Virginia Tech is launching a focused effort, called the Outreach Community Fine Arts Initiative, to help bring music education and performance to Southside and Southwest Virginia, particularly to rural areas. The program's goal is to demonstrate the relationship of the fine arts to community and economic development and to reinforce the university's commitment to program excellence in the arts.

"The fine arts are an important part of the quality of life in any community," said John E. Dooley, vice provost for Outreach and International Affairs, in making the announcement. "The university has been focusing on its economic development efforts that harness the benefits of scientific research. We cannot ignore the fact that communities with rich and varied arts programs flourish, so our initiatives must be multi-faceted. We understand that the development of community creative assets contributes significantly to a vibrant economy and nurtures an entrepreneurial environment.

"Because so many school systems have had to cut their music curriculum due to budget constraints, one of the things we plan to do is to develop a protocol for reintroducing or increasing music education that can be adapted by communities to suit their needs. We will then work with communities to help bring their efforts to fruition," Dooley said.

Other elements of the Outreach Community Fine Arts Initiative will include providing content enrichment through performances or lectures for programs sponsored by Virginia Tech's Center for Organizational and Technological Advancement at The Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center. Existing programs at the Reynolds Homestead in Patrick County, University development, and other functions will be enhanced through additional musical performances.

The university will also explore the feasibility of a summer international music festival to be held when the proposed Virginia Tech Performing Arts Center is developed. Communities with arts festivals thrive throughout the country, Dooley said.

Violinist David Ehrlich, co-founder with his wife, Teresa, of the Renaissance Music Academy of Virginia in Blacksburg, is joining Virginia Tech as an Outreach Fellow for Fine Arts on a one-year appointment to organize the initiative. "The Renaissance Academy is a very successful community-based effort that has received international recognition," Dooley said. "We are confident that David will bring the same commitment to quality to the university's outreach arts initiative."

Ehrlich, who grew up in Israel and was concertmaster and soloist for the Tel Aviv Chamber Orchestra while still a student a Tel Aviv University, became the first non-American to win the Young Artist Competition of the National Federation of Music. He has been concertmaster with the Colorado Festival Orchestra, the Filarmonica de Caracas, and the Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra and has recorded on the RCA, Telarc, and Centaur labels. He joined the Audubon String Quartet in 1984 as first violinist, a position he held for 17 years. He teaches at the Renaissance Academy and conducts the youth chamber orchestra. He has also been an adjunct faculty member at Radford University.

Ehrlich said he is looking forward to doing great things. "Art and music enrich the quality of life and create more interesting jobs. I think the university can be a tremendous asset to this and other communities through concert series and future development of the arts," he said. "There is so much interest within the community in advancing the arts at Virginia Tech."