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WEST CHESTER TWP. — The West Chester Symphony Orchestra will host its own version of “Dancing with the Stars” with the “Dance the Night Away” fundraiser April 17. The annual fundraiser has a different theme each year, orchestra conductor Susan Schirmer said. Last year’s theme was a rock ‘n’ roll party; for 2010, the orchestra will provide musical backing while four township luminaries strut their stuff — or at least try to — with the help of professional dance instructors. The four contestants are Kathy Rambo, vice president of special events for the West Chester Chamber Alliance; Lee Wong, West Chester Twp. board of trustees president; Patti Alderson, board president for the Community Foundation of West Chester and Liberty; and Jimmy Schmalz, local restaurateur and entrepreneur. Wong is less than certain of his dancing abilities, but it’s all for fun and a good cause, he said. “I say I dance like a two-by-four, but I do it for the community,” Wong said. Wong wasn’t sure yet what dance he would be performing, saying “I’ll have to try it out first and see what I’m good at.” The professional dance instructors will be coordinated by Deb Calabrese, a professional ballroom dancer who has appeared on tour with “Dancing with the Stars.” Rehearsals for the fundraiser had only just started this week, she said. The orchestra will play various kinds of dance music, ranging from waltzes to swing to rhumbas, Schirmer said. This is the orchestra’s eighth annual fundraiser, which typically draws about 150 people and raises “several thousand” dollars each year, Schirmer said. The event funds one-third to half of the orchestra’s budget. The event also will include silent and live auctions, dinner, dessert and dancing for the audience as well. The fundraiser will be in the grand ballroom of the Marriott North Hotel at 6189 Muhlhauser Road. Reservations are required, with tickets costing $55 per person. The registration deadline is Monday, April 12. To reserve seating, contact the orchestra’s financial officer, Donna Carr, at Donna@westchester
symphony.org.
COMMUNITY LEADERS TO COMPETE IN LOCAL NON-PROFIT DANCE COMPETITION March 22, 2010, West Chester, OH—Four of West Chester’s finest have agreed to “Dance the Night Away” in a charity dance competition to benefit the West Chester Symphony’s fundraising efforts at their annual gala on April 17. The evening’s contestants will include Kathy Rambo, Vice President of Special Events for the West Chester Chamber Alliance; Lee Wong, President of the Board in West Chester Township; Patti Alderson, President of the Board for the Community Foundation of West Chester and Liberty; Jimmy Schmalz, local restaurateur and entrepreneur. Kathy Rambo says this is her chance to give back to the symphony. “I have enjoyed getting to know the WCSO over the past several years. The symphony has always said yes when I called for musicians for a community event. Now it’s my turn to give back and have fun in the process!” President of the Board of West Chester Township, Lee Wong, says his wife, Terri, encouraged him to dance for the orchestra’s cause. “I was reluctant but my wife Terri persuaded me to give it a try. They really have their work cut out for them. I have two left feet and no rhythm.” Mr. Wong also adds, “West Chester is a fantastic community. We have so many good residents who appreciate the fine arts and the symphony.” Professional dance instructors coordinated by Deb Calabrese will coach the amateur dancers. Ms. Calabrese has been a professional ballroom dancer for the past 6 years, is a member of the National Dance Counsel and has appeared with “Dancing with the Stars” on tour. The dancers will dance to waltzes, rumbas, salsas, and cha-chas played live by the West Chester Symphony. The evening will also include solo numbers performed by the orchestra, hors d’oeuvres, dinner, dessert, dancing opportunities for the audience, and silent and live auctions. Any proceeds from the event benefit the West Chester Symphony Orchestra. The annual gala will take place on Saturday, April 17 at 6 in the evening in the grand ballroom of the Marriott North Hotel, 6189 Muhlhauser Rd. Information about reserving seating for the event is listed on the orchestra’s website. Corporate seating and sponsorships are also available. ###
Opening day is coming up with all the fanfare and fun a community can muster. The Keehner Park Amphitheatre celerates its frant opening with a family celebration in the park from 3-5 p.m. on Labor Day. Families are encouraged to bring blankets, lawn chairs, and plenty of friends for an afternoon of music, food, and fun. The celebration starts off with the official ribbon-cutting. Once the ribbon is cut, children in attendance will distribute these pieces of ribbon as souvenirs to residents. "We want the community to feel this is their amphitheatre," said Parks Director for Union Township, Mary Raffel. "The residents made it possible, so it belongs to them." Various dignitaries and local officials will be on hand to offer their comments on the completed amphitheatre and its role in the community. After the pomp and circumstand, the entertainment begins. The opening of the amphitheatre also marks the official "coming out" of the newly formed West Chester Symphony. Nearly 60 musicians of all ages have been rehearsing regularly to perform at local functions. At the amphitheatre opening, the orchestra will perform about 45 minutes of light classical and popular tunes including some patriotic favorites.
