by Michael Caruso

Settlement Music School’s new Willow Grove Branch, located at 318 Davisville Road, is inaugurating a dance program for four to eight-year-olds starting this month. “We are pleased to offer dance instruction for the first time, now that we have a handsome new space that features a sprung-wood floor and beautiful natural light,” explained branch director Marsha Hogan.

Settlement’s only suburban branch previously was located on the Alverthorpe Manor in Jenkintown. The new Willow Grove Branch opened on Monday, Jan. 3.

No one is more familiar with the new facility and Settlement’s project to build it than Chestnut Hill resident Joseph Waz, a senior executive with Comcast and chairman of Settlement’s central board of directors. Speaking of the new facility, he said, “It’s a thing of beauty. Our architect George von Scheven did wonderful work. Most of the studios are flooded with natural light, as is the dance studio with its huge skylight. We maintain a fine set of facilities around the city and region, but here we have the luxury of a new building with all the modern amenities. And the Leonard Mellman Performance Hall is a gem, with a wonderful outdoor terrace for receptions and entertaining.

“And the real strength of Settlement is its sense of community. There are endless opportunities for group and ensemble playing and for public performance. As someone who took private music lessons for many years in my youth, I can now really appreciate just how important those interactions are to your growth.”

Svetlana Lutz, who has taught dance in the Cheltenham and Wissahickon neighborhoods since 2008, will be teaching the dance program at Settlement’s new Willow Grove Branch.

“Dance can be a key element in the intellectual and physical development of children,” she explained. “Through dance movement, they will become flexible, gain muscle strength, coordination and motor skills. Games and children’s dances, which this class includes, will help them to develop imagination and self-confidence. Proper body alignment, according to the Russian school, musicality, basic dance steps and the sequence of the steps will help to develop memorization skills.”

For anyone interested in signing up for the new dance program at Settlement Music School’s Willow Grove Branch, contact branch coordinator Caitlin Fitzgerald at 215-320-2633.

Mt. Airy Conductor

West Mt. Airy’s Jeri Lynne Johnson will conduct the Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra in a program entitled “Burleigh, Brahms & Dvorak: A New Musical World,” Saturday, Feb. 19, 7:30 p.m., in the Independence Seaport Museum Theater, 211 S. Columbus Boulevard at Penn’s Landing. The program features Brahms’ “Tragic” Overture, Henry Thacker Burleigh’s “Deep River” and “Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel?” and Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9, “From the New World.” Mezzo Tracie Luck will be the guest soloist.

“This is a truly special concert for the Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra,” explained Johnson. “The largest piece on the program is the monumental Ninth Symphony of Dvorak. All the pieces selected truly reflect my philosophy of creating deeper connections between countries, cultures and communities through music, and showing how a multitude of musical and cultural influences led to this great work.

“We open with Brahms’ ‘Tragic’ Overture,” she continued, “a composer who greatly influenced Dvorak’s ideas about classical form in his later symphonies. The Black History Month connection in the program is a set of orchestrated songs by Erie, Pennsylvania, native Henry Thacker Burleigh. This African American singer, arranger and composer created the foundation for a truly American style of classical music. His work uncovering, documenting and performing works of African Americans and Native Americans helped the great Czech composer Antonin Dvorak (who toured the United States visiting communities of Czech immigrants) create a new melodic language that sounds uniquely American and ‘From the New World.’”

Tickets are priced from $10 to $35. For more information, call 215-717-7103 or e-mail to HYPERLINK “mailto:tickets@blackpearlco.org” tickets@blackpearlco.org.