Miami Valley Symphony Orchestra presents
“An Evening of Rodgers & Hammerstein”

The members of the Miami Valley Symphony Orchestra are all volunteers, playing for the love of the music

By Tim Smith

The music of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II forever changed the Broadway landscape beginning in the 1940s, contributing shows and songs that became a part of the American fabric. The Miami Valley Symphony Orchestra will present “An Evening of Rodgers And Hammerstein” at the Masonic Auditorium on February 24 and 25.

Composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist-dramatist Oscar Hammerstein II were an influential and innovative American musical theatre writing team. They created a string of popular Broadway musicals, initiating what is considered the “golden age” of musical theatre. Their Broadway shows include Oklahoma!, Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I, State Fair, and The Sound of Music, among others. Many of their shows receive frequent revivals around the world, both professional and amateur. Among the many accolades their shows and film versions garnered were thirty-four Tony Awards, fifteen Academy Awards, the Pulitzer Prize, and two Grammy Awards.

John Root is the President of the Miami Valley Symphony Orchestra, as well as being first violin. He notes that the inclusion of a Rodgers and Hammerstein program fit perfectly with the orchestra’s seasonal offerings.

“We try to maintain a good balance each season to include classical performances, pops and holiday shows, and include a larger production with wide audience appeal,” he says. “It’s also important to establish collaborations with other performing arts groups in the community to give our audiences something more than we can do on our own. When MVSO Music Director David Deitrick suggested a concert featuring the music of Rodgers and Hammerstein, there was no debate on whether to include this in our regular season this year. This particular show comes from the concert section of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Theatrical library and is designed for performance by soloists, chorus and full symphony orchestra.”

Rodgers and Hammerstein were responsible for much of the Great American Songbook. Songs such as “I Whistle a Happy Tune,” “Hello Young Lovers,” “If I Loved You,” “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” “Climb Ev’ry Mountain,” “Some Enchanted Evening,” “My Favorite Things,” and “People Will Say We’re In Love” have been covered by pop artists and singers in every genre. Root says that the idea of bringing orchestra and chorus together to celebrate these memorable compositions was a natural decision.

“I first had the idea of bringing the full symphony together with a large stage musical production for our 25th anniversary celebration,” he says. “It’s not uncommon to see a collaboration like this in large metropolitan venues like Lincoln Center or Kennedy Center with a full symphony orchestra and theater company. And this is exactly what we are bringing to Dayton audiences for this show. We have more than a dozen soloists, a 50-voice chorus and 65 in the orchestra performing in the grand Masonic Center Theater. You’ll recognize every song and hear them performed with a full symphony orchestra the way they were intended with original orchestrations by Don Walker and Robert Russel Bennet.”

The MVSO is an all-volunteer orchestra that draws its members from a variety of sources.

“We all come from different backgrounds in music and volunteer our time in order to ensure a vibrant community orchestra exists in the Dayton area,” Root says. “Many of our players are educators and many perform in other groups throughout the area. We have a number of former professionals and players who freelance. Our Music Director has a distinguished performance career with the US Military including leading performances at the White House, Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall and concluding his service as Director at West Point. We attract musicians from the Cincinnati and Mason area and throughout a large geographical circle to north of Dayton.”

The Miami Valley Symphony Orchestra was established in 1989 by Pat Carson and Keith Prentice, co-founders of Theatre Under the Stars. It became an organization where talented local musicians could volunteer their time to perform great orchestral music for the public at affordable prices. They perform 3 regular season concerts, an annual free Christmas concert at the Dayton Masonic Center, and include a season extra production at least every other year. They perform in a variety of venues.

“We are pleased to be able to perform at Kettering Seventh Day Adventist Church, which is just right for the majority of our regular season concerts,” Root says. “For large-scale productions requiring additional performance space as well as seating capacity, we typically move to the Dayton Masonic Center, which can accommodate the orchestra, a full ballet or theater company, or a large chorus. Our Holiday concert is a free show and is made possible with support from the Dayton Masonic Center.”

During a typical season, the MVSO presents a variety of programs that appeal to a broad spectrum of musical tastes. Root hopes to bring some of that diversity to their Rodgers and Hammerstein celebration.

“It’s important to program a wide range of music in order to offer great entertainment to a broad range of tastes and preferences within the community,” he says. “This results in many changing demands on the orchestra, from the number of players required to the number of different instruments needed, and the number of rehearsals planned for any given concert. I wanted to bring my own personal experience of playing in the larger Broadway theaters, and especially the unique opportunity to hear great theatrical music performed with a full symphony orchestra, the way so many musicals were originally intended, for audiences right here in the Dayton area. We hope to continue this effort for many years to come.”

An Evening of Rodgers & Hammerstein Classics will be presented on February 24 and 25 at the Dayton Masonic Center, 525 W. Riverview Avenue, Dayton. For more information and tickets, visit or call 937.530.0515.

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Tim Smith is an award-winning, bestselling author. Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Smith at

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