CHILDREN'S CONCERT TO FEATURE PREMIER The West Chester Symphony's children's concert Sunday is sold out. The Orchestra will present The Children's Spring Classic Concert in two performances Sunday afternoon in the Lakota West High School auditorium. The concert will feature the world premiere of "The Land of Nod," by Philip Koplow, composer in residence at Northern Kentucky University. The West Chester Symphony and its sponsor, Cinergy, combined with NKU and Heritage Elementary School to commission "The Land of Nod". The work will be dedicated to the children of Heritage Elementary. Koplow's composition features audience participation. Children will be encouraged to bring music boxes, which they will be invited to play during parts of the concert. Koplow previously has composed other children's works that have been performed by nationally renowned orchestras, including the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. The concert also will include "Peter and the Wolf," by Prokofiev. Other favorites will be "The Syncopated Clock," "The Barber of Seville," and "Les Toreadors" from "Carmen." The concert is free, but tickets are required. The response exceeded the capacity of the auditorium, and both concerts were sold out. Anyone who does not have a ticket may attend the open dress rehearsal at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Lakota West auditorium.
COMMUNITY GROUPS TO PERFORM IN CONCERT AT LAKOTA WEST HIGH SCHOOL The "sounds of the season" will fill Lakota West High School on Dec. 15 as four community groups join together for a holiday concert. The West Chester Symphony, The Circle Singers, the Children's Performing Arts of Lakota, and the West Chester Liberty Children's Chorus will come together at 7:30 p.m. for a performance, "Sounds of the Season," sponsored by the West Chester Liberty Community Arts Council. "We hope this will become a community activity, something for people to look forward to every year," said symphony member Donna Carr. Carr said when the West Chester Liberty Community Arts Council proposed to sponsor a concert, organizers decided to get the entire community involved. "I think it's very important for them to see adults who may not be doing music as a career, but still performing," said CPALs strings director Nicole Cooley. Cooley said as CPALs, a non-profit group started in September, began to grow, they wanted a place to perform. "It became obvious that we needed to do something together so we could seed these kids and eventually into the symphony," Cooley said. She said she believes working with adults will increase the level of playing skills for the children. "When playing with the symphony they have to rise to the symphony's level. I think it spurns them onto playing even better now," Cooley said. Mark Bauer has two children participating in the concert, Alison, 11, in the Children's Chorus and Danny, 9, a violinist with the CPAL strings. He said he thinks performing with the symphony demonstrates to the children skills above their own. "I believe they listen to these people performing and they note what they're doing and they realize that they are playing at levels they're not, but they can," Bauer said. "It provides clarity as to what can be achieved."
