to the garden and to the grandee centers filled with an urge to buy and plant.

               This amazing spring follows and unusually wet and cool summer last year, and many of us may have forgotten the high art off watering the garden, especially newly planted landscapes. The lack of significant rainfall is beginning to worry me, and if you have new plantings it should be of maximum concern to you too. If you have reseeded your lawn, never a good idea for spring in normal years, this year you MUST be irrigating/watering: working towards one inch of water on the whole lawn a week and more frequent daily, light watering of the seeded areas until the grass is up at least an inch. Don't forget to cut your lawn high now at least 2.5 inches - three inches being better - to help the turf stay vigorous and healthy in the early heat and rain deficit. And some watering of vegetable gardens newly seeded or planted is warranted lest your work be for naught. This even applies to summer flowers if you are sneaking them in early in anticipation of no more frosts or freezes.

               And the established plantings and landscape especially woodland planting of hostas, azaleas etc may begin to want for water. Low humidity and high temperatures may be comfortable for us, but your garden plants are going to begin to wilt and suffer if you cannot find the time to help them out with a little artificial rainfall - or better yet water from your rain barrels delivered through your drip irrigation system

Monday, April 09, 2012

Hitech investment in Prince George's County

               Prince George’s County, MD is located in one of the world’s leading science research and technology transfer environments and within one of the largest and fastest growing state biological and agricultural science clusters in the United States. The research environment "encompasses universities, research institutions and federal agencies with significant and largely untapped potential to create commercial products, drive new bioscience company growth and deliver substantial economic impact according to a report commissioned by Prince George's County in 2009. The heart of the research cluster is in Prince George's County's hitech agrobio-technology crescent, which includes the UMd, BSU, USDA APHIS and ARS, ARL, FDA and NASA. In a geographic sense the research environment is effectively runs along an innovation corridor that stretches from the District of Columbia north through western Prince George’s County along US 1 to Howard County's Johns Hopkins University Advanced Physics Lab (APL). In other words, this is real economic development potential waiting for Prince George's County to notice, and waiting in some cases for over 100 years in the case of BARC.

               Prince George's County should be showing the rest of the state how technology transfer is done. Prince George's County should be taking advantage of BARC and NASA's records of research and distribution of science to private industry; the county should be marketing itself as the place where the world comes to learn how to feed itself - a one stop solution to all things agriculture, for example.

               And just to be clear the State of Maryland want sot encourage private development and investment through a series of initiatives.  Based on the Governor's FFAC report Prince George's County should be encouraging "federal laboratories to highlight their innovation and technology to the business community. Invite federal laboratory employees to participate and present their business ideas to venture capitalists and businesses in the region; leveraging the State’s early seed funding programs such as Maryland Industrial Partnerships (MIPs) and the Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO), in partnership with Federal Laboratory Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Programs to support startup corporations. Phase I SBIRs could leverage MIPS or TEDCO support; and encouraging and incentivizing federal employees to commercialize their ideas in the state’s incubators; working with federal representatives to devote resources that encourage employees to submit patents and commercialize ideas."
Area of Importance
Cyber Security
Creation of the National Cyber Security Center of Excellence (NCCOE) at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
Develop and disseminate a white pager to the O’Malley-Brown Administration and the Maryland Congressional Delegation for the creation of the NCCOE
In process; Senate Appropriations Committee approved $10M for the creation of the center and $15M for cyber research at NIST in calendar year 2010. Final action to be determined in the 112th Congress.
Technology Commercialization
Create a Statewide Technology/Business Fair
Encourage federal laboratories to highlight their innovation and technology to the business community. Invite federal laboratory employees to participate and present their business ideas to venture capitalists and businesses in the region.
On-Going; the workgroup is further developing the initiative.
Technology Commercialization
Encourage State/Federal Small Business Partnership
Leverage the State’s early seed funding programs such as Maryland Industrial Partnerships (MIPs) and the Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO), in partnership with Federal Laboratory Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Programs to support startup corporations. Phase I SBIRs could leverage MIPS or TEDCO support.
On-Going; a tech transfer resource manual has been developed to evaluate current resources and outline how to improve on and create new programs.
Technology Commercialization
Create a Federal Venture Fund
Encourage and incentivize federal employees to commercialize their ideas in the state’s incubators. The federal government should devote resources that encourage employees to submit patents and commercialize ideas.
On-Going; coordinating efforts with University of Maryland System.
Federal Procurement
Develop a “Team Maryland” Network & Mentoring Program
The Network will be comprised of business development professionals from large, medium and small Maryland-based companies who market products or services to the federal government. It will foster cooperation between Maryland-based companies by teaching small companies best practices and providing “teaming” opportunities that can increase federal procurement expenditures in the State.
Created; 46 companies have signed up for the Network, including Lockheed Martin, Northrop-Grumman, ARINC, Smartronix, ERT Corp, CSC and Raytheon. The last planning meeting was held on February 18, 2011.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Can Prince George's County Manage a World-Class Convention Center?

