Symphony and amateurs to play side by side April 20Written by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
Amateur musicians will play side by side with the Toledo Symphony Orchestra (TSO) on April 20 at the inaugural ProAm Concert.
The idea came from TSO Conductor Stefan Sanderling, who performed similar professional-amateur concerts in Chautauqua, N.Y. The concert gives amateurs of all skill levels a chance to play under the conductor and alongside professional musicians.
“We discussed maybe we should get easier arrangements, but Stefan insisted we use actual repertoire,” said Ashley Mirakian, director of marketing and public relations for the symphony. Selections are “Finlandia,” “Pictures at an Exhibition,” “The Great Gate of Kiev,” “Nimrod from Enigma Variations” and “Sound of Music.”
The amateurs are set to have their first rehearsal with Sanderling on April 18 before being joined by their professional counterparts April 19.
Mirakian said the response for the concert has been “tremendous.” The brass section alone will have 29 participants, up from its usual 10, while the flute section is up to about 15 from the regular four or so musicians, she said.
“[The musicians] are all coming from different places. It’s kind of great; everybody has a different day job,” Mirakian said, adding that there are plenty of cookie breaks at rehearsal so musicians can mingle.
Participant Janice Schemenauer is a retired schoolteacher who played the French horn in high school and college. She picked up the instrument again about five years ago and studies under Sandra Clark, TSO’s principal hornist.
“When [the concert] came up, it just seemed very exciting to have the opportunity to play under the direction of Stefan in the Peristyle and with the members of the Toledo Symphony Orchestra,” she said.
Like many participants, Schemenauer is active in community bands like the Maumee Community Band and the Sylvania Community Orchestra. “Everyone was like, ‘Did you get your music, did you get your music?’” she said of her band members, adding that everyone has been practicing.
Eighty-year-old John Nicholson, also a member of many community bands, plays with Schemenauer in Maumee and in the French horn section.
“[Participating] is very important because it’s a once in a lifetime experience,” he said. Nicholson played the E flat alto horn in marching band in his youth and picked up the French horn 10 years ago.
After his wife died in the late ’90s, “I was looking for things to fill my life,” the music lover said. “I enjoy the ensemble much more than sitting in the audience.”
The amateurs aren’t the only ones who are excited. “I have been looking forward to the chance to play alongside them for months, while creating memories around some of the greatest melodies in the orchestra world,” said Merwin Siu, the symphony’s principal second violinist.
Mirakian said the concert is a move toward TSO providing more adult education.
“We’re pretty good about doing youth education but part of our goal is to extend our education in the adult community,” she said.
Schemenauer said that working with Clark has been “extremely beneficial. I gain something from every lesson. She looks at her students in a sense of where you are, this is where you can go and this is what you need to do to get there.”
Tickets are free and can be ordered in advance by calling (419) 246-8000. The concert is 7:30 p.m. April 20. The Peristyle Concert Hall is at the Toledo Museum of Art, 2445 Monroe St. Visit toledosymphony.com to learn more.