Orchestra searches for place in community | SteamboatToday.com

Orchestra searches for place in community

Orchestras are better than they ever have been. They are playing more difficult music with more skill than musicians in recent history. Unfortunately, no one is there to listen.

Audiences for orchestra music are smaller than ever and shrinking.

Before the echo in the performance hall becomes too loud, the members of the Steamboat Springs Chamber Orchestra are doing a serious re-evaluation of themselves and their place in the community. With the help of Ernest Richardson, resident conductor of the Omaha Symphony, the Chamber Orchestra is ready to pass through a crossroads and redefine itself completely.

“There is a cultural shift happening,” Richardson said. “We need to figure out what that shift means for us. How do we need to change and how can we change the direction of the shift?”

To debut its new approach and to test the community waters, the Chamber Orchestra will open itself to anyone who wants to play Monday night for the first Steamboat Springs Chamber Orchestra Play-In.

“Anyone who has ever touched an instrument is invited to dig it out of their basement or closet,” orchestra board president Jan van Straaten said. Appetizers and dessert will be served. “Basically, this is a musical party.”

No one is going to be heard individually or be embarrassed, she said. “You can just get lost in the sound of the big group.”

At the end of the evening, the orchestra musicians hope some participants will want to become members.

This is the orchestra’s 12th season. It has evolved during the years from a small group of people who just wanted to play music into a very formal performance entity.

At the end of last season, conductor Richard Niezen left.

Rather than hire a new conductor, the orchestra members asked Richardson, who was in the area as the artistic director of the Rocky Mountain Summer Conservatory, to help members organize their thoughts about a new direction.

“We want to put the community back in the orchestra,” van Straaten said. “Recently, musicians have become so involved in pleasing the conductor, they have forgotten about their audience.”

Monday’s Play-In will be an introduction to the new Steamboat Springs Chamber Orchestra.

“We’re still working with the musicians and what is coming to the fore is that orchestra wants to be a place where the people in the community can play,” Richardson said. “We hope that people will find their instruments and recall the joy that comes from playing music.”

— To reach Autumn Phillips call 871-4210

or e-mail aphillips@steamboatpilot.com

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