               In the on-going fight over bringing gambling, gaming, casinos and or slots to Prince George's County, much time has been spent selling the proposal as good for the County as a whole. Interestingly enough, early on gambling in the county was sold as good for the historic horse racing industry. That pitch disappeared because the market interests of gambling no longer need the political cover provided by the racing industry. The apparent reshuffling of reasons is an example of why there is public distrust and consternation over the current marketing support strategy. Residents with long memories sense a three-card monte at work in the repeated, incessant selling of gambling at National Harbor as somehow in the self interest of most people in the county. And, this political approach has created controversy where little should be.

               National Harbor is a signature development in and for Prince George's County and the Washington, D.C., region. It will produce jobs, and it will draw visitors to the county. The convention center and meeting spaces will be seen as a significant infrastructure available to businesses that might decide to locate in the area. In order to be competitive, National Harbor's management is seeking to overcome the challenges its convention marketplace faces. A few of the obstacles in front of National Harbor include a change in business and recreational travel dynamics over the last decade coupled with 21st century internet enabled meeting tools. National Harbor has to provide a wide, deep and full suite of supporting amenities and opportunities to encourage customers to make use of the capital investment in infrastructure. These important activities include retail, dining and recreational markets. And yes, in order to differentiate itself from a highly competitive marketplace regionally, nationally and even internationally, world class entertainment including gambling in the form of a casino creates a highly visible presence  offering and enabling National Harbor and Prince George's County to make the sale.

               None of this directly impacts the majority of Prince George's County residents except for the influx of dollars into the State and Counties coffers, thereby, purportedly off-setting the need for additional taxes or reduction of services. The project, instead of being sold to voters for what it is, an enhancement of National Harbor's strategic marketing position, has been couched in terms of a potential retention and enhancement of existing businesses and an attraction for new businesses through capital as if this will come automatically throughout the County. Moreover, the impact on the local community, which should include the preservation of historic housing and the creation additional housing which could contribute to ensuring the larger community remains demographically diverse is absent, because the entirety of the National Harbor concept is to create a self contained, self interacting world class complex that can offer its visitors everything they want or need. The resulting change to the existing community will be a creative reaction and response to the vibrant National Harbor complex.

               The resulting mixed messages has obscured what is a good plan that should be sold as a dynamic convention center and meeting space/hospitality industry project that will ultimately provide a significant supporting role if and when the rest of Prince George's County gets around to inviting business investment in the County. But we need to be clear, National Harbor is not the ultimate in long term sustainable 21st century development producing highly skilled competitive jobs; it is rather part of a sophisticated infrastructure that would support such jobs created by next generation businesses choosing to locate here someday when the majority in the county stops letting the powerful few make all the policy decisions for them.

               National Harbor will not fix the chronic lack of substantive, meaningful, economic development in Prince George's County. It is fortunate that National Harbor has the depth of assets and resources to fight the unpredictable nature of business decision making that the county seems determined to support. Small or mid-size, creative business are not financially able to deal with the unpredictable, inconsistent opaque, byzantine nature of the permitting and development process that is so connected to the whims of the political elite. There is nothing transparent about the development process in the county, making it a very expensive place in which to invest. National Harbor is not going to fix these structural problems in Prince George's County. We who can, however, must be careful not to allow the same internal political issues to cripple the project half-way through. If we are going to have a world class convention center as an important part of the County's infrastructure - and let me remind you the train has already left the station on this idea; it left when the project was approved conceptually over a decade ago - then working together, let's encourage them to pull out all the stops and build one (without tax dollars) that is the envy of the rest of the nation. We need the County to sell this project for what it is an what it could be per se.  

