Neighbors: Getting to know Beth Torres

She plays French horn with two orchestras and sings in a choir. Goes to many Orioles home games as a season ticket holder (and rooted wildly for the losing Phillies at the World Series). Volunteers with Baltimore Community Food. Works with a French bulldog rescue group and has several dogs and cats at home. Active in Bolton Hill stuff.

There’s not much going on with Beth Ely Torres.

Oh, she also has a fulltime job at the Department of Veterans Affairs, working to help small businesses qualify as VA contractors. Some days she takes the 5:10 a.m. MARC train to her office in D.C. She is 61.

Although she has only lived in the neighborhood since 2018, it is, she says, where she has longed to be. “When I moved to this area in 2001, I fell in love with Bolton Hill and its architecture, but I couldn’t handle the prices.” She wound up in Carroll County, raising two sons after a divorce.

“But when the kids grew up, I came back, and moved into my house on West Lanvale St.” She shares it with one of her two adult sons. It’s where she plans to stay after a musical military and professional life that has moved her around and sometimes outside the country.

A native of southern New Jersey, Torres attended Butler University in Indianapolis, married a college sweetheart, got a degree and settled into teaching music and working retail. Unable to find a professional niche with her music, she auditioned for and joined the Army Band at Ft. Benjamin Harrison. She later moved to the Continental Army Band at Ft. Monroe, VA, and finally to the Armed Forces School of Music in Virginia Beach, VA.

Since then, she has played with military bands at West Point, NY, and with a National Guard band based in nearby Peekskill. After moving away from New York to Maryland, she traveled for a dozen years back to New York for National Guard meetings and annual two-week active-duty sessions. Along the way she went back to college and earned an MBA at American University in DC. When still active in the Maryland National Guard, she was called up to guard the Capitol for two weeks after the Jan. 6 insurrection and retired 6 weeks later.

“When I went to the VA it offered a chance to advocate for small business contractors, especially Veteran-owned companies,” she said.  After 17 years her official title is a mouthful, Deputy Director for Executive Actions in the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization. But music is still her passion.

“I play with two orchestras, the Baltimore Philharmonia Orchestra, which rehearses at Loch Raven High School in Towson, and the Greenspring Valley Orchestra at Stevenson University.” The Greenspring Valley Orchestra will play on Dec. 11 at 3 p.m. at Stevenson University, featuring Beethoven’s Egmont Overture and Mendelssohn’s Symphony 3 “Scottish”. On Dec. 18, the Philharmonia will offer an all-Mendelssohn concert at Loch Raven High School. Torres likes the “big romantic pieces where we get to soar.”

She also sings with the Memorial Episcopal Church choir. “I have rehearsals three nights a week,” she said.

Early in the pandemic she signed on as a volunteer for Baltimore Community Food, initially distributing free meals and now helping as a warehouse worker “as we shifted from handing out meals to handing out boxes of groceries.” She is a big fan of J.C. Faulk, a documentary film maker who started the project “to feed Baltimore’s most vulnerable residents.” BCF now works toward ending food insecurity in the city.

Torres has served on BHCA’s board and led its nominating committee. “I love this neighborhood,” she said.

– Bill Hamilton

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Brown Memorial

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