Lobbyist Supplies Touch Of Brass To Commencement By Steve Libowitz During the long hours of the Hopkins commencement ceremonies at Homewood, most attention is directed toward the graduates, faculty and dignitaries. Almost unnoticed is the soundtrack playing under all the festivities. In fact, most people take for granted the playing of the marches and processionals and all the other music that accompany the soon-to-be grads on this day. Under the big tent on the Keyser Quadrangle, few in the audience likely take note of the unassuming man with the baton who marks commencement time with the music of the Festival Brass. Most people, however, do notice Ellery Woodworth as he pursues his other job, his vocation. The man who so ably conducts the musicians gathered specifically for the Hopkins commencement also has conducted Hopkins' successful lobbying efforts since the early 1970s. Woody--after meeting him once he inevitably is called Woody--established and served as director of the Government Relations office at the request of Milton S. Eisenhower, upon his return to Hopkins for a brief second term as president in 1971. As special assistant to President Richardson since 1990, Woody has focused his attention specifically on federal lobbying. And he's been pretty good at it. Over the years, he has been instrumental in helping secure the passage of legislation that has provided the Peabody Institute with more than $10 million in state aid. For Hopkins, the figure is well over $80 million. His lobbying efforts were crucial to the government's funding for the Bloomberg Physics and Astronomy Building at Homewood. But his passion, his avocation, has been music. He grew up drinking in the musical heritage of his family. His father, G. Wallace Woodworth, conducted the Harvard Glee Club and Radcliffe Choral Society. But Woody chose to earn bachelor's and master's degrees from Harvard in government and education. After coming to Baltimore in 1956 to accept a post at Gilman School directing their music program, he continued to juggle a variety of high-level jobs--such as serving as director of development and community services for the Maryland Public Broadcasting Commission--with his love of music. He conducted the Baltimore Symphony Chorus and enrolled in the graduate program in conducting at Peabody. But he never earned a music degree, so it would always remain his "other" career. "It was the old business of tickets being punched," he says. "I had to earn a living." Although his avocation never became his profession, Woody has managed to remain almost as active musically as politically. Besides taking on administrative responsibilities--such as serving as chairman of the Maryland Committee for the Arts and serving on the boards of the Baltimore Comic Opera Company and the Baltimore County Arts Council--Woody continues his long-standing work with choral and musical groups, almost exclusively as conductor, although he is well-trained in piano and organ. And each May, he assembles the equivalent of a really good schoolyard pick-up team to play during the graduation festivities. But instead of capable athletes, he assembles 13 top musicians recruited for the day from the ranks of Peabody faculty and graduates, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the Chesapeake Brass Quintet. They're such accomplished musicians, Woody says, that they practice only once prior to commencement, and then perform at the university-wide commencement ceremony in the morning and again during the afternoon Homewood undergraduate ceremony. "That's all the time we need, really," Woody says. "These are all professional players, many of whom play together throughout the year." But they may not have occasion to play a program meant to be as uplifting as that selected for a graduation. In fact, the reason they have all been brought together under Woody's direction is because Woody wanted musical accompaniment that matched the tenor of commencement day. "I started the Festival Brass the year Hopkins conferred an honorary degree on Leonard Bernstein," he says. "The music before that never provided the drama in the context of the commencement ceremony. We needed to spruce it up." Woody puts together a program that, as always, includes a blend of marches and compositions written especially for brass ensembles as well as the occasional national anthem in honor of a visiting dignitary, such as this year's Royal Thai anthem. "I try to keep it fresh from year to year," he says. "It's not exactly easy to find appropriate material. One of the hardest problems is finding music that runs the 35 minutes of the processional. We have to combine several pieces that fit and sound well together. "One year, though, they ran out of chairs for everyone, trucks had to be sent out for more. And we had to play for what seemed like hours. But we did it," he laughs. Selections this year include works by Purcell, Handel, Mozart, R. Strauss and Piston. After commencement, Woody will return to the business of the university's business, exercising his passion for music with a grab-bag of community gigs throughout the year, including teaching a workshop on reading music and singing in Peabody's Elderhostel program. In a 1988 interview, Woody confessed to leading a multifaceted life, having to find time for the demands of his profession and his love of music. "It must be an easier life if there's one thing you want to do," he said, "but I've had so many things I wanted to do."
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