Friday, April 06, 2012

Prince George's County Blows on the Dice

               As my county, Prince George's, works itself up to a frenzy over gambling as a sure bet economic engine for sustainable development and growth, I take this opportunity to lay out a conversation that could have taken place now if only our political elite were not so invested int short term gain for a few. Bright and early this morning, Baltimore's abc2 wrote, "Minority business owners want the Maryland legislature to use its final days pass a measure to develop offshore wind energy."[1] Businesses which will drive high paying jobs are pushing the Maryland Senate to follow the House of Delegates and pass the Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2012.

               We could be discussing the enabling of a county of energy initiatives showcasing our strategic plan that would link the State's energy policies to Prince George's County's support of investments that could take advantage of the U.S Department of Energy's grant program which seeks to provide support for regionally-diverse Advanced Technology Demonstration Projects through collaborative partnerships. Instead, of course, we are probably planning the color of the blackjack table cloth concerned as to its impact on the part time competitive minimum wage jobs that we are going to create.

               We could be challenging our best and brightest to make Prince George's County a hi- tech center of alternative energy systems using in part funding, technical assistance, and federal coordination which would accelerate deployment of these demonstration projects. In partnership with DOE and the State of Maryland the county could work to eliminate uncertainties, mitigate risks, and help create a robust U.S. Offshore Wind Energy Industry. We could be reading the county created plan that outlines how it would support businesses and job creation by creating an investment atmosphere in the county  where businesses work to design, build and install innovative offshore wind systems in Maryland and U.S. "waters in the most rapid and responsible manner possible, while expediting the development and deployment of innovative offshore wind energy systems with a credible potential for lowering the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) below 10 cents / kWh or the local hurdle price at which offshore wind can compete with other regional generation sources without subsidies."

               We could be reading such a report but we most likely won't because there is no money to fund such a strategic plan, all of the available funds and energy having gone to casino support and advocacy. The US government knows that "with over 4,000 GW of gross potential that is relatively close to key load centers, offshore wind energy can help the nation reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, diversify its energy supply, provide cost-competitive electricity to key coastal regions, and stimulate economic revitalization of key sectors of the economy." Prince George's County however seems to just know about vigorish.[2]

[1] Push today for offshore wind bill Civil and business leaders push for offshore. April 6, 2012 [accessed April 6, 2012]

[2] Vigorish, or simply the vig, also known as juice or the take, is the amount charged by a bookmaker, or bookie, for his services. In the United States it also means the interest on a shark's loan. The term is Yiddish slang originating from the Russian word for winnings, выигрыш vyigrysh [1]. Bookmakers use this practice to make money on their wagers regardless of the outcome. To minimize their risk, bookmakers do not want to have an interest in either side winning in a given sporting event. They are interested, instead, in getting equal betting on both outcomes of the event. In this way, the bookmaker minimizes his risk and always collects a small commission from the vigorish. The bookmaker will normally adjust the odds or the line, to attract equal action on each side of an event.  Wikipedia: [accessed April 6, 2012]

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Interview with an Artist - Anthony Elliott: Quarter Notes, March 2012

Anthony Elliott

Quarter Notes, March 2012
Artist Interview with Anthony Elliott

from "QuarterNotes: News and Events of the Prince 
George's Philharmonic" - March 2012

