Monday, December 1, 2014

(148) The Future of the Ohio Valley Symphony: the Next 25 Years and Beyond


A Christmas Concert of the Ohio Valley Symphony
        After celebrating the 25th Anniversary Concert of the Ohio Valley Symphony Orchestra in October, we are looking forward with anticipation to the joyful and heavenly sounds of Christmas at the Ariel Theatre (really pronounced AR-ee-L) at 8 pm on Saturday December 6, the feast day of the original St. Nicholas (Sante Klaas in Dutch), who died on that date in Myra-Turkey in 343 A.D.  The Christmas Concert of The Ohio Valley Symphony is their most popular concert of the year as it blends the popular with the sacred.  

Now would be a good time to look into the future of the Ohio Valley Symphony which the people of Gallia, Meigs, Mason, and even Jackson County can claim as their own although many come from further out to enjoy it.

   To insure the long term survival and prosperity of the Ohio Valley Symphony long after the original founders have passed on, a taste for classical music must be cultivated and nurtured in the population, especially with the youth.  The role of the music teacher is crucial……whether it’s one on one piano lessons or music appreciation at the elementary, secondary, and college level.  After the founders pass on, then what? 

   Too many people right now are oblivious to this fabulous opportunity under their noses or consider the Symphony to be “nerdy”.  A big help is the annual outdoor symphony at the Gallipolis River Recreation Festival every year; however this year the grant money dried up and we had only fireworks.  Another big help is the special discount to students, but that must be publicized.  It’s only $10, very competitive with the price of a movie at the local cinema and it’s live!  Similar performances would cost $25 - $68 in Columbus and much more in the bigger cities.  As an added bonus, the Assistant Conductor of the Ohio Valley Symphony, Tom Consolo, conducts a half hour Pre-Concert Chat at 7:15 before each performance, helping those who attend to understand the musical compositions and the objectives of the composer.

    Would it be feasible to obtain private or state funds to sponsor the symphony to appear each year at one of the local high schools?  Rotating it among Point Pleasant, Gallia Academy, River Valley, and South Gallia with Gallipolis Christian High Schools on a four year cycle would give every kid in the two sister counties at least one opportunity in their lives to experience a symphony.  Maestro Ray Fowler, the Conductor of the Ohio Valley Symphony, is good at explaining the meaning of each musical selection as the great Maestro Leonard Bernstein did in conducting “Young People’s Concerts on CBS from 1958-1972 and Public Television with his New York Philharmonic.  Cultivating a natural hunger for the true, the good, and the beautiful will enrich the lives of our youth and keep them out of trouble.

Maestro Ray Fowler, the Conductor of the Ohio Valley Symphony

      A more practical and less costly possibility is to have an annual Symphonic Music Festival for Youth with different schools of the four county area attending at the Ariel each year.  According to Lora Snow, the Executive Director of the Ariel Centre, the Symphony could give four performances through the day to a total of 1800 kids (450 per performance).  This perhaps once in a lifetime educational experience for many would entail only a few dollars on the part of the school boards to bus the kids plus perhaps a small fee from each family to cover what the grant does not.  They already pay a $90 fee per year for each sport that a Gallia Academy High School student plays.  If there is a will, there is a way for the local school boards to make it happen.  Maestro Fowler would explain the music at their level and what the conductor does.

Lora Snow, Executive Director of the Ariel Centre
      Parents have a great opportunity at no cost at all to bring their children to sit in on all or part of the Friday evening (7 – 10 pm) and Saturday afternoon 1 - 4 pm) rehearsals before the Saturday evening performance of the Ohio Valley Symphony.

   How many small towns of the size of Gallipolis, Point Pleasant, Pomeroy, or Jackson can boast of having their own symphony orchestra with world class musicians?  The Ohio Valley Symphony really belongs to all us in the four county area.  What a privilege!  Thank you all who have contributed to the Ohio Valley Symphony during those 25 years whether as a musician, promoter, sponsor, or spectator.  Patronizing the symphony with your presence at the five concerts per season is a big help to insure its survival and viability.  The price of a ticket only covers part of the cost.  All of you have enriched our lives and our community and have helped to attract doctors and other professionals to live in Mason, Meigs, and Gallia Counties.  More detailed information is available for the many cultural opportunities the Ariel provides and ticket information at or

   Gallia County really has the potential of becoming a regional center for the arts.   We have in place the Ariel – Ann Carson Dater Performing Arts Centre in the very center of downtown Gallipolis and the French Art Colony only a few blocks away within easy walking distance.  On top of that we have the School of Fine Arts with a faculty of nationally known scholars in music, theater, and art at the University of Rio Grande about 10 miles away.  In fact, the academic background of the new President of the University of Rio Grande, Dr. Michelle Johnston is music.  If each entity would work together, complement each other, specialize in what it does best, cooperate, pool resources, and promote each other’s functions, this vision can indeed be achieved.  Coordination would avoid conflicts of events on the same date.  The fine arts would not only survive in our region, but prosper with state wide and someday even national prominence as the people of the surrounding communities are enriched with the true, the good, and the beautiful.

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