CELEBRATING A DECADE OF BEAUTIFUL MUSIC Tom Parido and Jim Blevins are not longer actively involved, but they will be remembered forever by the West Chester Symphony Orchestra. Ten years ago they founded the orchestra to ensure they and their fellow founded the orchestra to ensure they and their fellow string lovers would have a place to make beautiful music. Susan Schirmer, West Chester Symphony Orchestra Conductor and Lakota schools beginning band teacher, is thankful for the efforts of Parido and Blevins. "I think I've been able to be involved in making music at a different level than my job. It gives me an opportunity to have an interaction with the community. It's made me look at how music affects the quality fo life in a community," she said. Ben Dibble, a member of the Arts Council of West Chester and Liberty and co-founder of the Children's Performing Arts of Lakota Inc. said that the West Chester Symphony, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, benefits not only the musicians but athe entire community and adds to the arts atmosphere in West Chester Twp. "The West Chester Symphony is one of the back-bones of the Arts Council of West Chester and Liberty. It is very visible in our community with its summer concerts at the Keehner Park Amphitheatre and throughout the area," he said. Donna Carr, a member who plays oboe and also serves as the Treasurer, views the orchestra as a reflection of the community, people coming together for a common interest with family members participating side by side. She said she enjoyed the time her son David played bassoon before he became a Marine. "I have found the orchestra to be a great mix of people. It amazes me when I look out and see the mix of people of all ages," she said. And in her role as treasurer, Carr is active in making sure the orchestra has funds to bring great music to the community, most of which is offered free of charge. The members of the orchestra know how important music is and they are passionate about sharing it with the community. Katie Bohn joined the symphony a year ago after seeing in the symphony program that bassoonists were needed. "I know they all just enjoy it so much. They all feel it's an outlet to be with people who enjoy the same interests that they have a real passion for," she said. And Bohn encourages anyone with an interest in the symphony to call and become involved. The orchestra emembers aren't the only people who reap the benefits of the West Chester Symphony. People from all around the area take advantage of having cultural arts in the own backyard. "We get a very diverse crowd at the concerts; young children, seniors, couples," Bohn said. Bohn explains that it adds to the music to see it performed as well as hear it. "One of the reasons I took my children is that it gives children the chance to see orchestral music. It is an asset to let children and [people of] all ages in our community to have that experience." Carr echoes how beneficial exposure to symphony music is for young children. Two different orchestra members, Nicole Cooley and Jennifer Dietsch, have formed string programs at Lakota schools. She believes these came about because of the orchestra. Gary Rossignol got involved with the orchestra through his daughter's desire to play an instrument in grade school. Rossignol contacted Schirmer and she not only helped with lessons for his daughter, but got Rossignol involved with the symphony. Rossignol had been involved with music most of his life, playing saxophone. He also traveled as a sound engineer for Lou Rawls, Johnny Mathis, Dolly Parton, Engelbert Humperdink, and Waylon Jennings. After hiatus, Rossignol realized he missed music. "I owe the symphony a lot. It's filled the empty placed in my heart and in my life," he said. "I love it a lot." He said that the symphony plays a variety of music that everyone can enjoy, including show tunes, which is what he said the kids would listen for. His favorite is the "Star Wars/Star Trek" piece. "It's difficult, but we pull it off really well. It's upbeat. I just like that kind of music," he said. Dibble applaude the inclusive efforts of the orchestra. "Outreach to the community is an important part of what the West Chester Symphony does," he said. "The Symphony has partnered with the Arts Council, Children's Performing Arts of Lakota, Thespis Theatricals, the Circle Singers, and the Lakota Schools." Working together the symphony and the West Chester Arts Council hold a Fine Arts Fund Sampler Weekend each year, with the next one being Feb. 11. "Around the World" will be the theme.
MUSIC SINGS IN WEST CHESTER: SYMPHONY READIES FOR FOURTH SEASON As May looms in sight, signs of spring are beginning to appear. Birds chirp, the sun shines, and in West Chester Township the symphony plays. The 50-member volunteer West Chester Symphony Orchestra is getting ready for its fourth season. The symphony will play four themed performances throughout the spring and summer at Keehner Park on Barrett Road in West Chester Township. The group will begin its season on May 12th with a salute to the Olympics. The symphony will continue into September with performances on June 7, Celtic music; July 3, a Patriotic selection; and September 4, an untitled performance for Labor Day. Susan Schirmer, the conductor, said they will be an event in the fall as well. Schirmer said the symphony usually plays as many as five concerts a season, adding one to this year's schedule. Performers do so on a volunteer basis and range from high school students to 60 years old. the group, who rehearses Thursday nights typically at Heritage Elementary, uses themed music to keep it interesting. "We do a lot of different kinds of things that are hopefully interesting to the community," Schirmer said. "We always try to have a theme...we like to mix it up. We change our themes to make it interesting to the audience." West Chester Symphony Orchestra started as a vision of three people, Schirmer, Jim Blevins, and Tom Parido, who are both co-executive officers of the symphony. The three, according to Schirmer, got together to play and "figured there had to be other people who'd like to play." The group performed their first concert, opening the Keehner Park Amphitheatre, in 1997. Schirmer said there are a handful of members who have been in the group since its beginning. "We have a pretty steady handful of members who've been around for awhile," Schirmer said. West Chester Symphony Orchestra receives support from the township but, Schirmer said, they are always looking for sponsors and donors. She said the response from the community has been excellent. "We definitely been known to bring out the people," Schirmer said.
