Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Side-by-side: Back to School

Private students of mine have mentioned the upcoming “Side-by-side” concerts in which the KSO core strings will pair up with high school orchestras from Oak Ridge and Hardin Valley. The repertoire is challenging and I have had lessons with many kids who were scratching their heads. Britten’s Simple Symphony, an arrangement by Lucas Richman of Kol Nidre, an movement from an early Mendelssohn string symphony will be performed. The performances will be Thursday March 3, at Hardin Valley Academy and Tuesday March 6 at Oak Ridge High School. Both shows start at 7 pm.

Both Oak Ridge and Hardin Valley’s high school orchestras are led by longtime dear friends. Jenifer van Tol in Oak Ridge was the concertmaster of the Oak Ridge Symphony Orchestra when I moved here in 1986, and Peggy Jones is at Hardin Valley; my wife and I have known her via Westminster Presbyterian Church since the late 80's.

The Oak Ridge Symphony Orchestra (ORSO) when Jenifer van Tol was concertmaster was conducted by Robert Lyall. It still boasted several charter members, dating back to its founding during WWII; Herb Pomerance, Waldo Cohn, Meyer and Dorothy Silvermann, Jacinta Howard, just to name a few. These were great people with many stories to tell. Jenifer’s sons Stefan and Jonathan also played low strings in the orchestra, were stage managers and generally just a joy to have around.

Fast forward a bit to 1994 (or so- forgive my senior moment). Ms van Tol has stepped down as concertmaster and my wife Helen now holds that position. We weren’t initially aware of Peggy Jones’ musical talent until we played some string music with her at Westminster Church and she soon was invited to become a member of the ORSO, as a violist. I was surprised to learn that she was studying music education at UT and aspired to be a high school orchestra director. Whereas many musicians study in other fields- to get “real jobs”- and continue to play on the side, here was somebody who already had a “real job” and was hoping to break into music! It was a dream-come-true for her. Her children have been active with the Knoxville Symphony Youth Orchestra; Ian on cello and Megan on bass, and also are generally just a joy to have around.

We are looking forward to this musical mentoring and would like to thank the National endowment for the Arts, the City of Knoxville, Knox County and the Tennessee Arts Commission for their generous funding for this project.

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