Quarter Notes:  Thank you so much, Maestro Elliott, for taking the time to do this interview with us.  We are very much looking forward to performing with you at the end of this month!  May we start with a few words about your background and training?
Anthony Elliott:  I grew up in upstate New York, and was lucky enough to be in a school system that included strong musical education.  In fourth grade I wanted to learn to play drums, but the music instructor gave me a cello instead.  By high school, I did play a few other instruments – bass viol and tuba – but the cello became an essential part of my life.  In high school I received a scholarship to attend, for two summers, the music festival at Michigan State University, at which we studied with outstanding professionals, both performers and conductors.  This experience set me on my way toward a professional career with the cello.  I was most fortunate to attend Indiana University and to study with the legendary (and still teaching after more than 50 years) cellist Janos Starker!
QN:  Fortunate indeed!  Did you meet our conductor Charles Ellis at Indiana?
AE:  Oh yes!  Students were seated alphabetically in our Freshman Music Theory course, and “Elliott” and “Ellis” became fast friends very quickly.  We’ve kept in touch ever since, and that’s how I’ve gotten to know the Prince George’s Philharmonic!
QN:  This will be, I believe, the fourth time that you have worked with the Philharmonic, and we are looking forward to another visit next season too.
AE:  Yes, I first came in 1996, and played the Elgar concerto with the Philharmonic.  Then in February 2003, I was your guest conductor, and in October 2004, I played a commissioned piece - a memorial to Martin Luther King.  And of course I am looking forward to performing the Prokofiev with you this month!
QN:  I know that after you finished at Indiana, you began to win prestigious honors in cello performance.  The list is long, but we should mention a few, for example the 1979 Concours Cassado in Florence, Italy, in which you were the top-ranked American cellist; and in 1987, you won the Feuermann International Cello Competition.  Congratulations!  But now, let’s talk about the Prokofiev Sinfonia Concertante.  Have you been performing this amazing piece for many years, and is it a favorite of yours?
AE: Yes, I tackled this amazing piece of music early in my career.  As you know, it was rewritten by Prokofiev in the early 1950s from a cello concerto that he had written many years earlier.  He worked with the young but already renowned cellist Mstislav Rostropovich on the adaptation, making the concerto flashier and more complex, and taking advantage of the amazing virtuosity of the cello. You have to remember that the Soviet Union put severe limits on composers, and could ruin them by labeling them too “western” – Prokofiev poured his dark Russian soul into this work, giving it both a sharp acerbic edge as well as an impassioned lyricism. 
But I want to tell you of my own very special experience with Rostropovich and this Prokofiev piece.  In the early 1970s, when I was playing with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and when the Soviet Union allowed Rostropovich to travel outside Russia, the renowned cellist came to Toronto to perform with the orchestra.  I arranged to have an audience with Rostropovich, took my cello to his hotel room, and played for him and talked with him for about 2-1/2 hours.  Most of our time was spent on the Prokofiev Sinfonia Concertante, and he was wonderfully generous with instruction and suggestions.  In fact, after his performance, he contacted me again with additional suggestions that had occurred to him during his performance of other pieces.  He was a most outstanding and generous artist, and his influence on my career, especially in regard to this piece, was huge.
QN:  The Sinfonia Concertante is a very challenging piece, especially for the performer, but also for the audience.  Many of us in the Philharmonic had never heard it before; it is taking time and effort to get into it, though I think that most of us are already hooked!  It will probably be hard for the audience to grasp it in just one hearing.  Do you agree?
AE:   That is probably true, but my hope is that it will raise in the audience enough interest and curiosity that they will make a point of hearing it again and again.
QN:  And what a gift you will have given them!   Thank you so much!  We are really looking forward to March 31!

Monday, April 02, 2012

Gambling on more than a Few in Prince George's County

               Prince George's County is all a-buzz with interest on gambling,on gaming and in casinos as a quick fix for its budget problems.  The basic idea is that lots people like to play slots or take their chances at gaming tables. The incoming from lotteries and the high tax rates on casinos are revenue sources for government. And management and ownership team of a casino stand to make considerable money too. So there is a common interest between government and casinos to see the establishment of gaming especially in down turns in the economy . All of this benefits in the near-term, the powerful political elite's ability to distribute the resources of government and a small cadre of their development partners to support their profit statements. It doesn't do much for the public at large, outside of creating a low paying part time jobs and putting a few older hotel and eateries out of business.

               In addition to visiting gaming tables, the lottery is another form of payment by individuals to the government. The average American household spends $500 per year on lottery rather than inverting in a personal savings account. This brings me to the idea of a savings lottery, an idea that this county would never support because it would benefit the many and not necessarily the few. A savings lottery, already in place in other jurisdictions around the world, is a way to feed the desire to win without producing anything and at the same tome bolster personal savings. 

               A savings lottery would appear to be a lottery ticket to its buyer with the same feeling of a sure thing bet on tomorrow, while in actuality being a deposit into a special savings account.  The player actually keeps, instead of loses, the entirety of his or her discretionary bet. Prize money comes by aggregating the interest from all the deposits.  Just like lotteries there could be daily, weekly or even monthly drawings; there would be prizes worth dreaming about: $1000, $10,000, even $1 million.  The system would attract people because more they bought, the more chances they would get. 

               This is such an intriguing idea that Prince George's County would never even dream of considering it, because it has little to offer the elite and powerful and much to benefit the rest of us. Our county is so busy dreaming of things that once were, that we miss things that could be. Imagine playing a game of chance to win $10,000 and saving the hard-earned price of the ticket at the same time. That is what the Michigan Save To Win program does, and what we cannot see because it would be too obvious a benefit for many and of little use to the established powerful Prince Georgian few.