WEST CHESTER TO STRIKE UP A BAND UNION TOWNSHIP-About a year ago, Jim Blevins and Tom Parido were sitting around talking. They had come to the conclusion that West Chester was missing some culture. The two musicians, who also are neighbors, decided to form the West Chester Symphony Orchestra. Mr. Blevins plays the bass and Mr. Parido plays the cello. "With a community like West Chester, education is a big thing here," said Mr. Blevins, 37, an energy manager at The Dayton Power and Light Co. "People in the community seem to strive to be better themselves and family, and they want a well-rounded education. There was a gaping hole in the community without an orchestra." Said Mr. Parido, 38, a manufacturing software consultant for an Indianapolis accounting firm: "We started thinking it would be great for regular folks like us to play in an orchestra." The two set out to find other musicians and places to perform. They sent out fliers, made phone calls, put ads in newspapers and sought sponsors fo the all-volunteer orchestra. Their hard work paid off. They were immediately accepted by the community. They started with 50 musicians and now have 70. They also have major sponsors, including Cinergy and Mercy Health Systems. "We try to keep it fun," Mr. Blevins said. "We have people who are very good, and people who haven't picked up an instrument in 30 years. We turn nobody away."
ORCHESTRA HELPS DEVELOP HARMONY IN THE COMMUNITY WEST CHESTER TWP.-Music and art are part of the life of a community. That's the way Susan Schirmer of Fairfield sees it. Schirmer, a woodwind specialist and Lakota instrumental music teacher, is conductor of the West Chester Symphony Orchestra. Today, the orchestra will perform a selection of patriotic songs as a prelude to the fireworks show at the community's Freedom Fest. "If you look at established areas, you see this wonderful institution of the arts," Schirmer said. "It's part of the life of a community, and I'm thrilled to be involved with helping to develop it in this community." The West Chester Symphony Orchestra was established in 1997. Its first performance was Labor day weekend that year at Keehner Park, and coincided with the grand opening of the park's amphitheatre. The orchestra has 40 to 50 musicians. Donna Carr of West Chester is among them. She plays oboe. "Our membership roster is in constant flux," Carr said. "We have people trickling in and out because of family and job commitments or transfers." The orchestra is nonprofit and performances are free, but donations are accepted. Its members volunteer their time and recently held their first fundraiser at Wetherington Golf and Country Club. The April fundraiser netted $3,000, which will be used to offset the costs of next year's performances, Carr said. The orchestra is open to adults and students 15 and older, and auditions are not required. "We welcome players of all levels of experience," Carr said. "Some people are hesitant to join because they haven't played since high school or college, but we encourage them to come to rehearsal and give it a try." Since its inception, the orchestra has developed a summer concert series at Keehner and Voice of America Parks.
MUSICIAN TO PLAY LAKOTA Grammy-winning clarinetist Richard Stoltzman could spend his time performing with great orchestras and artists anywhere in the world. But next month, he's going to be playing for fifth and sixth graders at Lakota Elementary Schools, working with high school clarinetists and performing a concert with John, a pianist. The West Chester Symphony is beinging the musician to West Chester and Liberty Township, April 13-16. During his stay, Stoltzman, who is a graduate of Woodward High School, will present his in-school music education program, "The Wonderful World of the Clarinet," at 11 Lakota elementary schools. At 7 p.m. April 13, he'll work with high school clarinetists in a class at Lakota West High School Theatre (tickets $10). At 8 p.m. April 16, Stoltzman and his son, John, will perform a concert at Lakota West High School.
