By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia’s All City Orchestra will head out this week for its first ever tour of Italy.

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They’re marking the occasion with a free concert Thursday night at the Kimmel Center.

Members of Philadelphia’s All City Orchestra are packing their bags.

“I said we’re not going to do this unless we do a real tour,” says Don Liuzzi, principal tiampanist for the Philadelphia Orchestra. For the past decade, he’s also worked as the music director for All City Orchestra.

“I was in the Orchestra when I was a senior in High School,” he says, “I want to give to them — all that they’ve given to me.”

 

Don Liuzzi conducting the orchestra. (credit: Cherri Gregg/KYW)

Don Liuzzi conducting the orchestra. (credit: Cherri Gregg/KYW)

 

On Saturday, he’ll lead the students in a five concert tour in Italy with stops in Rome, Florence and Vatican City. It’ll be Liuzzi’s last hurrah before he hands the All City reins over — to a new music director. The nine-day tour fell into place earlier this year and the students have spent the past three months preparing. He worked hard as well, raising more than $300,000 to ensure the 115 kids could travel for free.

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“Traveling opens your eyes, it opens your mind,” he says, “it’s something that will live with them forever and that’s why I did this.”

Project 440 will partner with All City beginning in the fall, with the non-profit’s executive director and Philadelphia Orchestra member Joseph Conyers, taking on the music director role. Project 440 will provide entrepreneurial, leadership and college preparedness for the students.

“I have big shoes to fill — but I see it as my responsibility to not only continue what Don started, but to build on it,” says Conyers, “This orchestra is not just kids playing music — this is Philadelphia — this is a special place with its own sound and we will use this music to brighten the students’ lives, as well as the lives of the community.”

Tonight, of course, the focus on a free send-off concert at the Kimmel Center’s Verizon Hall.

“It really is an amazing experience,” says Eype John, 17, a junior at Central High School. He plays double base and this is his first big concert and trip with All City.

“It’s really exciting to like get this opportunity,” he says.

The same starry eyed look was on Asia Kasier’s face as well.

“It’s my first time traveling and my first time getting in an airplane,” she says. The young cellist played in the All City Middle School Orchestra and joined the high school orchestra as a freshman.

“I never thought I’d be in this position — it’s sort of like a dream come true,” she says.

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All City heads to Italy Saturday. Tonight’s free concert begins at 7:30 p.m. For more information, visit: http://www.kimmelcenter.org/events/index.php?venue=2