In town for concert at Hill Auditorium, violinist treats King Elementary to solo performance

Philadelphia Orchestra violinist

Photos, video and story by Jo Mathis/AAPS District News

When Philip Kates, a violinist with the Philadelphia Orchestra, learned he would have just a bit of free time Thursday afternoon before the orchestra’s performance at Hill Auditorium, he reached out to Martin Luther King Elementary.

Kates’ father, Henry, was a Philadelphia elementary school principal who would often bring his son with him to his school so the two of them could play duets for the children.

So when Kates travels, likes to give a solo performance at a local elementary school.

“I’ve loved the violin as long as I can remember,” Kates wrote in an email prior to the visit to King. “My dad played for me (so I’m told) when I was an infant, and even before I was born, and throughout my childhood, even when I was a grown up and he was 96 years old! And we always played duets together. I love seeing the delight in children’s faces when they hear the music(and sometimes even participate in making the sounds.”

Kates chooses the lucky school at random, but if he can find one named after Martin Luther King, that’s the one he picks.  So that’s how King students happened to be treated Thursday afternoon to a performance.

Principal Mary Cooper says the King community is deeply touched by Kates’ thoughtfulness.

“Connecting the mission of Martin Luther King, Jr to his own work is profound,” she said. W”e are grateful to Mr. Kates for taking time out of his intense schedule to touch the hearts and lives of our children.  This is a gift that may well alter the lives of young people.”

Kates, a member of the Philadelphia Orchestra since 1981,  has been visiting students since 1988, especially when the orchestra travels.  That includes visits all over the world. He believes this is about the 50th time the orchestra has performed at Hill.

He says he hopes the students will always remember the special wonder of hearing a musical instrument played up close.

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