COMMUNITY EVENT FEATURES ORCHESTRA West Chester's community orchestra will showcase local talent during a concert in the park at Pyramid Hill. The West Chester Symphony will perform at 2 p.m. Sunday at Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park and Museum on Hamilton-Cleves Road. The concert is part of Pyramid's Sunday Afternoon Music in the Park concert series. "This is a good community event that features a community orchestra," said Shaun Higgins, assistant director of Pyramid Hill. "Most of the participants (in the orchestra) are volunteers. It's being part of the community and bringing some great music to Pyramid Hill." Sunday's performance will include patriotic music, such as "God Bless America," "You're a Grand Ol' Flag," and "America, the Beautiful." They'll also dedicate a salute to the Armed Forces and play summer favorites including a Beach Boys medley. "We play a little bit of everything. We've done Broadway and jazz tunes" said conductor Susan Schirmer, who is also the band director for the Lakota School District. The 50-piece orchestra made of volunteers from West Chester and surrounding communities including Cincinnati, Loveland and Blue Ash will perform near the "Age of Stone" sculpture. The exhibit is located next to a huge oak tree that will appeal to the audience, Pyramid Hill officials said. West Chester residents and students from the Lakota School District formed the orchestra five years ago. the continue to host a holiday concert at Lakota West High School. The symphony also performs with the Heritage Elementary School fifth grade chorus. "I like the whole sense of coming together with other groups. It's a lot of energy and a combining thing," Schirmer said.
ARTS SCENE BEGINNING TO THRIVE It's a familiar story in this community; two residents met, discovered they shared both a neighborhood and a love of music-making, and started the West Chester Symphony. Tom Parido, an amateur cellist, and Jim Blevins, an avocational violinist, teamed up with Lakota music instructor Susan Schirmer to form the instrumental ensemble. Their organization, now in its fifth year, is composed of about 50 residents and performs several times a year. The symphony is one of four performing arts organizations that have been instrumental in knitting together the fabric of this fast-growing, sprawling community. Advocates say the arts are essential to West Chester as it develops and matures. "I think that interest in the arts is improving in West Chester," says Ms. Schirmer, who conducts the symphony. "We get a lot of support from the township. Our attendance is growing; people are more aware of us, and I see more realization that what we're doing is good and worthwhile." The group with the longest history is perhaps the West Chester Community Theater. According to its president, Tom Hayden, thespian activities in the township began in the 1980s through the efforts of Lakota Schools faculty and staff. "We put on a musical each year for about 10 years," says Mr. Hayden, the former superintendent of Lakota Schools. "But then we wanted a broader focus, so we formed the West Chester Community Theater to give people from the community a chance to participate." In recent years the group became less active. Mr. Hayden has now assumed a leadership role to breathe new life into it, and is involved in a fall production of the comedy, "You Can't Take it With You". Lakota Schools employees provided leadership for other organizations as well. School choral director Roger Stagge was active in forming the West Chester Community Chorus several years ago, serving also as its director. The adult chorus, which has performed alone with the symphony, merged in 2000 with another suburban ensemble to form the Circle Singers. The newest arts organizationis Children's Performing Arts of Lakota. The group was born in January 2001 of the dreams of residents Steve Kuhn and Ben Dibble. The two wanted to create opportunities for community youngsters in the theatre and choral performance. Soon after they launched their thespian and select chorus programs last fall, they inherited a string program as well. The two directors steered their fledgling enterprise through a successful year and are poised to add a select chorus for students in grades 7 and 8 to the existing ensemble of 5th and 6th-graders. The strings program is open to students in grades 4-8, and the drama program incorporates children of all ages. "We're not looking for the next Broadway star of the next violin virtuoso," says Mr. Dibble. "We're training these kids to think on their feet, to speak with confidence and to work with a team." Space for rehearsals and performances is an issue for all four groups. In fair weather, Keehner Park Amphitheatre is a popular performance venue, but ensembles are always on the lookout for available church and school facilities. Most recently, symphony and theater rehearsals have been held at the old I-Motors building that's been acquired by the township. When the facility is refurbished for use as office space, however, the arts groups will be on the prowl again. "It would be really nice if we had a permanent home," says Mr. Schirmer. "Schools are really busy places."
