All together now
Musicians take many paths to this symphony orchestra.
Photo by Michael Bailey.
The Charlottesville & University Symphony Orchestra unites town and gown both on stage and in the audience.
The symphony includes musicians from young adults to retirement age, first-years to graduate and medical students, section principals from the music performance faculty, U.Va. staff and faculty, plus members of the Charlottesville community.
“It’s really an interesting mix of people,” says Bill Martin, executive director of the symphony. “It’s always been this kind of great town-gown organization.”
The symphony provides a musical outlet for U.Va. students pursuing other studies. “One of the blessings of being at U.Va. is that we get so many talented students who are at U.Va. pursuing other majors, yet they are great musicians and want to pursue their musical interests and continue to develop those skills,” Martin explains. “So while they are not music majors, they are very active in the music department participating in the symphony and other ensembles.”
Principal players, formerly adjunct faculty members, just this fall became halftime music faculty and are more involved with the department. In addition to performing with the symphony, the principal players participate in a faculty chamber music series, teach students and coach student groups including the Cavalier Marching Band, the Wind Ensemble and the Jazz Ensemble.
The symphony’s current incarnation dates to 1974, when the University hired Douglas Hargrave as full-time music director. Hargrave led the symphony until Carl Roskott, a graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music and Peabody Conservatory, took over in 1991; he directed the orchestra through the end of 2005.
In addition to its performances, which include a sold-out five-concert subscription series, the symphony contributes in other ways to the community that has supported it for so many years. Its primary outreach programs are an annual Young People’s Concert and the Preludes program, which sends musicians to local elementary, middle and high schools to give music instruction.
The symphony has the backing of not only the University but also the Charlottesville Symphony Society, an independent nonprofit organization led by local citizens. “It became a great fundraising organization, which really allowed the symphony to do all of its programs and do a lot more than it otherwise would be able to do,” Martin says. The society hopes to raise an additional $3 million for its endowment to attract and retain top talent and to help the symphony draw more guest artists, perform more special concerts and expand its outreach programs.
Looking ahead, Martin hopes the symphony will have the opportunity to continue performing special concerts in addition to the regular schedule and joining forces with new talent. This past fall the symphony performed with the University Singers for Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Dona Nobis Pacem” on Veterans Day and for a family holiday concert of popular music, both conducted by Michael Slon.
A spring concert features trumpeter John D’earth of the faculty jazz ensemble, the Free Bridge Quintet. The symphony will play D’earth’s “Blues for Orchestra” and will premiere a new composition.
Martin expects the symphony to continue to benefit from its unique relationships with both the community and the University and to continue to serve as a cultural bridge. The group “is able to draw a number of community members to U.Va. who come to concerts to see the symphony and then begin to see all of the other things that are going on,” Martin explains. “It has really helped the University spotlight its programs to the community.”
Online extras: Click on the links below to download mp3s of the Charlottesville & University Symphony Orchestra and Free Bridge Quintet.
Charlottesville & University Symphony Orchestra
Overture for Orchestra by James Gammon (Music, Philosophy ’03)
Free Bridge Quintet