               Michigan's  Save to Win touts that with "every $25 you put into a share certificate at a participating credit union is another chance to win and save. In the end, you’ll at the very least walk away with your savings, plus interest. If you have not saved before, you are not alone -- more than half of all Save to Win accountholders did not have a regular savings plan before Save to Win."  Rather than Win and save, Prince George's is trying hard to start the Give, Grow and Groan  - you give your money and the rich grow richer while you groan at the cost of your support for their endeavors. 

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Prince George's County Philharmonic Concert - A review Saturday, March 31, 2012

Anthony Elliott, cello. 
Professor, University of Michigan; Conductor, Michigan Youth Symphony Orchestra; winner, Emanuel Feuermann International Cello Competition and top-ranked American cellist in Concours Cassado, Italy; soloist with New York Philharmonic, Detroit Symphony, Vancouver Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra 

               I spent my Saturday evening at the  Bowie Center for the Performing Arts with  the Prince George's Philharmonic . Arriving just minutes before the starting time, seats were hard to find among the clearly excited audience. But we found seats row four center and sat down to hear a concert of two grand compositions of the 'classical' music canon.

               With Charles Ellis, conductor, the concert began with the Symphony No. 3 in F Major, Op. 90 of Johannes Brahms. While I initially thought the pairing of the Brahms with the Prokofiev was a strange choice, I have to say that the contrast between the two pieces worked better than any other substitute for the 3rd Symphony that I could come up with.  I did momentarily think of a mid to late Haydn symphony or an early Schubert, even Beethoven's Eighth, but as it turns out Mr. Ellis had the matter well in hand.

               The Brahms's 3rd is a difficult piece to pull off. It shares the same performance challenge with piano Sonata's of Mozart - deceptively simple until you try to play them. And it is not the technical requirements of the performance, which are significant, that creates the biggest problem, but rather the difficulty of making the 'simplicity' of the organic whole stick together.

              The first movement seemed to take a little while to come together, but once the orchestra found its musical soul, the conductor was able to showcase the quiet grandeur of the symphony's structure. I thought the performances of the 2nd and 3rd movements were exquisitely wrought. The early problems of various section's attack were by then a faded memory and the listener could revel in the complex simplicities of Brahms. I was impressed by the balance between the sections that Mr. Ellis coaxed from the orchestra and the resulting timbres that he was able to exploit in the performance especially in the final movement.

               And then, after the quiet ending of the Brahms 3rd, it was intermission, and a retrenchment to the back row which for me allows for a more cohesive aural experience. I like to tell myself that the sounds of the orchestra of time to blend and age a bit, even if this is more or less non-sensical idea.

               The Prokofiev is a major performance challenge for any orchestra and for the soloist. And I suspect that the  Sinfonia Concertante for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 125 can be a challenge for the unsuspecting first-time listener, too.  However difficult for the new comer, the required technical proficiency and skill on the part of the soloist is staggering. Anthony Elliott rocked the room. A winner of the Emanuel Feuermann International Cello Competition in 1987, Strad Magazine wrote of him "His emotional communication is often profound, and his glittering, silvery tone captivates the ear". And how true that was last night. The Philharmonic was in full accord and up to its role of not-over-powering the soloist, but rather being an equal performance partner and artistic collaborator.

               Without a question I was bowled over by an extraordinary rendition of this late work of the great Russian composer. The intellect, wit, humor and sarcasm were brought forth, and the skill of the soloist and the orchestra at times were such as to become hidden by the full brilliance of the music - which is as it should be.

               As with many things in Prince George's County, the Philharmonic deserves to be more widely recognized. Hopefully, I can attend the  last concert of the season in May. Thank you Philharmonic for a wonderful evening of great music.

Saturday, May 12, 2012 - 8:00pm
Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, College Park, MD
Charles Ellis Conductor - Awadagin Pratt, Piano

Gershwin           Rhapsody in Blue
Gershwin           “I Got Rhythm” Variations for Piano and Orchestra Shostakovich      Symphony No. 10 in E Minor, Op. 93

Tickets for the Clarice Smith Center are included with a season subscription. Single tickets will be available through the Clarice Smith Center box office only. Click here to purchase tickets for this concert online.