VOLUNTEER SYMPHONY COMMITTED TO COMMUNITY UNION TOWNSHIP-Members of the West Chester Symphony consider each performance a gift to their community, a gift created by their enthusiasm and commitment. Today, the orchestra wil present a swing concert, "Sentimental Journey." Founders Jim Blevins, Tom Paredo, and Susan Schirmer arranged publicity, raised money and searched for affordable places to perform. Forging Ties "In three years we've developed an organization with a $10,000 operating budget," said Mr. Paredo, a cellist and the group's treasurer. "Our money comes from sponsorships of our concerts and from goodwill donations at the concerts. We also did a direct mail fundraiser through the chamber of commerce." In a community characterized by rapid growth and a transient population, the symphony has forged ties with among its emember and enjoyed enthusiastic local audiences. "The West Chester Symphony gives some identity to the area," said Ms. Schirmer, who serves as music director for the ensemble. "I play in other 'community orchestras' in the area," said Mr. Blevins, a bassist. "Those orchestras are typically not made up of community residents, but musicians who play for pay, migrating from group to group." Mr. Paredo said the West Chester Symphony members are volunteers, and that makes it easier to ask community businesses for financial support. "It doesn't take much arm-twisting. They know that their money goes to the community." It also enables people of all ages to make music together. Mr. Schirmer said that the musicians' skill levels vary; some had not touched an instrument in 20 years. Chandler Ress, 16, is a member of the orchestra's string section. A junior at Lakota West High School, he has played the violin for five years. Growing Enthusiasm Fay May of Sharonville saw a newspaper article about the symphony and joined last year. "I have been playing violin since I was 7 or 8," said Ms. May, 68. "At 9, my parents bought me a full-size violin, which I still play." Ms. May was enthusiastic about her experience in the West Chester Symphony. "I can't tell you what it does for me. It gives me incentive to practice every day. It's a great opportunity to be with [other] musicians."
WCSO OFFERS OPPORTUNITY FOR FRIENDS, FAMILY TO PLAY TOGETHER April marks the 10th anniversary of the West Chester Symphony Orchestra's creation. Over the past decade, the orchestra has offered an opportunity to area residents to make music with friends, and in many cases, family members. "It's such a sense of community to play in your own backyard," said Donna Carr, the orchestra's treasurer and one of its three oboists. She has been a member since the orchestra's first concert, at the opening celebration for Keehner Park's amphitheater in September 1997. One of the orchestra's biggest attractions, she said, is its family-friendly makeup. "A lot of times what happens is we have a parent get involved and drag along their kid," she said. Her son, a bassoonist, played with the orchestra and she said there are many families that made orchestra rehearsals part of their family playtime. "It's an interesting way to be with your kid or mom and dad," she said. "They're neat people to know and be associated with," said Gary Rossignol, a West Chester twp. resident who has played clarinet and bass clarinet in the orchestra for the past seven years. He noted the variety of the orchestra's repertoire as one of the reasons he stays involved year after year. "It's the different styles of music we perform. It keeps me on my toes, musically," he said. The WCSO will hold its annual fundraiser concert on April 28 at Wetherington Country Club. Rossignol has been working to obtain donations for the event's silent and live auctions. So far, the group has been able to obtain art, jewelry, and a hotel stay from event sponsors, he said. Carr said the dinner and concert will be themed. "An Evening with the Stars." "We're doing score from a lot of well known movies," she said. The program includes music from classic westerns and James Bond films, as well as selections from composers John Williams, made famous for his work on the "Star Wars" and "Indiana Jones" films, and from James Horner, who composed the score for the movie "Titanic."
ART EVENINGS IN THE STREETS Listen to music, create some art or watch local artists in action Wednesday evenings at the third annual Arts Renaissance Series at the Streets of West Chester. The Arts Council of West Chester & Liberty has teamed up with event sponsor Mitchell's Fish Market to bring the family-friendly event. Each Wednesday evening beginning Aug. 9, the Arts Council will have a live musical performance at The Streets. All types of music will be represented: Pop, classical, folk, Celtic, and Christian Rock to name a few. The musicial performances are just the start of the art-based activities happening from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. There will be artistsworking and answering questions. There will be a children's arts table where the young, or young-at-heart can create their own masterpieces to bring home. This year, as a special treat from Mitchell's Fish Market, there will be edible art. The decorated cookies may or may not make it home, but they will be a feast for both the eyes and the stomach. Each year, the Arts Council has created a Community Art Project during the Arts Renaissance Series. After the success of the Mona Lisa in 2004 and the Flags of Good Wishes in 2005, the Arts Council is asking for the community's help in creating mosaic stepping stones this year. These stones will be finished and placed in Keehner Park for the whole community. To add something new to the series, Mitchell's Fish Market employees will be reading fish-and sea-based stories to youngsters who want a break between art projects.
INTERNATIONAL PIED PIPER TO TEMPT STUDENTS A Lakota teacher and the West Chester Symphony have called in reinforcements to combat what they see as dangerously flagging numbers in clarinetists. Susan Schirmer has been a Lakota music educator for 21 years. As elementary school band director, she's noticed the number of students interested in playing the clarinet has waned. Schirmer said that 10 years ago, it would have been the norm to have 30 budding clarinetists per school building. Now there is an average of 20, with most students gravitating toward flute and saxophone. the number of students in band programs also dwindles as students age. Schirmer said a band without a clarinet section is in dire need. "Then there's a whole bunch of music that can't be played anymore has to be re-written," Schirmer said. "What violin is to orchestra, clarinet is to band. Without the clarinet, it doesn't work." Schirmer said clarinet is just not "cool" among students. She laments that they don't see the instrument played often, that students don't hear popular music that features the clarinet. Schirmer is also the conductor for the West Chester Symphony. Through her connections there she arranged a visit to Lakota students by Richard Stoltzman. internationally known clarinetist. Stoltzman will visit at 11 Lakota elementary schools April 13-15 to perform a 40-minute music program in an attempt to interest student in the instrument. Schirmer hopes his fame, skill, and manner will persuade more students to take up the woodwind. "He likes working with kids," Schirmer said. "That enjoyment is infectious. He's a star in his field. I think the kids tend to recognize that." Hailed as the first clarinetist to perform solo recitals at both the Hollywood Bowl and Carnegie Hall, Stoltzman has been playing the clarinet professionally sicne the 1970s. He earned his masters degree from Yale University and played with a range of musicians including Mel Torme and the founding member of Spyro Gyra Jeremy Wall. WCS oboe player and publicist Donna Carr is excited about the opportunity, not only because of Stoltzman's notoriety but because of his style of playing. "I think he's going to be with the kids in the middle of the floor," Carr said. "He' not stuffy at all." Residents will have two opportunities to see Stoltzman, who is scheduled to play with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in December. April 13 Stoltzman will present an evening master class at Lakota West High School Theater. Four Lakota high school clarinet students will perform. Stoltzman will then offer insights and advice about the music and the students' performances. Music fans are welcome to observe. Student Thomas Kraynak is one of the four performing. A clarinetist for four years, he disagreed with anoyone who'd think clarinet wasn't a cool instrument. "That's ridiculous," Kraynak, 16, said. "I'm glad I play the clarinet in band because clarinet always has the coolest part every time. Clarinet always has the predominant part." Kraynak, also a saxophone player and pianist, has been through several master classes. He's looking forward to the one with Stoltzman. "Master classes just get to the music and how you can get as good as you can," Kraynak said. "Every time I've been to one I've gone home knowing how to play a little better." Residents can also hear two-time Grammy winner Stoltzman, who runs the gamut from bach to Debussy, perform with his son, jazz pianist Peter John. They will be accompanied by the WCSO.
SYMPHONY HOSTS FUNDRAISER: BRINGS A NIGHT IN VIENNA TO WEST CHESTER Members of the West Chester Symphony will host the funraiser "A Night in Vienna" on April 5. The evening will kick off at 6 p.m. with mingling and a silent auction. There will be a variety of items to bid on, ranging from football memorabilia to artwork from Impressions Art Gallery. Area businesses donated about 25 items for the auction. Dinner will be served, followed by dancing. Music will be supplied by the West Chester Symphony, which will perform tunes including The Blue Danube Waltz and the Tritsch-Tratsch Polka. Donna Carr, West Chester Symphony Treasurer, said the fundraiser is a new idea for the symphony. In addition, a dance instructor will be in attendance to lead the dancers in a variety of dance moves. "The instructor will show everyone how to waltz and how to do the Polka," Carr said. She said the fundraiser will help with funding the symphony, purchasing new music and related expenses and overhead that has to be paid for throughout the year. "We have had expenses for the music and programs we hold each year," Carr said. "We would like to purchase percussion instruments, and that will be at least $5,000 to get percussion instruments." Carr said the West Chester Symphony is an entirely volunteer group with about 50 members. She also said that "A Night in Vienna" will give the community a change to get to know the symphony. "Tyring to get the word out that there is a community orchestra in the area is a big challenge," she said. The event will be held at Wetherinton Country Club. Donations will also be accepted by those who attend.
WEST CHESTER SYMPHONIC SOUNDS In its 7th year orchestra attracts members of all ages Spending an evening with the West Chester Township Symphony Orchestra is not unlike being inside a jukebox that spans decades and genres of music. The classical nuances of Luwig van Beethoven and Gustav Holz wash over the audience just before the players conjure up theme songs from Pink Panther, Star Trek: Next Generation. "So many pop songs benefit from classical music," said Donna Carr, West Chester Twp. resident and orchestra treasurer. "We like to keep it light and fun, not all stuffy classical music." In its seventh year, the orchestra fluctuates between 40 and 50 members who play on a voluntary basis. The community group, with ages of musicals ranging anywhere from 14 to 84, draws on the contributions of high school teenagers and senior citizens. Dorothy Roth, board member with West Chester-Liberty Twp. Arts Council, praised the uniqueness of the symphony. "They are great, especially for the fact that they have both young and old," Roth said. "It's so interesting to see the generations come together--it's terrific." The orchestra's roots stem from a warm Labor Day in 1997, in which their first public show coincided with the grand opening and dedication of the Keehner Park Anphitheater. "Keehner has given us a venue, which as a community orchestra we don't always have. It's been very accommodating," Carter said. Local bassist Jim Blevins was a co-founder of the orchestra along with resident Tom Parido. He said the idea originated from a simple question: "Why don't we have a symphony in West Chester?" "Lakota doesn't have a string symphony and there were a lot of kids who only had the Cincinnati Youth Symphony to play with," Blevins said. There were no auditions, but Blevins said a group of quality players assembled. "We just had to put out a call to the community. We had more than 65 people the first year," he said. The symphony typically rehearses for two hours every Thursday in the Heritage Elementary School cafetorium. Coordinating a practice schedule is often a challenge. "We practice year-round and it's designed to be flexible for people. Communication is key-we do it all through e-mail," Carr said. The wide array of musical arrangements keeps the players on their toes. In one session the symphony may work on songs such as Ohio's state song Beautiful Ohio, the Barber of Seville, the Sorcerer's Apprentice, and The Lord of the Rings. "In picking music we have to find interesting things to challange players of diverse backgrounds," said orchestra conductor Susan Schirmer, who has taught beginning band at five Lakota elementaries for the past 20 years. "We play a baord spectrum-pop, big band, classical, movie music. We really try to have a wide appeal to audiences so they can hear orchestra music." In many instances the orchestra is a family affair. Carr plays oboe, her son David plays bassoon and her daughters Brittand and Shelby play flute and clarinet respectively. Her youngest, Abigail, 9, has her mind set on percussion, but Carr has her fingers crossed that she will one day pick up the french horn. "I was hoping that we could have our own woodwind quitet," she said smiling. Carr said the love and appreciation she has for music provides her inspiration in her life. "It's a diversion from everything else. Time slows down. When I'm playing a solo I want to get past the technical stuff and sing through my instrument. Music isn't given its due credit-it's such an important element of our culture." In addition to the Pumpkin Fest this fall, the symphony had three scheduled concerts at Keehner Park this summer in addition to a show at the Voice of America Park during Freedom Fest. These outdoor events are conductive to a relaxed community event, Carr said. "We want to make sure the audience has fun and we want to educate them. When we play at Keehner, no one has to get dressed up and the kids can play and roll down the hills," she said. Roth reminisced about symphony performances in Keehner Park in the summertime. "Everyone brings their blankets, it's a community get-together. The camaraderie of neighbors coming together for something special is neat to see," she said. Schirmer sees greater potential in the symphony in coming years. "There is an evolving sense of community. As the community grows and changes I think we need to grow too. We are always moving forward, trying to build the audience and find more challenging pieces. You can't stay the same or you become a museum piece," Schirmer said. Blevins said the orchestra is "screaming to go to the next level." "to do that you need community support and significant things to draw people. I knew it would continue to grow and evolve but there are a lot of paying orchestras players [and audiences]gravitate towards," he said.